Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's a breakfast without Rum?

Bread baking day.

It's one of my favorite food blogging events. This month, it was hosted by the talented bakers over at Imafoodblog.

This month it was the biggest challenge I've faced for a long while.

The task: bake something you've never made before.

What? What's that you say?

Oh my. What could I possibly bake that fits that category? I spent the whole month trying to come up with some kind of bread-like object that I have never tried. I nearly gave up.

But, the other evening, I was looking through one of my newly purchased cookbooks and came across a bread recipe I know I've never attempted.

Yeasted waffles.

I've made waffles many times, but they've always been of the quick-bread-type persuasion. After all, when you want waffles, you want them now. With yeasted waffles, you have to plan ahead by some 12 hours or so. Hardly a spontaneous meal.

So, I chose these different waffles as my entry for Bread Baking Day #23.

The night before, I prepared the first part of the batter and let it ferment for about 10 hours:

While the waffles were cooking, I prepared the topping:

The end result:

First, I should point out that my daughter, who doesn't care for either cooked fruit or rum, had seconds.

Second, if you like yeasty-tasting, bread-like waffles, these are for you.

They were a nice change of pace from the usual, but, frankly, the quicker, baking powder waffles taste just as good, and I don't have to struggle to remember starting them the night before. The topping, on the other hand, was another story. That recipe will definitely be made again and again.

Bring on the rum, especially for breakfast!

Thanks to Nick, and also to Zorra, the Creator.

Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas
(from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)


1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Brown Sugar Bananas:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup light rum
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced (I used 3)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup


In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve and proof.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the milk. The mixture should be warm but not hot.

Add the butter-milk mixture, salt, sugar, flour, and nutmeg to the yeast mixture. Whisk until smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

In the morning, preheat the waffle iron. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and the baking soda, and immediately whisk them into the batter. The batter will be thin.

Cook the waffles according to the manufacturer's instructions. Store cooked waffles in a 200 to 250 degree oven until ready to serve.


Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the brown sugar and salt and stir over medium heat until melted and bubbling.

Remove from the heat and add the rum, then carefully return the pan to the heat. It's possible the rum will flame up, but it will go out in a moment. Cook for about 30 seconds to burn off the remaining alcohol.

Add the sliced bananas and stir to coat. Add the maple syrup and bring just to bubbling.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Serve over the warm waffles.

Friday, August 28, 2009

BB: Pizza Bianca with Arugula

Well, why not make pizza on a blazing hot day? The kitchen was already super hot, so it didn't much affect the existing ambient temperature.

The second Barefoot Blogger project of the month was White Pizza with Arugula. There was goat cheese, too, but since I'm the in-charge cook, I overruled that ingredient, using feta cheese instead. We love arugula around here, so that just made the resulting pizza all that much better. Yep.

I also used Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio for the grated cheese. It's a wonderful blend of provolone, parmesan, fontina, and asiago that I always have on hand.

My daughter thought it was a bit bland, but then she loves red sauce and goat cheese. What can I say?

I loved the acidity of the arugula salad in combination with the cheese and bread, and every now and then I got a taste of the garlic-chile oil. I'll have to add that to future pizzas -- it's a great but subtle touch.

Many thanks to Andrea of Nummy Kitchen for a tasty selection. Be sure and stop by the Barefoot Bloggers to read other opinions about this pizza and see what's coming up for September.

Daring Bakers: Dobos Torta

First, the preliminary requirement:

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar
and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

August has been a particularly busy month around here, so I was finally able to squeeze in this baking project on the reveal day. Not to worry, though, the only difficult part of the process was dealing with the hot weather, which was especially hard on the butter and the resulting buttercream. Frequent trips to the refrigerator were on order during the frosting process.

The sponge cake was easy. It tasted like lady fingers to me, one of my favorite treats. I just drew circles on my parchment, slathered on the batter, and baked the six discs until just slightly golden. During assembly, I brushed each one with sugar syrup flavored with amaretto.

For the chocolate buttercream (which was our favorite part of the cake), I had to find the coolest place in the house for the cooling-down process. That was the laundry room. I also had to re-chill the butter briefly, since it was starting to turn to liquid. In the end, it turned out beautifully.

While the buttercream chilled, I made the caramel. Easy. It helps to have a heavy saucepan with a white interior, though, because you can quickly tell when the caramel is reaching the right color. I played around a bit with the shape of the sponge-layer top and made squiggles with the extra caramel. As much as we like caramel, this was our least favorite part of the cake.

For future reference, I would probably use the sixth layer as a regular cake layer and just make decorative pieces with the caramel alone. Beats having that little "cake top hat" on top, that is challenging to eat.

Overall, we enjoyed the cake. I'm amazed at all the variations from the Daring Bakers -- what a talented group! Can't wait to see what the September project will be.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Dobos

Today's Daring Baker post is forthcoming, just as soon as the torte is made. What can I say? It's been a busy month!

Update 1:

The cake is made.

The chocolate is cooling, although that is a relative term since it is nearly 90 degrees inside the house. I had to put the butter back into the refrigerator because it was turning into a liquid.

Update 2:

7 pm (pdt)

Torte is complete and chilling in the refrigerator. The buttercream remains solid about 15 seconds in this heat.

Will photograph, consume, and post after dinner.

I must say, it was a "piece of cake" to make.

Update 3:

Photos will come in the morning. Flash at night doesn't make for attractive pictures.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hangzhou Braised Pork

The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones, was the most recent selection for Cook the Books. If you want plot information, take a look at the CtB blog, or stop by Natashya's or Suzie's blogs.

I had trials and tribulations with this book. Our library system doesn't own the book, so I went through Interlibrary Loan to get a copy. When the copy arrived, I checked it out, then I must have set it down, because someone immediately picked it up, checked it back in, and returned it to the host library. I was not a happy camper/reader.

So, once again, I placed an ILL order, hoping that it would arrive in time. Yay. It did!

This is an awesome love story in every sense: love of country, love of food, love of history, and love between two people. I never wanted this story to end. It was inspiring.

I started a search for a recipe that would engage the senses and related to the setting of the story. After perusing several cookbooks on Chinese cuisine, I chose Hangzhou Braised Pork from The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong. I did adapt it to the ingredients I had on hand.

This led to my second 'trial and tribulation': the cooking liquid is supposed to be boiled down to make a syrupy sauce. Even though I boiled 3 times as long as the recipe stated, it never became syrupy. I decided I would try again when I reheated the leftover pork, but I was once again thwarted. My daughter beat me to it, eating all of the remaining meat and rice, without spinach and without sauce. She declared it was delicious and I should make it again. All that's left now is a container of sauce, waiting to be reduced. Guess I'll have to make it again.

My adaptation of Hangzhou Braised Pork

2 pounds boneless pork roast, cut into 2" squares 2 scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds 1 cup white wine
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce
one 1" piece of peeled fresh ginger, cut into 5 slices
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 whole star anise
one 1 1/2" piece of cinnamon stick
5 small dried hot chilies
1 pound fresh spinach

Place the scallions on the bottom of a flameproof casserole and top with the pork. Add 3 cups water, the wine, the 1/3 cup sugar, the 1/4 cup soy sauce, ginger, white pepper, star anise, cinnamon stick, and dried chilies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until the pork is very tender, about 2 hours.

Remove meat from cooking liquid. Remove and discard all the remaining solids. Increase the heat to high and boil the sauce, uncovered, until it becomes syrupy.

While the sauce is reducing, fill a saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, then add the fresh spinach and cook until it is just wilted, about 1 minute. Drain well.

Once the sauce is reduced, add the cooked pork and the remaining sugar and soy sauce. Return to a boil.

Serve the cooked pork with syrupy sauce on top of the spinach.

The sauce has great flavor -- spicy and picante. I will certainly make this again.

Tune into the Cook the Books Club and see what the other readers created, and what our next book will be.

BB: Mango Banana Daiquiris

I was all set to make these daiquiris before my trip to Arkansas, but, alas, time ran out. With the mango safely stowed in the refrigerator, and a new bottle of rum on the kitchen counter, I had a special treat waiting for me upon my arrival home.

I only made half a recipe. First, there is only so much alcohol I can consume on my own; second, my one mango equaled one cup.

Even so, there still was an abundance of daiquiri, so I was hoping that my daughter would be willing to try some when she got home from work. I say hoping, because several months ago, I used some frozen mangoes to make daiquiris, and the taste was forgettable for both of us. Fresh makes all the difference.

Well, I drank my half while I was vacuuming, a good way to get chores done. And, luckily, my daughter polished off the remaining half after many assurances that this version was much, much better.

Thanks to Barefoot Blogger Veronica from Supermarket Serenade for a new fruity drink to add to the repertoire.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TWD: Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie

Behold: the slice of pie. This pie disappeared too quickly. Next time I will try a graham cracker crust among other variations.


This could be called Fast 'n Easy Lime Meringue pie. Once the components were prepared, it only took minutes to actually make the pie.

The pie crust was made this morning, in the 45 minutes between walking the dog and going to Costco with my neighbor. It certainly had time to cool.

The luscious lime-ginger filling was made last Saturday. Contrary to what many other TWD bakers said, my filling thickened in less than five minutes and was pretty darn solid after being refrigerated. I whipped it with the 'meringued' beaters to get it refluffed.

There are so many leftover egg whites occupying space in my refrigerator, so it was wonderful to be able to use some up. I add a pinch or so of cream of tartar along with the sugar, and they reached firm & glossy quickly, whereupon I used the beaters to whip up the aforementioned filling.

Next, the filling was spread into the well-cooled pie shell.

The meringue layer was attached.

Then, I refilled my trusty torch and proceeded to fire away.

Thanks to Linda of Tender Crumb for using one of my favorite ingredients: limes. My tree is prolific, so any chance I have to use the fruit is a good one.

While I know each pie component tastes delicious, the ultimate test will have to wait until after dinner tonight. (Biscuits with sausage gravy have been requested.) If possible, I will post a pie-slice photo tomorrow. Meanwhile, wander over to the
TWD blog to read about everyone else's opinions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TWD: Applesauce Spice Bars, finally

After a whirlwind trip to Arkansas and a brief (4-day) vacation, which, by all accounts I must have needed, I have once again thrown myself into the midst of baking and freelancing. I had hoped to make these applesauce bars before I left, but there are only so many hours in a busy day.

I had planned to make them yesterday afternoon, but one ingredient was missing. The apple. I could have sworn I had some. So, I begged one off of my dear neighbor, in return for some of the bars. She not only gave me an apple, but some delicious apple crisp that her 10 year old son had made that day in a summer cooking class.

I did substitute currants for the raisins, just for fun, and used dark brown sugar in the caramel glaze. These sure are sticky things, aren't they? But, moist and tasty, as well.

Thanks this week to Karen of Something Sweet for a nice treat. :) I'm trying to get caught up in the next few days, so I can return to my normal, crazy schedule next week. Some of the bars will go with me to the library tonight -- it's always good to share the wealth/calories.

By now, dear reader, I'm sure you've seen a plethora of spice bars, but if you haven't, check out the wonderful bakers at
Tuesdays with Dorie.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TWD Delayed A Teensy Bit

Having just returned from my trip to Arkansas, I'm a tiny bit behind on my baking. I plan to make the applesauce bars either late today or early tomorrow, so they will appear.

I will also write up highlights of my visit in the next few days, so stay tuned.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daring Cooks #4: A Delicious Spanish Dish

Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish Chicken, and Artichokes

That was the Daring Cook's challenge for this month, chosen by Olga of Olga's Recipes. I swapped out only one ingredient as you can tell, since I didn't want to waste perfectly good cuttlefish. As it was, I'm glad I only made half the recipe.


Because it was so delicious that two of us quickly devoured it.

I made this last Saturday so I could take my time and enjoy the preparation.

First I made the Sofregit, a tasty melange of caramelized onions and fresh tomatoes with some garlic, green pepper, and mushrooms thrown in as well. It goes really well with leftover meatloaf, I might add.

The next component was the Aioli sauce. It's like making mayonnaise with a bunch of garlic. It truly added the best flavor to the finished rice dish. It took awhile to prepare, since you crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle before dribbling in the oil, a drop at a time. I did eventually switch to a whisk to help it along.

This lovely dish also gave me an opportunity to use some of the saffron I received as a Mother's Day gift from my older daughter. It was a most thoughtful and useful gift. Spices and herbs are always welcome.

Chicken, mushrooms, and artichokes, merrily cooking along:

I also used Arborio rice, which resulted in a nice, creamy texture. The photo really doesn't do it justice. Trust me, it was wonderful, and definitely a dish I will make again.

The post day for Daring Cooks is August 14. Since I'll be out of town, I'm sending this to autopost and keeping my fingers crossed that Blogger actually posts it. From the previews, I know that many of the Daring Cooks ended up with spectacular results, so take time to check them out. For the recipes, go to Olga's blog.

The new challenge will be posted right after I return, so I'm looking forward to the next cooking adventure.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Arkansas bound

Too early tomorrow morning I'm off to Arkansas for several days. It's a business-pleasure combo trip.

If I have the time tonight, I'll be autoposting two events for Thursday and Friday. That's assuming Blogger will post them. The last two times I used autopost, the files just sat there, so I have no idea what changed, but I'll give it a go anyway.

Meanwhile, if anyone has suggestions for meals in Fayetteville (dinner) or Little Rock (lunch), I'd be thrilled to hear about them.

I'll look forward to seeing all the new posts when I return.

TWD: Brownie Buttons

Brownie Buttons, the one-bite alternative to conventional brownies. These didn't last long. As you can tell, I chose to dust them with powdered sugar. While melted white chocolate or regular frosting sounds good, these little guys are rich enough to stand on their own.

My mini-muffin pan handles 12. Two buttons were baked in mini-paper cups. Of course, they were the first to disappear because of that.

The cooling rack was a dangerous location. Several buttons never received their powdered sugar dusting.

These were fun and quick to make, and very likely to be made again!

Brownie Buttons were brought to us this week by Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen. Check out the TWD blog for other renditions and opinions.

(Next week's selection is Applesauce Spice Bars, which may or may not be posted on-time, depending on my copious free-time, since I am heading out of town early tomorrow morning.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

YWPWT: Nutty Pies

Our pie challenge for August, thanks to Jacque at Daisy Lane Cakes, was to create something featuring nuts. My goodness -- there are so many choices out there. Not just the type of nut, but whether to use nuts as the focus in the filling or as an accompaniment in the crust.

Once again, I have been auditioning cookbooks (my bank account is suffering) and I was inspired to make a savory nut pie rather than the usual sweet one. Gruyère, Scallion, and Walnut Tart turned out to be quite delicious and will most likely appear at the table on a regular basis.

First, I assembled the main ingredients: cheese, scallions, walnuts, and custard filling:

Tart shell:

Next, the scallions are sprinkled onto the shell:

Then the cheese:

Then the nuts:

Followed by the custard filling:

Fresh from the oven:

Ready to eat:

All the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time, and the tart shell can be made in advance and either refrigerated or frozen. My cooking time was a bit longer than the recipe suggested. All taste testers gave this nutty, savory pie a big thumb's up!

Check out the You Want Pies With That? blog for other delicious, nutty pies.

, Scallion, and Walnut Tart
(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)


One 10-11" tart shell, unbaked

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions (white part and half of the green part), thinly sliced
5 ounces (150 grams) coarsely shredded
Gruyère cheese
4 ounces (100 grams) walnut pieces, toasted, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup milk
1/2 heavy cream
3 large eggs
salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to
350°F (180°C), placing rack at the lowest level.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat and add the scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cook for a few minutes.

Distribute the cooked scallions evenly over the tart crust, then scatter the cheese and walnuts on top.

Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and pour into the crust.

Bake the tart until the crust is baked through and well-colored on the bottom, and the filling is set and puffed, anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.

Cool before unmolding.

Can be served warm or at room temperature.