French Frdays with Dorie

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

Heather of Sherry Trifle selected this week's recipe, which can be found here or on page 212 of the Book.

Like most of the other bakers I did not use the stem ginger in my recipe. The primary reason for this is that I do not pay enough attention when I am reading though the recipes and that ingredient did not register on my brain cells! Had it done so, I would have been scouring the town for it, as I always love to find new and esoteric items to add to my collection of one-dish wonders! (That is what I call those ingredients that you need for one dish and one dish only!)

I was totally psyched to make this dessert. I adore anything with molasses in it and I am particularly fond of gingerbread. The combination of chocolate and gingerbread struck me as quite strange, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, after all, it was bittersweet chocolate.

I did not have any problems mixing the cake. I had to bake it for close to fifty minutes before the center was set and the edges were somewhat crispy by that point. Before adding the glaze, I did elect to trim those carbonized fossils. Actually, they were not too overdone, I have been munching on them and they are rather tasty.

Once again, I do not find the ginger taste overwhelming, but that is how it goes with me. If I like a flavor I like it in large doses. If I don't like a flavor you can show the label to my food and I will gag at the taste! Okay, I'm not quite that reactive, but I am borderline psychotic when it comes to certain flavors - like coconut or banana and any artificial red flavors - gross.

Anyhoo, back to this cake. I had a spot of trouble removing it from the pan, which quite annoyed me, but also gave me a preview of the taste. I also think it is a tad on the dry side. A side effect from having to cook it so long to get the middle set. I may try taking it out before it is quite set the next time I make it.

I like how the glaze came together, mine was as smooth and glossy as I could have hoped and the taste is divine. I liked this, but I still think that gingerbread is best topped with freshly made whipped cream.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Egg Divas? Dorie calls them egg divas? She is so nice. I would call them something else, but I am going to pretend that my New Year's resolution was to clean-up my trash mouth - besides I have to eat with this mouth, so I don't want to sully it too much.

There they were pretending to be nice and airy - holding their ribbon shape - no pool of melted butter for me - no sirree Bob. Instead of melted butter, I had a nice, deep, hidden pocket of unfolded flour! As I am pouring the batter into the pan I see that my folding skills have atrophied and the batter is far from blended. I futilely tried to blend that pocket of flour into the batter remaining, but I knew my goose was cooked. I could see the batter deflating before my very eyes.

Teasingly it raised in the oven until the last ten minutes or so of cooking and then it collapsed into a pile of brown crud. Mind you some portions of the previously sky-high batter tenaciously clung to the sides of the pan to taunt me when I removed the cake from the oven. It isn't enough to suffer the indignity of being incapable of folding? The food has to taunt me from the counter top? Divas, who needs them? Well, of course, we do if we plan to make the berry surprise. Our mission - and I wasn't about to let it be an impossible one - was to make the Hidden Berry Surprise.

For comic relief - and to make those of you who think you are the only one whose cake fell feel better - I give you:

Exhibit A - a close up shot of the island of flour that remained unmixed in the cake and did not get absorbed during baking.

Exhibit B - a profile view of the ultra thin cake. Due to my lack of photographic skill you can't see the lovely - almost lace like - rim of somewhat charred cake that formed from the rise and fall of the cake in the pan. On the plus side, this cake was remarkably even. On the negative side, I have no current use for a doorstop - especially one that is prone to attracting rodents.

It was not my original game plan to make this cake all in one day. No, for once I was going to be organized. For once I was going to make the cake a day ahead and do the finishing the next day. I scoff at me! For here I sit at 12:45AM - it is now Wednesday - just finishing up.

Never let it be said that I am a quitter. I went back to the bowl and cajoled the new divas into formation. With great trepidation and even greater care I blended the flour into the eggs. The flour tried to hide in those pockets again, but I carefully and gently located them and removed them.

I finished incorporating the dry ingredients and then on tiptoes I placed the cake on the sheet pan and placed it in the oven. I crept out of the kitchen and stealthily back in every 15 minutes to check the progress.

Eureka! The divas were not entirely pleased with my performance, there was a slight collapse in the center of the cake, but I pretended not to notice this rude gesture and proceeded with the remaining steps of the recipe, which was selected by Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen. See the recipe here or BUY the BOOK!

I loved the filling for this cake, though I used only about half of it to fill the cake. I fear that though this cake was much higher than my original attempt it still fell short of the height anticipated by this recipe.

I mixed the remainder with the cake I removed to make the cubby hole and ate it for an impromptu dessert. I thought the cake was a tad on the dry side and I cooked it for only 27 minutes. When eaten with a mouthful of filling it was very tasty so I have high hopes that it will not be found lacking by my tasters at work.

I'm not a huge fan of raspberries, but at this time of year, I was fairly certain they would be more tasty than the strawberries I saw for sale so I went with them despite my personal feelings. Besides that, I always figure whipped cream - which can hide a multitude of sins, you don't see any crater, do you?, can also offset them with flavor.

I'll update this post tomorrow after I find out how the cake is received by the hungry hordes at work.

Results update: The cake has been cut and slices have been delivered. Comments ranged from "this is your best effort to date" to "Oh my God, this is delicious!" I love it when a plan comes together! From my perspective it smells divine when you cut into those berries. They are incredibly tart which melds nicely with the filling and the whipped topping. Unlike many of the others I felt the filling was more than adequately sweetened. But, then again, I prefer my whipped cream with no sugar at all, so I have a low sensitivity to that.

I have this on my radar screen for the fall. I've made genoise before and haven't had as many problems as this. I think I may have gotten my eggs too hot - something I will have to be wary of the next time - but I will give it another go. If however, the divas are being divas, I'll just switch to the other genoise recipes I've used successfully and relegate this one to no man's land.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

This week Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake (click to find the recipe) selected the Savory Corn Muffin for our recipe. These muffins, like all of Dorie's muffin recipes I have tried, were quick easy and delicious.

In addition, these are festive to look at! Being a total spice wimp I substituted another sweet pepper for the jalapeno. Most of the other bakers declared that their muffins had just a hint of heat from the jalapeno they used and many planned to add more jalapenos the next time they tried this one. But, I know my taste buds - they can't handle the heat - so I was glad I elected to avoid the possibility of too much heat and will stick with the sweet peppers instead.

The muffins were a great side to my chili which I just happened to make late last week. I will definitely make these muffins again. To see the myriad other chillies the group made to serve with these muffins, visit the many other TWD baker's blogs. Chili did seem to be the vehicle of choice to accompany this tasty muffin - great minds apparently not only bake alike, we make the same accompanying dishes as well! There were many other companion dishes made, of course, and when I make these muffins the next time, I think I'll visit a few of these TWD bakers to get some inspiration for my main course!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

TwoFer Pie

A lot of people had trouble with the TwoFer pie overflowing their pie plate. If this was an issue for you, I highly recommend the Pampered Chef pie plate. That is what I used for the pie and it fit with no problems whatsoever.

I tried to convince myself to try this pie, but I ultimately, I just couldn't do it. I don't like pumpkin pie or pecan pie and the thought of the two together just revolted me.

It was an extremely easy recipe to make, as always, Dorie's crust was a dream and was greatly appreciated by all who tasted the pie.

My favorite comment was from Pete. He really liked the pie. He is very fond of both flavors and said that the combo was great. "Normally I can only eat a sliver of pecan pie because it is too sweet. This was great, the pumpkin layer really cut the sweetness of the pecan. Made like this I think I might even be able to have two slices of pie!"

I would make it again, if I were bringing pie to a dinner, it smells divine while it is baking.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

French Pear Tart

I know, I know, today is Wednesday not Tuesday. What can I say? I've been on vacation for too long and did not quite get back into the groove on time!

Technically I did make the tart on Tuesday, but I finished too late to make a post. I have got to learn to manage my time better. Mind you, I've been saying that for nigh onto 35 years and so far I am still a horrible procrastinator - pretty good baker - but I'm always pushing my deadlines. I must be getting old - I used to push them but never miss them, now I wave at them as they pass by and just hope I won't be too late to be included in the fun!

How exciting for the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. Dorie Greenspan, the author of "Baking From My Home To Yours" chose this week's recipe! You can find the recipe for this elegant dessert at her blog or on pages 368-369 of the the book.

Overall, I found this to be an extremely simple recipe to follow. I had a different idea of what the almond cream was going to be before I read the recipe so I was a bit surprised by its texture - especially after I chilled it for a couple of hours. It almost looked like marzipan after two hours in the fridge!
My only actual issue was with the crust. It never came together for me. It was too dry to clump properly. Essentially I ended up with sand that I then pressed into the tart pan. I think I might have compressed it a bit too thoroughly and perhaps piled it on a bit too thick, but my oh my, do I love me some crust! It tasted fantastic and baked up like a champ.
Well, speaking of baking, therein lies another habit I need to improve upon! I baked the tart for the shorter of the suggested time periods. I checked it a few times during baking, but did not check it in the last fifteen to twenty minutes. Consequently, the almond cream was a bit more brown (and therefore slightly drier) than I believe it should have been.
However, like the crust, the taste was sublime. I saved some and plan to give the crust another go this weekend. I will then use my remaining almond cream to make a mini-tart. I think I'll try mixing the crust by hand this time. I think that will give me more control.
I actually poached the ripe pears - at least most of them were ripe! I thought about poaching them in cranberry flavored water just to give the pears some color, but as always when I make a recipe for the first time, I ended up not tinkering with Dorie's suggested combination of flavors.
This is a delightful dessert, selected by a wonderful woman who not only took the time to choose a recipe for the anniversary of TWD, but also took the time to answer all of the questions our previous selectors would like to ask her. This was a great start to what will be another fabulous year of baking!