Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Julia Child Feast

As a young twenty-something, watching Julia Child’s The French Chef on Sunday evening was my introduction to fine cooking. I bought her cookbooks and picked a few favorites that became part of my repertoire. When My Life in France came out, I bought a hard-cover copy and was delighted to learn about how she became Julia Child, my mentor. About the same time, I also was delighted to read Julie Powell’s sweet book. The opening of the movie that combines the two stories required a special celebration.

I invited my close friends to a Julie and Julia potluck dinner. Everyone was asked to channel their inner Julia Child and produce a dish from one of her cookbooks – but preferably from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MAFC). We planned to go to the Julie and Julia movie following the dinner. So on a perfect Saturday evening in Saratoga Springs, we set out on our dining and viewing adventure.

Everyone arrived around 4:30 to allow us time to eat and make a 7:30 movie time. The meal began with an aperitif of sparkling wine with cold blueberry soup. The cold blueberry soup was not a Julia recipe but one I got from Kim Suneé. I attended her cooking demo this summer at the Battenkill Kitchen. Everyone loved the combination and Kim’s recipe from her book, The Trail of Crumbs ( is below:

Chilled Blueberry Soup

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of this to a glass of champagne or prosecco for a sweet summer sparkler; use to top crepes, pancakes or ice cream; or serve for dessert in chilled espresso cups.

  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, divided, or 2 (12 ounce) bags frozen blueberries
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ cup liquid honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb crème de cassis
  • 1 Tb balsamic vinegar
  • Garnish: lemon or orange zest, crème fraiche

Rinse blueberries and place all but 1 cup in a large pot. Add cloves and stir in honey. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into pot using tip of knife, and add scraped bean halves (or scrape cinnamon into pot and add stick). Add 1 cup water and stir.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer about 10 minutes. Strain, using back of spoon to crush berries, through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard solids. Let soup cool. Stir in lemon juice, crème de cassis, and vinegar. Add more honey, as needed. Chill in refrigerator 4 hours and up to 2 days. Serve in chilled bowls with reserved 1 cup fresh blueberries. Garnish if desired. Makes 3 cups.

To accompany the aperitif, I made Julia’s Galettes au Fromage (p. 197 MAFC). Julia’s instructions wer2009 08 09_1911e to test bake one because the amount of flour to use depended on the cheese used. Was she right! I used a softer cheese than the recipe and my first test just flattened out on the sheet. I added more flour and the second test was successful.

Marjorie Martin made our first course of Vichyssoise (p. 39, MAFC). She bought new bowls for the party (she said it was one of the wonders of the 2009 08 09_1917Dollar Store) and she garnished the soup beautifully with minced chives. Marjorie rated it a very easy recipe. We paired this part of the meal with Pouilly-Fuse. Throughout the meal Kay Olan provided a constant supply of beautiful baguettes from Mrs. London’s (she is not a cook and not apologetic about it)!

After the soup, we went to the main course. This was nearly overwhelming! We had a Salade Niçoise, Roast Chicken, Tomates a La Provençale and Timbale of Fresh Corn. We opened a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Rose to accompany.

2009 08 09_1928 Jude Nordhoff made the Salade Niçoise ( p. 542, Mastering the Art of French Cooking). She was a little flustered by the recipe, said it took her much longer to make than anticipated and had to improvise the dressing because the cookbook referred her to a page she didn’t copy. What the matter, the results were spectacular.

2009 08 09_1930

Nancy Luther made the Tomates a La Provencale (p. 507 MAFC). She minced the ingredients by hand (a la Julia) and said it took a lot more effort than she anticipated. Julia recommended that the tomatoes not be crowded in the dish and Nancy discovered that if they had been crowded they would have been difficult to serve. Gratefully, Nancy left me some tomatoes ready for heating today.

H2009 08 09_1925olly Lawton came with the Timbale of Fresh Corn (p. 127, Julia Child & Company). It was delicious. I’m including the recipe because not many of my friends have the cookbook and Holly said she would make it again and again and again.

Timbale of Fresh Corn

For an 8-cup baking dish, serving 8 people

  • 12 or more ears fresh corn (to make about 3 cups grated corn)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2-3 Tb grated onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-5 Tb minced parsley
  • 2/3 cup lightly pressed down crumbs, from crustless nonsweet white bread
  • 2/3 cup lightly pressed down grated cheese (such as a mixture of Swiss and/or Cheddar or mozzarella)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 8-10 grinds fresh pepper

Scrape or grate the corn and turn into a measure to be sure you have about 3 cups. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl to blend; then add all the rest of the ingredients listed, including the corn.

Recipe may be completed even a day in advance to this point; covered and refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. About 2 hours before serving, butter the baking dish and line bottom with a round of buttered wax paper. Stir up the corn mixture to blend thoroughly and pour into the dish. Set corn dish in a bain-marie. Bake in lower-middle level of oven for half an hour, then turn the temperature down to 325 degrees. Baking time is around 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, and water surrounding the timbale should almost but never quite bubble; too high heat can make a custard grainy. Timbale is done when it has risen almost to fill the mold, the top has cracked open, and a skewer plunged down through the center comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes or more in turned-off oven, door ajar, before unmolding.

May be baked an hour or so before serving; the timbale will sink down as it cools.

2009 08 09_1927 My contribution was Roast Chicken (p. 240, MAFC) which was supposed to be a “perfect” roast chicken. It wasn’t perfect, but pretty good. A couple of problems with trussing (no trussing needle made inserting the string a little difficult) made it difficult to roast the chicken on its side. My solution was to roast it upside down. Also, I was less than diligent about basting, but did get in a several bastings. I reduced to pan juices to a sauce (burned my finger by grabbing the hot handle of the roasting pan on the stove) and poured it over the finished bird (which I cut up into serving pieces before it went to the table).

By this time we were all really stuffed so we took a little pause before the cheese course. We soon started on the cheeses which included gorgonzola, Wensleydale with apricots and a creamy camembert.2009 08 09_1935

Beverly Reedy brought dessert – Tarte au Citron et Aux Amandes (p. 646, MAFC). Let me tell you a little about Bev. She is a local chef – founded Beverly’s on Phila Street in Saratoga, currently owned by her son Michael Bowman, and author of the cookbook Beverly’s Best ( She also has a line of barbecue sauce, sweet relish and apple butter that is carried at the restaurant and other locations2009 08 09_1913 in the Northeast. Beverly bakes! She followed MAFC but said with her own recipes she could turn out the tart in about an hour. She had issues with Julia’s technique for candying the lemon rind and thought her own method is a lot better. The tart was fabulous and she served it with a berry puree sauce (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries). We also had some crème Fraîche to accompany the tart.

Okay, we missed the Julie and Julia movie because the dinner lasted four hours. No one felt stuffed by the end because we paced out the meal and did not rush. Guess the French have it right. It was a lovely meal with great friends. We’ll be getting together next week for the movie.

2009 08 09_1921

Kay & Jude

2009 08 09_1922

Holly & Marjorie

2009 08 09_1923

Marjorie & Kay

2009 08 09_1924

Beverly & Nancy

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's Only a Bakewell Tart!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. I've actually stayed in Bakewell and tasted a Bakewell tart. I don't remember it being as good as this recipe.

When I told an English acquitance that I was making strawberry jam for a Bakewell tart, he wondered why because it's only a Bakewell tart! Well I did make strawberry jam, not specifically for the tart but it got used in it anyway. My jam center was half and half strawberry and rhubarb-ginger jam (also homemade). Also, I substituted lemon extract for almond extract.

In the past few years, I've switched to uncooked jams -- they go in the freezer and I find the fruit flavor much fresher than the cooked jams. My freezer has raspberry jam from last year and two new batches of strawberry jam. They make great toppings for ice cream as well as peanut butter and toast.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 9” tart
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 9” tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
1 cup jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 1/4” thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

8oz all purpose flour
1 oz sugar
½ tsp salt
4oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
½ tsp lemon extract
1-2 Tbsp cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

4.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4.5 oz confectioner's sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp lemon extract
4.5 oz ground almonds/almond flour
1oz all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saratoga (Parisian) Apple Tart and Peonies

This week's TWD Parisian Apple Tart is a keeper and will be a regular dessert feature for future dinner parties. The recipe was selected by Jessica of My Baking Heart and the recipe is available on her blog. Because of this week's TWD, I now have puff pastry sheets to last a long time. To try to get a better quality puff pastry dough, I visited Adventure in Food, a specialty food wholesaler in Albany, NY, where I purchased a "small" box of frozen puff pastry -- made by Pennant from France. The small box isn't really that small and as a result I now have 20 (- 1/2 sheet) 12 oz pastry sheets resting in my freezer. I like them already because they're packaged flat rather than folded like the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry. I always hated rolling across the fold. Anyway, I'm seeing a summer of beautiful tomato tarts with the beautiful San Marzano tomatos that I anticipate harvesting from my garden.

Speaking of gardens -- my first peony is now blooming. The flowers are easily 6 inches across and they smell delightful. I took some pictures to share as well as my newly remodelled veggie garden.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cinnamon Squares??? - Chocolate Heaven

When I first saw the listing for this week's TWD selection, I wasn't impressed and didn't think I would participate. Over the weekend I looked at the recipe and thought it looked interesting and really easy to make. I've been spending a lot of my time in the garden so I'm looking for easy right now. It was easy, but I think the name is wrong. It should be a name that includes the abundant chocolate in the recipe -- maybe Dark Chocolate Squares or maybe Chocolate Heaven. Any suggestions? The recipe is available at In my recipe, I substituted buttermilk for whole milk.

The veggie garden is planted but still kind of young to photograph. I've added some features to make it fit better with my old 1840s house. Pictures will come soon. The perennial flowers are starting their display. The clematis and columbine are blooming and the gorgeous peony is about ready to pop. The macro lens makes everything look incredible.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Springtime - Ricotta Gnocchi and Asparagus

This is the opening challenge for Daring Cooks and as promised -- it looked simple but proved a little more difficult to form the gnocchi. The master gnocchi recipe was taken from the cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook. I made the gnocchi for the 14th but only finished the recipe today. I took my inspiration for my final recipe from a Babbo recipe for asparagus and ricotta ravioli. I blanched and chilled the asparagus and added it to the pan with melted butter. When the gnocchi cooked, I added it to the sauce along with some pasta water. I garnished it with shaved reggiano parmesan. It was delicious!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TWD - Tartest Lemon Tart

Okay, I love this recipe but couldn't really believe that it called for whole lemons! I wonder how common this is? Yesterday David Lebovitz posted a lemon tart recipe in which he used only lemon zest and lemon juice -- His recipe made a point of using unsprayed lemons. I can hardly believe that any fruit is brought to market without being sprayed with all the creepy crawlers and insects in the warm climates where they grow. I used my supermarket lemons and scrubbed them with warm soapy water and a good brush -- making sure to remove the green Sunkist ink!

This was the last recipe I made during my marathon baking day for my friend's wake last week -- Tiramisu cake, peanut butter cookies and then this tart. The fact that tart crust was pressed in rather than rolled out, saved a ton of time and anguish. I finished off the tart with powdered sugar rather than creme fraiche. The recipe can be found at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

RIP - Dear Friend, Kate

Today was the funeral for my friend Kate O'Connell, who passed last week. She was a poet, photographer, philospher and wonderful friend. Over the past few summers we had memorable jaunts to Tanglewood and the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown. I will miss her.

Following her funeral, there was a reception for friends and family. This week's TWD Tiramisu cake (and next week's Lemon Tart) were part of my contribution. The recipe for the Tiramisu cake can be found on Megan's blog My Baking Adventures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Plain Jane Cheesecake – April Daring Bakers

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This month of April, my thoughts are not so much on the kitchen as they are on my garden. For this Daring Baker challenge I went with a plain Jane cheesecake. No extra embellishments – just the cheesecake with flavoring courtesy of M. Cointreau. This was a wise decision because the plain cheesecake was fantastic -- it had a simple and clear flavor. The texture was the star -- smooth and creamy, almost melting in your mouth. The recipe is a winner -- the baking instructions produced a cheesecake with no cracks or sinkholes. Thanks for the recipe Jenny.

The weather in Saratoga Springs has been amazing for the past few weeks and I've been photographing some of the emerging plants and flowers on my daily walks.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Molto Bene! Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The Daring Bakers challenge has taken baking to a new a welcome change -- we're making pasta rather than sweets. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge. The challenge recipe can be found on their blogs.

The central part of the challenge was to produce hand-made pasta. In this recipe, Kasper uses spinach pasta. She gives directions for both hand-rolling and using a hand-cranked machine to produce the dough. I've owned a hand-cranked machine for ions so I pulled it out for this recipe. The other requirement was to use a white (bechamel) sauce. The choice of ragu recipe was open and I chose to use a recipe for ragu alla Bolognese from chef Fabrizio Bazzani of Chianti il Ristorante in Saratoga Springs.

Bazzani offers cooking demonstration dinners at his restaurant and I attended one focusing on Emilia-Romanga earlier this month. For Bazzani, ragu alla Bolognese is about the meat. Here's how he makes it:

9.5 oz ground pork
9.5 oz ground beef
3 oz pancetta, chopped
3 oz prosciutto, chopped
6 oz sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 full glass (or more) of red wine
9.5 oz ground peeled tomatos
Slat and Pepper
2 oz butter
2 oz extra virgin olive oil

Saute the pancetta, celery, carrot and onion with the butter and oil, season lightly with salt only. Add the ground meats, let it gain some color and pour in the wine. Let the wine evaporate then add the tomatos and a little broth (4 oz).

Lower the fire to a simmer and let it cook for three hours, adding broth if necessary. Toward the end, add the milk and let it finish cooking until it's been three hours. Season with salt and pepper at the end of the cooking time.

A word of caution -- the cooking ragu will smell wonderful -- given the aromatic vegetables, pancetta and proscuitto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bumble my Blueberries – Making Substitutions

Last week I glanced at the recipe for this cake and thought how simple it looked and didn’t include any unfamiliar techniques. I made the classic cooking mistake and didn’t read through ingredient list carefully. Yesterday I started making the cake. As I worked along, I came to the final steps that included combining the dry ingredients with buttermilk. No buttermilk in the pantry! Two choices – make a quick trip to the market or look for a substitution. Dorie’s Baking has a whole list of substitutions in the back of the book. I used her recommendation for buttermilk substitute by combining 2/3 cup of plain yogurt and 1/3 cup milk. It worked fine.

The recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake is available at Thanks to Sihan for selecting the recipe.

Blueberry Crumb Cake in the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze – TWD

What an easy recipe! Like so many of TWD members, I couldn’t find lemon marmalade so I used lemon curd. I thinned it with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which produced a very lemony flavor. One of my tasters (who’s known to like a lot of extra butter and cream) suggested serving it with cream cheese.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bess at the Dog Computer

Last year a work colleague introduced us all to the SF Shiba Inu puppies on Upstream TV. I happened to bring up the site at home and found that Bess not only responded to the sounds of the puppies but actually watched and seemed to get some genuine excitment from the experience. She always examines the laptop to figure out where those puppies are hiding and why she can't smell them and play with them. There's an idea for the next technology wave and maybe one a dog could actually operate!

Yesterday she was watching some very sleepy bloodhound puppies ...

and two lazy French bulldog babies.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

2009 Basel Fasnacht - die drey scheenschte Dääg

This Monday morning at 4 AM Central European Time, the Basel Fasnacht kicks off with the Morgestraich. The whole of the central part of the city goes dark, the cliques light their floats, the fifes start playing and the marching begins. I was there for the 2007 Fasnacht and the pictures in this post are from that year.

My friends and I found we needed a strategy for Morgestraich. Unlike the stereotype of the Swiss as being orderly, Morgestraich is anything but orderly. There are lots of people watching and lots of people in the cliques. We were in a crowd at the edge of Barfüsserplatz and had cliques coming at us from multiple directions. The head of the clique has a sort of a pike stick that is used to break through the crowd. We would dodge one and another would be coming at us from another direction! It was difficult to move around the center and finally we realized the best strategy was to march behind one of the cliques.

There’s lots of traditional food served – Basler Mehlsuppe (, kaisewaie, and zweiblewaie washed down with glasses of Warteck or Feldschlösschen beer. Lots of the beer.

The big parade goes off on Monday afternoon. The cliques have changed into costumes that match their theme and they mount their floats for the parade. The masks are works of art. Along the parade route, the cliques throw mimosas, oranges, candy, kisses and confetti. The rule is that you can’t throw anything on someone in a mask. There are smaller clique groups without floats. The biggest thing are the fife and drum corps and the brass bands (Guggemusik). Each of the large cliques have both musical groups. There must be terrific music schools and musicians in Basel given the number of corps and bands. I think the cliques offer music lessons. It is amazing how much effort is put into Fasnacht.

There are other parades on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday is the Kinder-Fasnacht parade. Tuesday evening is capped off by a Gugge-Musik concert in Barfüsserplatz. Not to be missed. All day long, every day, there are people out marching, playing fife and drum or band music. You can hear the shrill of the fife’s playing all night. The Gugge-Musik groups tour the bars and hotels and play for drinks! I don’t want to slight the Schnitzelbangg which are comic musical performances that highlight something that impacted Basel in the last year. They are all performed in Baseldytsch which I don’t understand.

I love Fasnacht but can’t be there every year. You can watch Fasnacht remotely through live web-cam broadcasts from cameras strategically placed around the city. Go to and click on the link for 2009 Fasnacht Live. Marktplatz/Rathaus or Barfüsserplatz would be the best choices. The best is in person and I’m looking forward to 2010.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino - Daring Bakers - Heartless, Flourless Chocolate Cake

This may be a comment on my romantic life - but I baked my chocolate valentino in a round springform pan and then cut it in square serving pieces. Hooray, it's the last day of February and I'm having a dinner party tonight to give the winter a kick. There's still a foot of snow on the ground in Saratoga and it's cold today. I've been looking at the temperature in Firenze and it's nearly 70 degrees Farenheit and sunny! Why am I in this frozen tundra???

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

I used couverture chocolate in my cake and mixed 4 parts of 70% dark chocolate and 6 parts 35% milk chocolate. This proved a great mix and the cake is dark and rich with a little sweetness. I used a whipped cream garnish in place of the ice cream -- can't think of ice cream when in this climate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brown out on Devils Food White Out Cake - TWD

This is a cake worthy of the cookbook cover - a real show stopper! I browned mine with as many of the crumbs as I could get on it -- so it's a browned out devil's food white out cake.
I ate this piece immediately after snapping the photo and found the strawberry was a perfect accompaniment. So, it's a longer walk with the dog and a couple more hours on the treadmill! Handing off the rest of the cake to my neighbors and friends.
This cake was much easier than I thought and way easier than the photograph would suggest!
Thanks to Stephanie for chosing the cake! Check out her blog at Confessions of a City Eater for the recipe for the Devil's Food White Out Cake.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Peanut Butter Scare - What's a Baker to Do?

There's a lot of misunderstanding of the peanut butter recall out there -- no doubt caused by one food scare rolling into the next. Last week I was shopping for peanut butter and a woman stopped me and asked wasn't I afraid of eating peanut butter because of the contamination. I explained the new recall and that it didn't impact peanut butter. I love peanut butter and could hardly ever give it up. When I was a kid, it was Peter Pan but as I've gotten older, I can't stand it because it's so sweet. Now I prefer natural crunchy peanut butter -- love Teddie Super Cunchy Natural -- just peanuts and salt.

Last Wednesday's New York Times had an article about it in the Dining session. What a baker is to do is make their own peanut butter confections. Included in the article was a recipe for peanut butter cookies adapted from Chris Kimball of Cook's Illustrated. From the recipe I could almost taste those cookies, so much that I had to make a batch. I deviated from the NYT recipe by adding a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips to half of the cookies. Here's the recipe -- adapted to ingredients in my pantry:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. each of baking soda, baking powder and salt
1 1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1/2 pound unsalted butter (softened to room temp)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Teddie super crunchy natural peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Adjust oven rack to low center position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Place peanuts in a food processor and pulse until the texture of bread crumbs. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of electric stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scaping sides as necessary. Beat in crunchy peanut butter until fully incorporated, followed by eggs and vanilla. Slow mixer to low and gradually add flour mixture. Fold in ground peanuts with a rubber spatula just until incorporated. If adding chocolate chips, fold them into all or part of the dough as well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop dough onto sheet in spoonfuls a little bigger than a golf ball (small ice cream scooper is perfect) about 2 inches apart. Dip a fork in cold water and then press the back into the dough, repeating to make a crisscross.
  4. Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, but no on top, 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheet until set, about 3 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

The recipe produced 4-1/2 dozen cookies.

Dinner last night was a few peanut butter cookies and a glass of milk -- enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

January Daring Bakers - Amaryllis Petal Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

My self-rating on this challenge was middling. I came up with a great inspiration for the form -- a beautiful amaryllis blooming in my front room but my presentation of the project was somewhat less spectacular. I sacrificed one of the petals of my flower to use as a shape for the cookies, and everything went smoothly through baking and shaping. My downfall was the final presentation. I decided to dip the tuiles tips in white chocolate but hurried it without following the proper crystallization process. The result was a mess. I hurried along this path by taking some red raspberries (frozen but picked by me last summer) and dipping them in the same white chocolate. That didn't work very well so I nuked the white chocolate a little more and attempted to drizzle it over my creation. Not a pretty sight as you can see! However, red raspberries, white chocolate and tuiles taste terrific. Need to work on the presentation!!

Cheers to all the Daring Bakers and wishing winter would end quickly. We are blanketed with about 4 feet of snow in New England and Northeastern New York.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Gingerbread!

Gingerbread is not one of my favorite sweets -- but chocolate is! The result is that this week's TWD recipe is one that I would make again. The exact recipe can be found at Sherry Triffle, the blog of Heather who selected the challenge.

I changed the recipe slightly by baking it in smaller pans. I baked it in two 3 inch springform pans and 12 normal sized cupcakes. Following Dorie's note, I filled the pans about 2/3 full which worked out really well. Also, I cut the baking time to about 30 minutes.