French Frdays with Dorie

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm out of gas - but I'm not out of the running!

There was once a time when I purchased any and every kitchen gadget that caught my eye, so I have had a crème brûlée torch for quite some time. I've never used it, because truth be told, I don't like crème brûlée, or for that matter custard in general. How I miss those days of carefree spending, but unfortunately now I begrudgingly spend that money on more exciting things like mortgages and electric bills - somehow a crème brûlée torch seems so much more exciting!

I was pretty excited that Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake had selected crème brûlée (pg. 393) because I was finally going to use my blowtorch. It was ready. I had the full set. The box said so, right on the front in big red letters it said, "Everything you need to make professional looking desserts." Box contains torch, dishes and recipe. It even repeated everything in French - this maybe was the real deal - or so I thought (cue tension inducing music. . .)

Being at the time of this purchase young and dumb and full of fun I failed to recognize what the box did not say. It did not say that it contained butane. However, it did say it contained all I needed to make professional looking desserts. HAH, I scoff at the Bonjour company and I say "écoutent mes amis sans butane que vous ne pouvez pas faire la crème brulée". Which means, listen my friends, without butane you cannot make crème brulée and I add for emphasis - MORONS! Complete set my behind! I hate it when I am dumb enough to believe I'm buying a complete package only to open it and find a crucial element is not considered "part of the package" even if the package won't work without it! By the way, I am now two out of the original three adjectives listed above and I shall leave it to you to guess which ones.

Okay, deep breaths, luckily we were offered an alternative for this week's recipe if for some reason we were unable to do the brûlée. Therefore, I present to you my rendition of the Double-crusted Blueberry Pie. (originally baked July 8, 2008, recipe found on pages 361-363)

This pie came together extremely quickly. It uses Dorie's trusty "good for almost anything" crust. This is the first crust I have ever made in a food processor. It took me a few tries to get used to this technique but I must say I am quite liking it. I like it so much I am considering mixing up a couple of these bad boys and keeping them in the freezer for baking emergencies. You never can tell when the need for a pie will spring itself on you!

I took the pie to work and doled out the slices quietly and secretly. The pie was all I had to share today and served eight. I did not want any fighting or (more likely whining) to break out so I quietly gave out the slices. The eight people I fed were ecstatic. The crust was a huge hit, its buttery delicacy inspired groans of delight. One of my friends left me a five minute phone message extolling his delight in the flavors of this pie. He said it was the best blueberry pie he had ever eaten. The only improvement I could suggest would be to serve it warm with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

I was extremely impressed with how well the pie stayed together when cut. Usually I thicken my fruit pies with tapioca, but I was very pleased with how neat these slices were and the flavors were excellent. It is a definite keeper. I love a peach/blueberry pie but for a flavor like this, I might just stick with straight blueberries every once in a while.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dimply Plum Cake

This week's recipe was selected by Michelle from Bake-en. Unlike Michelle I am not very fond of plums. I think the California council did too well with their advertising for prunes. You know how they want stopped selling them as prunes and now they sell them as dried plums? Well, that might have worked for some people, but for me, all it did was make me think of plums as prunes and that took them right off my list of foods to eat!

I loved that this recipe called for cardamom. However, I will add more than a scant 1/4 teaspoon if I ever make this again, because I barely noticed it was even there.

And, for sure I won't be using plums. I'll probably use my most favorite of stone fruits the lovely and delectable peach.

I do want to warn everyone, though, about the product that I did purchase for this cake. I was pretty excited when I found these "Petite Plums" at the Kroger. There were seven in the package and they seemed to be about the right size for topping the cake. (Others had said it was difficult to get all the halves on top of the cake.)

I ransomed Melissa's "Plum Bites" from the Kroger because (a) I am a sucker for a cute product name! and (b) I was sure they would be a perfect size for the cake. Now that I had to toss a third of them due to their rotten centers I am convinced that the bite was soley to my pocketbook and I am not a happy woman! It isn't clear in this photo - but the damn things were also organic, which of course explains the high cost of their ransom!

I should have remembered Red Chief and left them there!

Luckily the rotten plums were the last two I opened, so all I had to do was rearrange the other plums on the top of the cake and then bake it. It got darker than I expected. I baked it in a 9 * 9 pan and perhaps should have cut back more on the time.

It was well received at work, but I found the cake to be extremely bland if you did not eat it with a plum slice in your mouth. Well, even then it was bland, but at least with the slice of plum it was extremely moist. I loved the saturation of color that the skin of the plum gave to the body of the cake. I may revisit this cake and try different variations of it, but as the original recipe stands it is a non-repeater for me.

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

Well, my grandmother certainly never served me anything like this dessert, but then she wasn't Russian. In fact, I don't really remember her ever making dessert. Lasagna was far more her style - she was Irish, so lasagna was right up her alley!

I thoroughly enjoyed this pie/cake. To me this is definitely a pie. We are topping it with and placing the apples into what I would define as a crust, not a batter. A damn tasty crust - and though I don't have the cookbook with me, if my memory serves, Dorie also calls it a crust - so I think she leans that way herself - well of course she does - she lists pie first. If she was leaning towards cake - cake would be first. Especially since cake comes first alphabetically. Surely I am not the only person who always alphabetizes everything if an order is needed and the alphabet is handy.
Admit it, you all have your soups and spices in alphabetical order in your cabinets don't you? Oh, not every day, just when you clean out your pantries and take inventory. Over time these things get mixed up but when things are put in their place - and things always have a place - that place is alphabetical. At least it is in my cabinet(s).

I got the apples for this on my Saturday shopping extravaganza at the Whole Foods a week or so ago. I made it that weekend, I just haven't talked about it yet. Look at the bounty I got - Fuji, Ginger Gold and something from New Zealand.

As the recipe instructed I cored and sliced and then mixed in the spices.

My only problem was folding the excess crust under. I believe the description was something like, "tuck in the crust as if you were making a bed". I don't know about you, but I found hospital corners nigh on to impossible with this dough! I did what I could, but my crust was way too thick on the ends. Thankfully the crust was really delicious, but there was an extreme paucity of apples on the ends.
I have to say, it smelled absolutely divine while it was baking. The apples gave off their juices these combined with the sugar. The two carmelized - Heaven! I wanted to eat the whole thing immediately! Thankfully I know what molten sugar can do to a tongue so I did not!
It was quickly consumed the next morning at work and enjoyed by all. I look forward to an opportunity to make it and try it while it is still bubbly and warm from the oven - here is a photo of it in that state:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies!

My God! Did someone challenge Dorie to see how many different kinds of chocolate she could put into one brownie? Let me say now that I am in the brownies do not need icing camp - I am especially in the brownies do not need icing camp if said icing is made from white chocolate! Who the heck wants wax on their food? Bleech!

The chocolate chunker cookies are borderline candy and I am willing to cross the border to get them. These brownies are borderline fudge - I'm not crazy about fudge - so I'm not likely to chase these too far.

I liked the brownies themselves as long as I did not get too much icing. I have to admit - my icing seemed to drip off faster than Dorie's so that wasn't too hard to avoid.

I shall give these another try but will substitute another flavor chip in lieu of the milk chocolate - maybe mint chips instead.

I do think they make an attractive presentation and they were, of course, popular at work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chocolate Chunkers

This week's recipe was selected by Claudia of "Fool for Food". I may be going out on a limb here, but I suspect one of the foods she is a fool for, just might be chocolate!
These cookies straddle the border between cookie and candy or have they crossed that line? There is just enough dough to hold together the myriad chips, chunks, nuts and fruits that are packed into each dark delectable delight! (How's that for alliteration?)
Sigh of rapture -Dorie's recipe is giving me an excuse to use that bain marie I purchased lo these many years ago. Yet another reason to adore the woman!

After gently melting this chocolate into a simmering puddle of chocolately goodness I added white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate buttons, pecans and raisins!

I put the cookies on the stone and into the oven they went. I expected them to spread but they were like well-behaved little soldiers. They maintained their formation and stayed in line on the stone.

Remember to leave them in place for a few minutes after removing them from the oven. They will fall apart if you try to pick them up too soon.

A word of advice - don't use buttons in this recipe unless you chop them. When I tried to scoop these onto the stones I had a very hard time of it. The buttons were too big to fit into my small scoop. The cookies were not coordinated in their shapes - it was extremely trying but I survived and had to live with free-form cookies - who I ask you - told these cookies they could have their own lives?

The cookies are of course aptly named: Chocolate Chunkers and those of us old enough to remember the original Chunky candy bar will be reminded of it when we bite into these. At least I was reminded of that thicker-er candy. I went online to see if Chunkys are still sold and they are! But, and why this shocked me I do not know, they have been destroyed. What was once a really tasty treat of cashews, brazil nuts and raisins is now the annoying, boring and typical peanuts and raisins. For Pete's sake - if I wanted goobers and raisinets I would get them - what a wasted opportunity to keep a unique candy bar unique. Oh, well, their loss - I will stick with my memories and the chocolate chunkers!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's a good temperature. . . really

I was shocked when I started reading on every one's blogs today that there was no temperature listed for the Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops. There had to be a temperature listed, it was 350 degrees, I knew it was there, I saw it last night when I was baking the cookies. It plainly said, preheat the oven to 350. But all of these people kept saying they did not see it. What could the explanation be? Obviously, since I just got my cookbook a few weeks ago, I had a revised edition. I came home this afternoon, went over to my cookbook and read that recipe no less than three times, top to bottom. And, do you know what I learned?

I learned I do not have a revised edition. What I have is the memory of a mother whose answer to the question of what temperature should I use to bake this or cook that was always the same.

"350 is a good temperature."

And, it always was and apparently it still is. It is such a good temperature that when I don't see a temperature in a recipe I just automatically insert her old standby and just keep on going, with absolutely no break in my stride, whatsoever!

In fact, my my mother was so stuck on that temperature that after she died we found the knob on her oven was stuck on that number. She never moved it from that position and on her oven you controlled the power of the oven with one knob and the temperature of the oven with another. She would turn the oven off and on but she saw no reason to move the temperature gauge. After all, why should she? Everything she made turned out just like she wanted it to regardless of what the instructions said. She scoffed at me for following recipes and she was hard to learn from - ask her how she made something and she would take the dish from you, execute it flawlessly and then look at you guilelessly and say, "That's how I do it, I don't know why you want to measure everything." The mere fact that if I did not measure everything I could not get edible results twice in a row was unfathomable to her.

Mind you, my mother could not cook when she and my father first married. Somehow through the passage of time and lots of cooking (for lots of people) my mother managed to forget all of her trials and tribulations - well - she did remember learning how to make fried chicken, but I'll tell you about that some other day.

Rachel from "Confessions of a Tangerine Tart" chose this week's recipe of Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops. I forgot to look for malt powder while I was visiting Richmond's new Whole Foods grocery store on Saturday. I was too overwhelmed with excitement to remember everything I wanted! So, I ran up to the Kroger and grabbed some Ovaltine and Whoppers to make this recipe.

Since I think milk chocolate is barely fit for human consumption I was doubtful about liking these cookies. From my perspective they were just okay. I will make them again, but I will make them smaller and I will be sure to chop the Whoppers more coarsely.

One of the issues I had with the cookies is their appearance - they don't look like the ones pictured in Dorie's book. This is always a catch-22 for me. I want pictures in my cookbooks because I want to know what my items are supposed to look like, but if my items don't turn out just like the pictures, I consider them failures. If I can figure out why my things don't match the photos, I can usually deal with it. If, God forbid, the food actually doesn't taste good - well, let's not even go there (I have visions of Orange Cloud dancing in my head!) - another tale for another day! My cookies were smooth - boring - not rough and chunky looking - they were like smooth unshaven boys - not craggy interesting men!

The directions for this recipe say to chop the Whoppers coarsely. My tiny little anal brain has a hard time with that instruction. I interpret that to be slightly less chopping than complete annihilation - I guarantee that is not what Dorie intended. I rather suspect that quartering the Whoppers or cutting them into thirds is more than adequate. If you cut them as drasticallyas I did they end up melting (almost disappearing) into the cookie as it bakes. This gives it a bit of a caramelized taste - think of those random Whoppers that did not crunch when you bit into them, but were rather chewy and they spread - a lot as they were baking - committing the cardinal sin of touching each other as they baked! Bleech!

To my taste, they were too milky - the bittersweet chunks did not cut through the sweetness of the malt and the milk chocolate coating (gag me). However, I had one person tell me that it was the kind of cookie he would pay money for at a bakery and two people told me they thought they were fantastic. (Of course, some people will say anything to keep home-made treats coming regularly!)

Everyone I work with has resigned themselves to eating treats on multiple days of the week until I catch up with the others in TWD. I just hope they can adjust once I am on the regular schedule!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wanting to be a part of the Tuesday's with Dorie baking group I decided to start by baking their first recipe. Being the competitive twit that I am, I will have to make everything that the group has made or I won't consider myself a "true" member.

No doubt I will not continue in direct recipe order, but I wanted to start at the top. And, am I glad I did. This shortbread is delightful. It was extremely easy to work with, the dough came together very quickly, except for the pecan grinding. I was afraid my cheapo-coffee grinder was getting too hot and I would wind up with pecan butter instead of ground pecans, but they were all right. I did have to pick out the occasional chunk, but that just made for a nice snack!

I don't like to swap out the cookie sheets so I just made the shortbread in rounds. I baked the first sheet for the full length of time Dorie recommends and the second for the shortest. Personally, I prefer the darker cookies, but in general, I like a crisper product, must be from my Oreo dipping days.

I've made a few of the other recipes from the cookbook as well,
the mixed berry cobbler is absolutely fabulous. I'm looking forward to finding out how good everything else tastes as well.