French Frdays with Dorie

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TwD: Toasted Almond Scones

I drove down from Delaware yesterday and stopped at Starbucks.  I got a scone along with my latte.  Big mistake, I am sure it was made sometime this year, but I am not sure it was made within the week.  Talk about dry and tasteless.  I swear that company is single-handidly going to ruin the reputation of scones everywhere! 

Fortunately, Mike of Living out West, chose Toasted Almond Scones for our weekly baking adventure.  These scones taste the way scones are supposed to taste.  They have just a touch of sweetness, the toasted almonds are added in three forms, almonds we toast and grind, almonds we toast and chop and almonds which toast themselves on top of the scones while the scones are baking.  In addition, we added just a hint of almond extract to the liquid ingredients.  Delightful.

Of course since I can't seem to do anything right the first time anymore, I did burn the living daylights out of my first cup of almonds.  Honestly, do they have to go from albinos to crispy critters in the blink of eye?  I say no, but my eye was probably blinking for more like three minutes than three seconds, so I have only myself to blame.

Luckily I had more almonds in the freezer so I was quickly able to rectify this error.  Other than that, I had no problems with this recipe at all.  I love that in a recipe. 

For those folks who find they overwork their dough trying to incorporate the butter, I do have a suggestion.  Keep your butter in the freezer, then when you are making pastry, grate the necessary amount into your flour mixture.  It is then super easy to mix into the dry ingredients, it is predisposed to make small chunks and the clumps that stick together make the larger pieces that make pastry so light and flaky.  This is especially helpful for unsalted butter since it keeps for such a short time in the refrigerator.

Check Mike's blog for the recipe, some great photos and some serious dedication - five rounds of scones!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TwD: Cardamom Crumb Cake (12/21/10)

I was late making the cardamom crumb cake.  I caught up with the little devil a few weeks ago.  I was pre-destined to like this.  I love coffeecake type desserts, I love struesel toppings and I think cardamom was invented by the gods and then delivered to earth.

And, all of the above is still true, however, I did find the flavor of this cake to be a tad more subtle than this (hammer wielding) spice nut prefers.  I think perhaps my cardamom had some age on it, so I have it on my Penzey's list and will pick some  up next time I am there.

I will then redo the cake and see if is as wonderful as I expect it to be.

The recipe was chosen by Jill and is posted on her blog, appropriately named: Jill's Blog.

TwD: Chocolate Oatmeal Drops

Hooray, cookies!  I do so love a handheld treat.  I made a half batch of these little gems.  I am also quite enamored of a recipe that splits in half ultra-easily.

I got a yield of about 30 cookies from a half batch.  I used my small scoop to form the cookies.  I probably should have given them a gentle nudge after putting them on the cookies sheets.  One or two were a bit bulbous in the center.  They are the chewier version of all I made.

These are quite chocolately, a flavor profile, I heartily endorse.  However, I found the appearance of the albino oat flakes to be a bit off-putting.  On the other hand, I always claim anything with oats in it is healthy, so I do approve of these cookies being a braggards about their healthy content.  These are so chocolately, in fact, that I actually drank that milk (in the photo) when I ate those cookies.  I believe that would be second class of milk in the last four or five years!

Caroline and Claire of Bake with Us selected this week's recipe and it can be found on their blog.

Chocolate Almond Tuiles

My brother gave me a copy of Presidential Cookies (by Bev Young) for Christmas.  I have been quite eager to make something, but being alone and baking weekly with Dorie, I rarely have a need for extra sweets.  However, last week, I palmed off my bread pudding on my meeting mates and it left me with a few homeless egg whites.

So, I started leafing through my cookie cookbooks.  Immediately, I considered making something with a meringue base, but all the recipes I saw called for two egg whites, except one.  It called for four (which was how many I had on hand) but it yielded a massive amount of cookies.  Since it involved leaving the trays in the oven for a couple of hours, I figured it wouldn't be the best choice.  Seriously, how is that supposed to work?  You can only fit so many trays into the oven at one time.  Are the other shapes just supposed to sit on the counter and wait their turn?

In flipping through Presidential Cookies, I saw a recipe for John F. Kennedy's favorite: Chocolate Almond Tuiles.  Now, I missed making tuiles with Dorie a few weeks ago.  I can't remember why, but I am sure it was a very good excuse!

So, I thought, perfect, I shall dip into JFK's history and whip these bad boys up.  First, let me say, I am underwhelmed with the instructions Ms. Young provides.  She says to chill the batter for one hour.  I did this, then she says to spread it onto parchment paper.  I managed this, but it was difficult.  I was unsure of how thick to make the tuiles and was guessing at how much batter to spread.  In addition, the batter did not want to spread, it wanted to stick to the parchment and lay in a lump.  I persevered and managed to form some fairly round shapes.  I then baked them and as suggested, lay them over a rolling pin to form the curved tile appearance.  What a pan in the hiney that was, I should have lay them down so that the part from the cookie sheet was forming the curve.  Sometimes I did, sometimes I put the top part on the rolling pin.  I realized afterwards that one way meant the ugly bottom was the eye catching part of the cookie - duh.

And, let me quote the directions for forming the cookies:
   1 -Make a circle template by cutting a circle in a thin piece of cardboard or plastic (about 3.5 inch diameter).
  2 -Several other steps are inserted and then -
  3 - Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place the template on it.
  4 - Using a small spatula, spread a small amount of batter evenly over the template.  Carefully lift the template off.

Am I dumber than the average bear or is this confusing to you, also?  I can assure you, if you spread the batter onto the template there will be no removal of said template from the batter.  I finally decided that what I would do would be to draw circles on the back of my parchment paper and then spread the batter within those circles.  That worked pretty well.  Maybe Bev meant I should place the template under the parchment, but that is just too annoying for words.  My circle idea was much closer to genius than her stupid template.

The tuiles tasted okay the first day (I made them Sunday) but I actually prefer them a couple of days later.  The first day I found them to be extremely cakey or crispy - depending on their thickness.  Now, two days later they are pleasantly chewy. 

I remain convinced however, that JFK was so happy with these tuiles because he did not have to form the little bas**rds!

I forgot to mention, the almond flavor in these tuiles comes from almond extract.  It will be interesting to substitue a little ground almond for some of the flour to enhance that flavor and alter the cookie's texture, slightly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TwD: Bourbon Bread Pudding

I should change the name of this dish - I did not make Bourbon Bread Pudding.  I had no bourbon and I wasn't about to go out and buy a bottle just to get one tablespoon.  Instead, I made Grand Marnier Bread Pudding and it was a smash hit at my meeting.

This is the only photo I have:
I even tried a bit of the pudding myself.  It was okay - mind you I am not particularly fond of bread pudding so okay is a fairly high bread pudding ranking from me!

I used orange extract instead of almond extract to enhance the flavor of the Grand Marnier.  I really did not taste the liquor particularly, but it did give the pudding an absolutely fabulous scent.  When I checked it in the oven and when I pulled it out of the oven, it smelled excellent.

I used Challah for my bread base.  I wanted to use raisin bread but the store only had some incredibly dense form of that and I felt it would not be suitable for this dish.

I found this pudding extremely easy to pull together and like this method much more than some of the other versions we have made.

Friday, February 4, 2011

FFwD: Basque Potato Tortilla

I was quite looking forward to this one.  I love potatoes, I have days when all I eat are potatoes, fried potatoes with cheese for breakfast, boiled potatoes with butter for lunch and a baked potato for dinner.  That is my idea of comfort food. 

I was not, however, enthralled with the way this turned out.  Surprisingly (to me) I really did not have issues with flipping out the tortilla.  I used my Le Cruset cast iron frying pan.  I use it all the time for oven pancakesand they come out of the pan just fine (but they have lots of incentive, i.e. shortening).  I fully expected the eggs to cling tenaciously to the pan and refuse to yield, but other than a slight rim around the top, it came out quite easily.  Well, as easily as anything can when one can barely lift the pan to flip it over!  I swear, Dorie must have some well developed forearms, because I could not hold the receiving platter and flip the pan simultaneously.  I ended up being grateful for the slight hitch around the top.  It gave me the time I needed to invert the frying pan over the receiving platter.  I used two hands on the frying pan and had the platter waiting eagerly on the counter. 

I fried up some crispy bacon to go with the tortilla and set down to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  And, then I decided several things had gone wrong.  Number one, I subbed a bit of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika for the traditional basque spice.  Number one-A, I did not sub enough of those two spices.  I barely even noticed they were in the dish.  Number two-my potatoes were not done as well as I thought they were.  I contemplated cooking them in a non-stick pan and then switching to the oven-proof pan later, but I decided to use the same pan.  Next time, I will do the potatoes in a non-stick pan and truly get them golden (all-over).  Number three, this dish needs cheese.  Come on, eggs, potatoes, what comes next?  Cheese.  Number four, I prefer this dish closer to hot than to room temperature. 

Maybe this is because the temp in my house hovers at around sixty degrees and at room temperature this tasted slightly chilled or maybe it is just because that is what I am accustomed to eating.  Either way, I have reheated some of the left-overs and liked them better than the original slice.  Reheating served me well, I was able to get my potatoes farther along in the cooking and I tried the dish in a hot state.  Next time I reheat a bit it will have some cheese tossed onto the top.
And the next time I make this, from start to finish, I will definitely up the ante on the spices.  This dish wasn't a hit right off the bat for me, but I definitely think it has potential.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TwD: Nutty, Chocolatly, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Add a dusting of confectioner's sugar
After carefully reviewing the P's & Q's for this recipe I reserved a bit of batter when filling the pan.  I think the amount of swirl we made for this cake was a bit extreme.  However, I was able to cover my filling with batter thanks to the tips.
Swirly Bundt Slice

Once baked, the swirl was very pronounced, but it did not look as though it were done in multiple layers.  This was one of my better slices for showing the distribution of swirl.  I will use a bit less swirl the next time so that the division between the layers of swirl will be more obvious.  Having said that, I quite enjoyed the flavors and taste of this swirl.

Actually, I quite enjoyed this entire cake.  I had a slice while it was still warm from the oven.  Oh, my - fantastic.  However, I did not think the texture of the cake was anything like a pound cake.  Mine was very light and fluffy.  It got a bit dryer as time advanced, but it was never as dense as pound cake.  I really, really liked this warm.  It was good at room temp and good the next few days as well.  But, when eaten warm the chocolate in the swirl is still very close to liquid and that is just a real treat.

Mixing the orange zest into the sugar is so smart.  It really enhances the taste of citrus.  I had never used that tip before baking with Dorie, but I will always do it from here on out.  Divine. Jennifer has posted this recipe at her site, Cooking for Comfort.

TWD: Great Grains Muffin

I love muffins, they are such a delight to make.  So many different flavor combinations, quick cooking, and no mixer needed.

I cut this recipe in half and got eight muffins in my batch.  I swear I do not know how Dorie only gets one dozen out of the full mixture.  I always get at least 18 from a full batch.  I even bought new muffin tins a few months ago to ensure I had the proper normal sized ones. 

I think the thing that took the longest today was allowing the melted butter to cool.  Funny, I was just looking at a biscuit recipe yesterday, it said to mix melted butter into buttermilk before adding it to the dry ingredients.  Apparently the cold buttermilk solidifies some of the melted butter.  This acts a bit like the cutting of cold butter into flour does, the larger pieces melt slower than the smaller ones giving you a lighter finished product.  I haven't made them yet, but they seem a lot like Dorie's cream biscuits (one of my favorite-ultra easy recipes). 

At any rate, my biscuits were made with molasses instead of maple syrup.  Because I could not find my maple syrup and I wasn't going to go and buy a new bottle.  I know I have one somewhere.  Plus, I don't care much for maple and I adore molasses, so win-win for me.

The molasses really give you a darker hue to your crumb, but I like that.  I also quite liked the al dente crunch provided by the corn meal.  I had forgotten I used the meal and when the muffin had the tiny resistance I thought, what is going on -- then of course, my genius kicked in and I remembered.  I used  a handful of chopped walnuts and a handful of raisins as a bonus in my muffins. You can find this recipe posted by Christine at Happy Tummy.  (Love that name.)