Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On travel

I'm off on travel for the next two weeks -- home to New Mexico for a wedding and lots of fun, then on to Nebraska to meet the newest grandchild.

All the food postings will have to wait until I'm back -- I just ran out of time to do everything.

Happy 4th a bit early!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TWD: Dressy Chocolate Loafcake

Saturday night I attended a solstice/birthday/Goddess party. It's an annual event held by a friend whose birthday happens around the summer solstice. It's for women only, women of all ages, from 7 to 90+.

Everyone brings some kind of food, and there are plenty of beverages of all kinds.

When the sun goes down, we build a big bonfire, then we toss in wreaths and garlands made from herbs, grasses, pine branches, or whatever is handy. Out with the old. It goes up in smoke.

Ready for the new year.

This year we went around the circle, saying our names and telling everyone what we had accomplished lately. That's always the interesting part. For some, just getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment; for others, it's a new job or a new relationship or the end of an existing relationship. We women are a hardy bunch, to be sure. I'm already looking forward to next summer.

In honor of the party and the hostess, I baked and shared this week's Tuesdays with Dorie special -- Dressy Chocolate Loafcake, selected by Amy of
Amy Ruth Bakes. I only got a half a piece from the first slice, as it disappeared very quickly.

I didn't encounter any problems with preparation or baking. Well, one slight issue, perhaps. The cocoa was a bit obstinate. Even though it was mixed with the flour, it chose to fly all over the room when mixing so that I finally resorted to hand mixing. Little pockets of cocoa kept appearing, so that I greatly feared I was overmixing the batter. However, I finally won the battle, and the cake didn't seem the worse for wear, turning out just fine.

The next time I make it, I will incorporate the cocoa with the butter and sugar, before I add the flour.

Here's the montage.

Cooling cake, right-side up, in pan.

Cooling cake, upside down, out of pan.

First layer of cherry jam. Cake has been split into thirds.

Final assembly and luscious semisweet chocolate/sour cream frosting.

Inside view, after the first slice. The slices tended to slide apart at the cherry seams, so it was a bit tricky to plate.

This was the only piece I got, and I shared it with my mother.

It definitely was perfect for the party, a hit all the way around.

Some of the other TWD bakers had more adventures with this cake, so be sure and check out their comments.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nuts to You: BBD 31 Anniversary Bread

It's hard to believe that Bread Baking Day is already three years old! Started by Zorra, each month brings a surprise challenge resulting in some delicious bread.

To celebrate the anniversary, Zorra asked us to bake a bread with nuts. Looking for something special, I searched my bread cookbooks and, with a few tweaks to the recipe, came up with a bread that offered a unique taste:

Curried Pistachio-Cashew Bread

It turned out to be an interesting bread, both in appearance and flavor, with the curry adding a subtle, spicy undertone and the nuts adding a lovely crunch.

I tested it both untoasted and toasted. Toasting really brings out the flavors, so that is what I would recommend.

I also used my bread machine for the kneading and rising segments, making this an easy bread to prepare. I combined pistachios and cashews, coarsely chopped, and added them towards the end of the second kneading stage. They were incorporated perfectly.

The next time around, I would make two braided loaves instead of just one, strictly for appearance not taste.

I'm sending this bread over to Zorra to celebrate BBD's anniversary.

Curried Pistachio-Cashew Bread

1 tablespoon yeast
4 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons curry powder

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat or bran flakes
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 large or extra-large egg
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup pistachios or cashews or both, coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients except the nuts into the bread machine container in the order listed. Select the manual bread setting. When the beeper sounds towards the end of the second kneading, add the nuts. Continue with the second rise, then remove dough and shape as desired.

Bake at
400°F for about 20 minutes, or until browned. Make sure the internal temperature is around 190°F. Let cool on a rack. Slice, toast, butter, and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cinnamon is one of my most favorite spices. I don't use it sparingly. I buy it in large containers because it doesn't last long.

So I was thrilled to see the TWD recipe choice this week, selected by Susan of Food.Baby.

Except for the raisins.

Now, I like raisins in some things, but not in my cinnamon bread, and my daughter definitely doesn't like them. Usually, I substitute currants for the raisins, but I had barely had that thought enter my mind, when my daughter spoke up, saying, ". . . and don't you dare try to sneak in currants."

So much for that.

How about chocolate chips? I inquired. That idea met with approval.

So, with nary a second thought, the raisin swirl bread became chocolate chip swirl bread.

The dough was lovely. It rose beautifully.

It was satiny smooth when rolled out. I just kept petting it.

Clearly, I was so enraptured by the dough that I forgot to show the lovely cinnamon-cocoa-chip filling before rolling. Just imagine.

I smooshed the rolled dough into the pan for rising,

brushed it with butter before placing it in the oven,

and begrudgingly, let it cool before slicing.

When the loaf was sufficiently cooled, the slicing began.

My oh my! The texture/crumb was perfect, the chocolate was gooey, and the flavor was heavenly.

And, of course, the only way to eat it is to slowly unwrap it from the top, savoring each turn of the slice. Butter helps. But it disappeared before we could toast it. Next loaf.

This bread is super easy to make. Go to Susan's blog for the recipe, or, better yet, just go ahead and buy the book. What ever you do, make this bread!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Tricolor Vegetable Pâté

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose a delicious pâté with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pâté recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Each month, all the Daring Cooks look forward with anticipation to learn what kind of challenge we will encounter. For June, we were tasked with make a pâté, made from either liver or seafood or vegetables. Not knowing what my dining audience would prefer, I chose the vegetarian pâté.

It was a good choice.

First, there is a white bean layer,

followed by a red pepper-feta cheese layer,

then topped with a homemade basil/parsley pesto.

I halved the recipe, using a 6-inch cake pan. This was more than enough for two people. I would highly recommend doubling the pesto layer regardless. It was delicious, but too thin.

Along with the
pâté, we also had to make some bread, bread of our choice. I made a baguette using a recipe from Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day. The basic recipe is quick, simple, and tastes fabulous. It went perfectly with the pâté, and the nice thing is, I have more dough in the fridge, ready to bake up and use with the remaining pâté.

All the layers had a good consistency and held together well. As requested, I refrigerated it overnight and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before unmolding. Even after two days, it is still fine. I only need to bake more bread, or toast some of my regular whole wheat bread, now, to finish it off.

I intend to keep this
pâté in mind for the next party or potluck. It's the ideal appetizer. For the recipe, go to either the Daring Kitchen, Epicurious, or to one of the hostess's blogs.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Leftover Raspberries

After making the white chocolate raspberry brownies recently, I had quite a few berries leftover. To celebrate Memorial Day, I made some sangria, using raspberries, and thinly sliced blood oranges and apples.

Basically, I used a bottle of sparkling rose, added simple syrup to taste, then the fruit. I let the mixture stand for about an hour to blend the flavors. It was a refreshing complement to a grilled dinner on a holiday weekend.

This also was an opportunity to use my crystal pitcher that I acquired several years ago from a glass-blowing factory in eastern France. I was lucky enough to receive a one-on-one factory tour and wished I could have brought back more beautiful glassware.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TWD: Tender Shortcakes

This year we celebrated Memorial Day by using our new grill and enjoying some of the last strawberries of the local growing season. Nothing is better than fresh, ripe strawberries, and shortcake is a great way to showcase them.

Except for making jam, I can't imagine why anyone would want to cook them and destroy their great flavor and texture. But, that's my opinion.

This particular variety of strawberry is the Monterey, a berry that is neither too sweet not too tart. Middle-of-the-road berry. Sadly, my nearby local stand has closed for the season, so I will have to go searching farther afield for more fresh berries. That said, I happen to live in the middle of strawberry country, so finding more shouldn't be too difficult.

Cathy, from The Tortefeasor, chose Dorie's Tender Shortcakes to kick off the summer season. I thirded the recipe and ended up with five good-sized shortcakes. Of course, the odd one had to be taste-tested, just in case.

This was potentially disastrous, because these shortcakes were so delicious that they almost didn't live long enough to be smothered in strawberries.

I grew up in the era that used those little sponge cakes for this dessert. Those cakes were good enough, and really soaked up the juices, but over the years my preferences have changed. A good biscuit-y shortcake just can't be beat, and this is definitely my go-to recipe.

If you want to try it yourself, stop by Cathy's blog for the recipe, then head over to the TWD blog to see what the other bakers did.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TWD: White Chocolate-Raspberry Brownies

Wishes do eventually come true.

For months, one of our TWD members has been hoping that someone would choose Dorie's White Chocolate Brownies. At last, thanks to Marthe, of Culinary Delights, that day has come.

Baking these brownies has not been without controversy, however. Most everyone, it seems, experienced difficulties while baking this dessert. The center would end up being undercooked. Some bakers tried more than once to get it right.

Unlike the others, I didn't have any baking troubles. My philosophy is that I control the cooking/baking, not the other way around. I consider suggested baking times as guidelines. Sometimes baked goods are finished early; sometimes they need to remain in the oven longer.

As 30 minutes rolled around, I studied the baking brownies. The center was still depressed, so I knew at once that it was still liquid. I kept re-setting the timer for 8 minutes, for a total of 24 more minutes beyond the suggested time. At that point, I could see that the center was puffed nicely, the meringue was light brown, and my cake tester was coming out clean.

When the brownies had cooled completely, I carefully removed them from the pan using the foil liner for leverage. It is a very delicate dessert, but it was cooked all the way through (see top photo).

Even though the recipe says brownies, this dessert is really more like a cake. It's pleasant enough, and I would think other berries could be substituted for the raspberries. For those rare people who don't like chocolate, this would be a nice offering.

Stop by the other Tuesdays with Dorie blogs to read about their baking adventures.