Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TWD: Almond Powder Puffs

These bite-sized cookies are very similar to traditional Mexican Wedding Cakes/Russian Tea Cakes, which are frequently-baked cookies in this household. The major difference seems to be less butter (my recipes use two sticks) and a pinch of cinnamon -- barely detectable except by the Taste-Tester Daughter.

Usually I use finely chopped, toasted pecans. This time, I chose finely chopped almonds for a change, adding some almond extract along with vanilla.

They were good. They disappeared in a flash. But, we both agreed that we like my regular recipes better. My daughter was definitely not a fan of the pinch of cinnamon.

This week's hostess is Tia of
Buttercream Barbie. Visit her blog for the recipe.

Please do stop by Tuesdays with Dorie to read about the other bakers' opinions.

(Assuming you are reading this on Tuesday, posting day, I will inform you that I am once again without electricity for the whole day. At least the electric company was kind enough to inform everyone ahead of time. However, I won't be able to read other posts until evening. And, to soothe my distressed feathers, since I can neither work nor bake, I'm heading to IKEA for the day.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

BBB: Maori Bread or Rewena Paraoa

A tale of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the good.

This month's Bread Baking Babes and Friends challenge was hosted by Lien, who chose Maori Bread, or Rewena Paraoa. What's really cool about this bread is that you make your own fermented potato starter.

That was one of the good things about this experience. The fermenting process takes about 48 hours after you boil and smash the potatoes. I put this mixture on top of the water heater, checking it once or twice a day. It was exciting to watch the bubbles form.

On baking day, I mixed the potato starter with more flour, some yeast, honey, salt, and finely chopped rosemary. I didn't want to add too much flour to the dough, but in retrospect, I should have added more than I did. The final dough was very slack, a lot like ciabatta dough. Even allowing an extra rise didn't help.

When I put the dough on the baking sheet, it spread into a big puddle. Pulling off the plastic wrap partially deflated it even though both surfaces were liberally oiled. There was no way a stencil would work.

This was the bad part of the experience.

Now, on to the ugly part.

The bread.

I finally gave up and decided to bake it as is. But, I was distressed enough that I didn't recheck the baking instructions, so the poor bread baked for a full half hour at 425 degrees.

One side was a bit darker than the other.


On to another good part: the texture.

This bread had great texture and flavor in spite of the rising/baking issues. The holes and cavities were terrific.

I'm considering making this bread again sometime, adding more flour to make a firmer dough. This will probably reduce the number of holes, but it's worth a second try.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

This was a tasty homemade bread challenge. It's always good to add another recipe to the collection. I did get so caught up in the preparation that I only remembered to take photos at the beginning and the end. The middle stage will remain a mystery.

After preparing the dough and letting it rise, the next step is rolling it out. (Although the recipe says the dough will only take about 45 minutes for the initial rise, mine took nearly two hours.)

Then the filling is added -- a fluffy meringue,

followed by cinnamon sugar,

followed by (imagine this) sliced almonds and mini cinnamon chips.

Next, you roll up the dough, form it into a circle, then make slashes around the edges so the filling shows through.

Once risen a second time, the bread is brushed with an egg wash before being baked. I added some sugar sprinkles for that sparkly effect.

It was a delicious bread, good for breakfast or for a snack. it didn't last long at all.

For the recipe, head over to the Daring Kitchen. There, you can also see all the flavor variations made by the other bakers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TWD: Honey Nut Brownies

These brownies were a surprise hit. Honey is not the typical ingredient for brownies, especially one whole cup's worth, but the end result was mighty tasty.

I used mesquite honey, which gave an interesting background note to the chocolate. The chocolate flavor was on the mild side.

Instead of using extra pans, I melted the chocolate and butter in my 2-cup pyrex measuring cup, in the microwave, allowing me to pour it right into the sugar/honey/egg mixture.

The texture was extremely moist, somewhere between fudgey and cakey. And like many desserts, it improved with time. Day 3 brownies were still moist with a lovely honey-chocolate flavor.

While the nuts were a nice addition (I used pecans), my daughter thought that replacing them with chocolate chips would augment the mild chocolate flavor. Even so, this dessert disappeared really quickly, a sure sign of approval.

There were definitely strong opinions about this brownie recipe from the other TWD bakers. Stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie blog to see what they had to say.

This week's hostess was Suzy of Suzy Homemaker.

Monday, March 21, 2011

FFwD: Cookie as Art

Now, that's a cookie.

Basically, a serve-yourself-the-size-you-want cookie.

It's a lot like making pie crust: mix flour, sugar, salt in a food processor; briefly and quickly mix in the butter; add water to form malleable ball.

Experimenting, I rolled out the dough before chilling it.

After an hour or so in the fridge, I placed it on the silpat, made the cross-hatch pattern, brushed it with egg, and baked it for about 40 minutes.


Fun to eat.

Another hit from French Fridays with Dorie.

FFwD: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Even though I made this cheese quick bread a few weeks ago, I'm only now getting around to posting it.

My daughter swore there must be bacon in it, but no, there wasn't. I think it was the combination of the toasted nuts and the green onions/shallots. They did give it a sort of bacony taste.

It would make a very tasty appetizer. It's interesting, easy to make, and can be prepared the day before a party.

Stop by French Fridays with Dorie for other baking ideas.

Monday, March 14, 2011

TWD: Citrus (Almost Currant) Sunshine Muffins

Certainly, I would have added currants, if I'd had them. They are a much better addition than raisins, to my mind. There was a box in the pantry, to be sure, but upon opening it, I discovered about one tablespoon of currants. Not enough to consider using.

I debated the pros and cons of various items in the pantry, then noticed a large milk chocolate bar from TJ's that was begging to be used. So, I carved off a largish pile of milk chocolate shavings to add to the muffins.

We thought it was the perfect combination with the orange juice (from Cara Cara and Blood Oranges) and the lime juice (no ripe lemons yet, only limes).

I should report that we liked these best on the second day. The citrus and chocolate flavors had mellowed quite a bit, making a mighty fine-tasting muffin.

This week's hostess was
Lauryn of Bella Baker.

More muffins can be found on the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Friday, March 11, 2011

FFwD: Beggar's Rotini

Fruit, nuts, and pasta. And lots of butter. Sounds like an interesting combination, but perhaps not for this household. We're not fig lovers, and my daughter doesn't like cooked fruit, especially in savory dishes. So I hadn't really planned to make this.

But, today, there was nothing in the house for lunch.

After perusing the pantry, I thought, well, what the heck, it's only me, and I'm hungry, and I need lunch, and this should be quick.

I played around with the ingredients, substituting dried apricots for the figs, hazelnuts for the pistachios, and rotini for the linguine. I used parsley, fresh from the garden, and orange zest from a recently-picked blood orange.

Well, I have to say, this was a delicious lunch, and it met all my requirements. The saltiness of the browned butter contrasted with the sweetness of the fruit. Divine! This is a definite repeat.

Stop by French Fridays with Dorie to see what the other folks did.

(I'm a tad bit behind on posting: the Orange-Almond Tart went up yesterday; the Savory Cheese & Chive Bread is sitting in the draft box, waiting for commentary. It should be up this weekend.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TWD: Corniest Corn Muffins

We're a family that loves cornbread in any form, so I'm always on the lookout for a new recipe to try.

I had planned to make these for dinner tonight (Monday), but my daughter wasn't in the mood for soup, having had some for lunch. All my ingredients were already assembled, however, so I decided to make the muffins anyway.

They turned out just fine. The addition of the corn kernels added a nice crunch.

My daughter tried one and like the flavor, so I take that as approval and will add them to my corn muffin/corn bread list. Each recipe has a slightly different taste; sometimes you want one taste rather than another, so the more choices, the merrier.

This week's hostess was Jill of
My Next Life.

Stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see more corn muffins.

Monday, March 7, 2011

FFwD: One of Those Days

Last week it was my turn to make dessert for my quilt group. A few people don't care for chocolate, so I decided to make the Orange-Almond Tart, one of the February selections for French Fridays with Dorie.

I had some Cara Cara oranges tucked away, so they were tapped for this dessert.

Monday evening I prepared all the ingredients:

the orange segments

the almond filling

and the baked tart shell.

The plan was to get up bright and early on Tuesday morning, assemble the tart, and bake it while getting ready for the meeting.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

That is, until the tart had been baking for about 10 minutes.

All of a sudden the power went completely out -- every baker's nightmare.

Did it come back on in a timely manner?

Nope. I left the tart in the oven, then headed off to the grocery store to find a substitute dessert for my meeting. It turned out only four people showed up, so I didn't feel too badly, just frustrated.

When I returned home several hours later, the power was still out. It finally came back on during the early afternoon, after being off for a total of 5 1/2 hours. The first thing I did was turn on the oven and finish baking the tart. It came out just fine, a bit too brown, but that was my error for not compensating for the extra time in the hot oven. It still tasted good.

I will definitely have to bake this again, hopefully under normal conditions. I may leave off the oranges and substitute some other kind of fruit or nut, just for fun. In any case, it's a dessert worth making and sharing.

(Savory Cheese and Chive bread will be the next post.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TWD: Chocolate Pots de Creme


The photos may be boring, but the dessert certainly wasn't.

All I can say is that it disappeared before I could make whipped cream for the decorative topping. That says it all, I think.

I did decide to halve the recipe since I was running low on heavy cream. As a result, I used two egg yolks and one egg in place of the 5 eggs. I also covered the pan with foil rather than plastic wrap, since I didn't want to take chances with either melting or out-gassing plastic.

Next time I'll add a smidgen of coffee or espresso to brighten the flavor of the chocolate.

This recipe compares favorably to my usual one for pots de creme. The only difference is that that one isn't baked, just chilled, so it's quick, easy, and delicious.

This week's hostess was Christine of

Stop by Tuesdays with Dorie to see more delicious pots de creme.