Thursday, July 30, 2009

BBB: Sukkar bi Tahin

My friend, Natashya, was the hostess this month for the Bread Baking Babes. Her choice was Sukkar bi Tahin, or, Beirut Tahini Swirls. Looks delicious, sounds delicious, similar to Algerian Flatbread that I made several months ago, but more on the sweet side.

Well, sort of. Don't you just love that delicious combination of garlic and sugar? Oh, I know I do.

Seems that the tahini paste I purchased (from TJs) not only contained garlic, but, when mixed with sugar, transformed into a runny sauce. This made rolling the dough quite a challenge in many respects. After having viewed Natashya's photo collage tonight, I'm wondering if our tahinis came from two different planets. How come your filling was crumbly, and mine was soupy?

In my hot kitchen, as I rolled up the dough, the filling kept scooting along in front, like a tidal wave, and then oozed over the final edge, creating a tahini-sauce lake on my board. So much for the 2 1/2 tablespoons.

For the second one, I drastically reduced the amount of filling, which helped, so the remainder received maybe a tablespoon of filling altogether. Any ideas for the leftover tahini-garlic-sugar soup?

Oh, but then came the second rolling phase. The first coiled bread managed to goop up my rolling pin sock so badly I had to remove it. Then, of course, the rolling pin stuck to each of the remaining buns. By the time I rolled out the third one, I was ready to walk away.

But I didn't.

While the first batch was in the oven, baking into huge puffy things, I took a deep breath and tackled the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Thankfully, they behaved in a more civilized manner and rolled out more thinly and nicely than the first batch.

I ate the two ugliest ones.

They were actually pretty tasty, but I fear I'm developing a liking for garlic-sugar.

To try your hand at this interesting bread, go to Natashya's blog for the recipe. I'll submit this to the Babes and hope I don't get drummed out of the Buddy group for this near-disaster. Next time I'll check the tahini container more carefully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BBD 22: Where did my Rum go?

This month's Bread Baking Day was hosted by Stefanie from Hefe und mehr. She chose Sweet Breads for the theme, always a favorite in this household. The hardest part was finding just the right recipe I came close to making this, but finally settled on a recipe from ABin5: Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache.

Oh, baby . . . . .

This bread was so awesome that I made it twice. It tastes as good as Pain au Chocolat.

You just can't beat a combination of brioche and dark chocolate. For more delicious Sweet Breads, tune in to the roundup.

For those who wish to indulge, here is the recipe.

Brioche Dough

For two 1-pound loaves

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
3/4 tablespoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter, and water in a 5-quart bowl or lidded container.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon.

Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses,
approximately 2 hours.

Refrigerate, covered loosely, and use within the next 5 days.

Target Bread:

1 pound, or half, of the pre-made brioche dough.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Valrhona or equivalent)
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon rum (alcohol helps dissolve the cocoa powder) **
5 tablespoons corn syrup

1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Granulated sugar for sprinkling on top


Melt the chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat, add the butter, and stir until incorporated.

Stir together the cocoa powder and rum, then add the corn syrup and mix until smooth. Add to the chocolate mixture.


Lightly butter a 9x4x3-inch loaf pan (non-stick is fine). Take the 1-pound piece of dough, dust with flour, and shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, until the top surface is smooth and taut. Roll out the ball into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle,
dusting with flour as needed.

Spread 1/2 cup of the ganache evenly over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border all around.

Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, sealing the bare edges as you roll.

Gently tuck the loose ends underneath, elongate into an oval, and drop into the prepared pan.

Allow to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with the egg white wash, then sprinkle with the granulated sugar.

Bake the loaf for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the sugar caramelizes.

Remove from the pan and cool slightly; drizzle the remaining ganache over the top crust.

Cool completely before slicing.

Thanks to Zorra for creating Bread Baking Day, and to Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg for writing Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

**All in a good cause: I used up the last remaining drops of my light Puerto Rican rum, that I hand-carried home after a visit to the Bacardi distillery near San Juan. Guess I'll have to go back for more.

TWD: I Scream . . . .

And not for ice cream (but that's another story). Although I would gladly scream for just about any flavor.

This week's TWD offering was thoughtfully selected by Lynne of Café Lynnylu. Who doesn't love homemade ice cream, now?

While I like a good vanilla, I'm more of a flavor gal, myself. In fact, if I could duplicate Lemon Custard, I would be in heaven. So, when I was reading the Playing Around page and spotted nuts as an add-in, I naturally thought of Butter Pecan.

I substituted brown sugar for white in the custard recipe and, of course, prepared it my usual way, combining all ingredients and then heating to temperature. The custard was well chilled, having sat in the fridge for two days. Finally, Sunday evening, I was able to prepare the ice cream. I sauteed some chopped pecans in yummy butter, let them cool, then added them to the ice cream just before it was finished.

The first container disappeared before I could get the camera out. This morning I did the photo shoot before anyone else was up, because I just know that the second container of ice cream will be consumed in an instant.

I loved the basic custard base and the fact that it can be customized with any flavor. Great choice! Be sure and stop by the other TWD bakers to read about their variations. You can also find the recipe on Lyn's blog.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cookies, part one

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Because of July's hectic work schedule, I was only able to bake the Milano-style cookies. While I thought they were easy and delicious, I was not pleased with the texture of the cookie part.

I'm sure it was my error -- I beat the heck out of the batter and ended up with twice as many cookies as I had anticipated. Their texture was soft and spongey, certainly not what I had expected, but they still tasted good and the filling was terrific.

So, when my work schedule lightens up, I intend to bake the Marshmallow Cookies, which look and sound divine, and to r
e-do the Milans, aiming for a firmer cookie and more filling.

For August, I'm hoping that some of the projects for job #1 are finally finished and that the schedule for job #2 settles down. Two jobs, while welcome and necessary, are definitely interfering with baking.

Check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for more delicious cookies.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BB: Peach and Blueberry Crumbles

The second Barefoot Blogger recipe of July celebrated the wonderful bounty of fresh fruits, specifically peaches and blueberries. This fruity crumble was chosen by Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen.

Yesterday morning I went down to the Wednesday Farmers Market and found both the peaches and the blueberries, all grown locally. The peaches were ripe and ready.

While I was waiting for the water to come to a boil, I prepared the crumble topping. Then I plunked all 9 peaches into the hot water (they were on the small side) for about one minute, then transferred them to a cold water bath. The skins slipped right off with absolutely no effort on my part, so I was able to quickly peel, pit, and slice the little gems.

Since I baked it mid-morning today, we were able to snack on this delicious dessert all afternoon. I'd say it was a winner -- easy to make and really delicious.

I believe the other BBs enjoyed the dessert as well, so when you have the time, stop by and enjoy their efforts. You'll also find the recipe there as well as on Aggie's blog.


I'm frog sitting again this week.

He's a brown frog named Captain Kermit.

In the morning I go over and clean Captain's water bowl, all the time wondering what he does during the night to get it so dirty with moss and sticks. Then I spray his terrarium with water, turn on his light, and leave for the day.

In the evening, I return, turn off his light, spray the terrarium again, and unload a couple of crickets for him. He loves those crickets! He's also teaching me to do great frog imitations, especially at feeding time. It always guarantees a laugh at get-togethers.

Captain is pretty docile around me, but that is not the case for my 21 year old daughter, who sometimes has to do backup. She 'claims' that Captain always leaps at her when she approaches the terrarium, so she is somewhat timid about opening the top. While I can't say I've witnessed this event, I do know that reptiles and amphibians seem to enjoy tormenting her -- leaping lizards is an appropriate concept where she is concerned. Apparently, we can add flying frogs to that.

My dear neighbor and her family are on their annual trip to the Chicago area, so I help them out by feeding the frog and some strange tadpole-like creature. I also water the garden, and get to reap the rewards.

The other evening I harvested a cucumber and some ears of corn for a light, summery dinner. I cut up some chicken breasts and sauteed them until browned, then added them to a salad containing the cucumber and some fresh tomatoes. The yellow tomatoes came from a co-worker at the library, and they were fabulous, while the red tomatoes came from another friend's garden. Tossed with a balsamic dressing and served with the fresh corn, it was a satisfying light dinner on a hot summer day.

Now I'd best be off to check on the critters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD: Cool and creamy

It's Hot here.

Almost too hot to eat, and certainly too hot to turn on the oven.

I can just hear some of you protesting. 'Why, it's only in the upper 80s where you are. How can it be hot? It's over 100 where I live!'

True enough. But near the ocean, hot equals humid and very few houses have air conditioning, and, while it may cool off outside in the evening, the inside is still mighty toasty.

All this is leading up to this week's dessert, a lovely, cool and creamy raspberry blanc-manger. Can I just dive in and feel all that coolness surround me?

This is perfect for hot weather. Thanks to Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy for a season-appropriate dessert.

Since I always have gelatin on hand as well as almond meal from Trader Joes, it didn't take long to prepare. I made it right before I went to the library for my evening shift. That way it could chill properly and I wouldn't be tempted to unmold it too soon. As an extra help, I lined the pan with plastic wrap, which made the unmolding process effortless. I'm thinking that the next time I make a run to the Nut Shop I'll buy some of this almond meal and make the blanc-manger again with a different berry.

We loved the fresh raspberries, which were easy to find, but I did use frozen ones for the coulis, not wanting to waste any of the fresh ones.

Please join me in discovering what the other TWD bakers thought about this dessert.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TWD: Brioche Apricot Tart

Oh, the sacrifices we make for delicious food!

This week we baked the Brioche Plum Tart, thanks to Denise of Chez Us!. We're not big fans of plums here (too bad), so I substituted apricots. I happened to find some nice-looking large ones at the local market.

Everything about this tart was really easy and it went together quickly. I did leave it in the oven a bit longer than stated since I wanted the inside to be cooked through. I covered the tart with foil for the last half of the baking process. It smelled heavenly while baking.

My biggest problem was removing the tart from the pan. It never did come out, having attached itself thoroughly to the sides and bottom.

And, thereby hangs my tale of woe. In my efforts to release the tart, I managed to slice my finger. You know about knife cuts? Well, try a tart pan cut. Ouch! (And add some garlic to the wound and you have even more fun!)

I did offer to eat the blood-stained piece. Nice of me, yes?

I'm sure the other TWD bakers didn't spill blood over this one.

Now I'm off to pick up some antibiotics for the spider bite I received last week, then return to the grindstone of Job #1. Today I found out that I have a new incoming project, one that I will hopefully be able to blog about in a few weeks. It is food-related and I am super excited about it.

Daring Cooks #3: :(

This has been a crazy month, work-wise. I have been working non-stop at two jobs, with no break, and none in sight at this point. While I'm grateful to have income, I have less time to bake and cook.

Sunday was supposed to be a baking day, but Job #2 called me in as an emergency replacement, so there went the latest Daring Cook's challenge. I'll have to fit it in later this summer, if I ever get a break, since it seems like an interesting kitchen adventure.

This is also the first Daring challenge I've missed since joining in 2007. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing what the other Daring Cooks did for their challenge.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BB: Ridiculously delicious

"Ridiculously delicious."

That's what my daughter said when she took the first bite of this for lunch today. This was especially surprising since not 30 minutes earlier she had spotted the sun-dried tomatoes and declared, "You know I hate sun-dried tomatoes!"

I did?

Must have blocked that one out of my mind.

But it was clearly a moot point, as not a speck of that salad remained after lunch.

For Barefoot Bloggers, July is certainly off to a great and delicious start! Thanks to Cat of Delta Whiskey for choosing Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

Since I had to deliver the dog to the groomer this morning, it was not out of my way to stop at Trader Joes for some fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. Every other ingredient was already in the pantry. While the pasta was cooking, I chopped and sliced and pureed. Assembly was a breeze. The only problem was that it didn't last very long, which, I guess, is a good thing!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TWD: The Hepburn Brownie Story

Just a few nights ago, we were watching the Philadelphia Story, one of our favorite movies. They just don't write dialog like that anymore, and, of course, Cary Grant doesn't hurt one bit. I think Bringing Up Baby is one of my all-time favorite movies, once again featuring that great Cary-Kate duo.

These Tribute-to-Katharine-Hepburn brownies were wonderfully gooey inside, with just a hint of cinnamon and coffee to brighten the flavors.

They did stay moist over a period of a few days. With several desserts in house at the moment, we can't overindulge too much, but I'd rather have too many desserts around than none at all.

While I do have a favorite brownie recipe, I like these a lot. I guess I tend toward the moist and gooey rather than the dry and cakey.

This recipe was chosen by Lisa of
Surviving Oz, who won the recent contest for creating a new TWD Logo. Stop by the TWD blog to read about what the others thought.

Monday, July 6, 2009

YWPWT: Summer Pies

Summertime. When the livin' should be easy.

When you're hungry for pie, but it's too hot to bake.


An icebox pie.

I remember that my mother made these special pies every summer, using different flavor combinations. They were always delightfully cold, either straight from the refrigerator or freezer, depending on which recipe she chose.

My pie is a Lime Cream-Boysenberry Pie. Limes, because my tree always has limes available, and boysenberries, because one of my dear quilting friends brought over freshly picked berries from her garden the other day. I had thought about using strawberries, but with these plump boysenberries staring me in the face, I couldn't resist.

I did make and bake the graham cracker crust, and I spent about 5 minutes slaving over a hot stove making the lime curd, but it was well worth it.

I do apologize for not having a photo of a slice of pie. In my eagerness to taste-test, I didn't let it chill quite long enough, so the filling literally flowed out of the crust and onto my plate. One must eat mistakes like that, you know, rather than photograph them. I would recommend a good 24-hour chill, since the filling was more well-behaved this evening. Maybe tomorrow, in the light of day, I can snap a shot of a slice. Assuming any remains.

Thanks to Rebecca and Mary for a yummy and appropriate theme. Check the You Want Pies With That? blog site for some summery pie inspiration.

Lime Cream-Boysenberry Pie
(adapted from Icebox Pies by Lauren Chattman)

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 prepared crumb crust
2 cups of fresh berries

Combine the eggs, sugar, and lime zest in a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Add the lime juice and butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 7 to 9 minutes. Do not boil. Pour the hot lime curd through a fine strainer into a glass bow. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until it is cold and thick, at least 3 hours.

Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the lime curd and then scrape the filling into the prepared crust. Cover and refrigerate until the filling is completely set, at least 6 hours and preferable 1 day.

Just before serving arrange berries on top.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Kitchen, My World: Macedonia

Our second destination this month for My Kitchen, My World, was Macedonia. I did an Internet search to see if there was some specialty or distinctive dish for the region, and the closest I came was this pita-filled treat.

Basically, it's a lamb or beef patty, seasoned with lemon, onion, garlic, and oregano, then placed in a pita along with lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, and a tzatziki-type sauce (yogurt and cucumbers).

It was quick to prepare and given my recent schedule, that was a good thing! It was also delicious. I had picked up the Persian cucumbers and the fresh tomatoes from the farmers market a few days before. Ordinarily, I would make the pitas from scratch, but because of the time constraint, I used store-bought ones. They were still pretty tasty.

TWD update

This week I have been swamped with work. As a result, I opted to pass on the Perfect Party Cake since I had made it before for the Daring Bakers in March 2008.

I've been trying to fit some baking in this week, but I will be working all weekend, trying to get caught up on everything. I'm beginning to wonder if a second job is really worth it, or, how badly do I really need benefits?

A few quick posts will follow this one, featuring items I baked or made within the last few weeks. Maybe the projects will slow down by the end of July; maybe not. Maybe I need to reassess job #2.

Anyway, I'm all set for next week's TWD project, so I'll be back on Tuesday.

Have a great 4th!