Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

This week our TWD host was Beth from Our Sweet Life. She chose a perfect summer dessert. However, Dorie threw in a twist! A mixed berry cobbler with frozen berries. I have to say I was surprised when Dorie recommended them. Fresh berries were an option if we so chose but I'm a picky eater sometimes. I don't like cooked fruit. I'm a texture eater and for those of you who share that with me, you understand what I mean. There are certain foods that I just can't eat based on texture. I make one exception when it comes to cooked fruit, my grandma's apple pie. Other than that, if the fruit is cooked and mushy I won't eat it.

Enough about my eating issues because this week's recipe changed that for me. I found frozen berries at Target and for what I considered to be inexpensive. I chose a bag each of mixed berries, raspberries and blackberries. Once cooked, these berries did not lose their structure. They were not mushy! I couldn't believe it.

The recipe came together very quickly. On the recommendation from fellow bakers who baked before me this week, I added cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to the crust for flavor. It was perfect. My husband loved the crust too.

I was tempted to skip out this week but I'm really glad I pushed myself to try something new. To see more fabulous looking cobblers visit our TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TWD: Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

To say that I was nervous about this week's recipe is an understatement. I was terrified! Pate a choux??? I couldn't even pronounce it. However, Caroline of A Consuming Passion chose this recipe with that very thought in mind. Trying something new.

Putting my best foot forward I started this week's recipe. I chose to make 1/4 of the recipe just in case I did manage to pull it off I didn't want dozens of cream puffs around for me to eat. I actually didn't have any trouble with the pastry. It cooked nicely. I followed other recommendations to let it cool a bit before adding the egg and that worked great. I piped out 7 little éclairs and a mini cream puff. I didn't think about the baking time before I put them in so I ended up cooking mine at 425 for 15 minutes and they were done. They did come out slightly lopsided though.

My vanilla pastry cream did not come together quite so easily. I am still not exactly sure what went wrong. I tempered the eggs, I'm pretty sure I brought it to a boil and cooked it a bit longer. It looked like a pastry cream at this point. Then, I let it cool for 5 minutes before adding the butter like Dorie says and that's when it turned into scrambled eggs. It didn't taste bad but the texture was not creamy at all. I think I must have overcooked the cream. I'm not one to be defeated so I will try this again but I ran out of time for this week.

I didn't use Dorie's chocolate glaze recipe. I was going to but tried to take a shortcut by putting it in the microwave and I burned it. I just melted some milk chocolate chips with a little milk and then dipped the éclairs in.

My husband enjoyed the éclairs and I'm glad I attempted this recipe. To see much more fabulous looking cream puffs and the original cream puff ring, please visit our TWD blogroll.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

MasterBaker: Vanilla

I realize that this post is way overdue and I don't really have an excuse. Well, I do but I'm sure you don't really want to hear them. However, since the roundup still isn't posted I figured I still had time. That and I really loved this recipe. And although it is posted very late, I did make this on time!

The master baker ingredient was vanilla and since I had never used real vanilla beans before I wanted to give it a try. I've heard rave reviews about vanilla beans. Someday I will become adventurous enough to make my own vanilla extract and vanilla sugar. Vanilla is one of my favorite flavors.

I decided to make vanilla bean angel food cake with a fruit salsa. I didn't have a very much success with the angel food cake. I have a mini-bundt cake pan with designs on the top. You can see in the picture above how well that turned out.

Since, I don't have a regular sized bundt pan, I put the remaining batter in my springform pan. It certainly didn't rise very much. It ended up being a dense little cake. I learned that angel food cake can only be made in a regular size bundt cake pan.

Despite the appearance, it tasted fantastic!! And the fruit salsa on top was amazing!!

Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake
Source: Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sifted cake flour (about 4 ounces)
12 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325°.

Place 3/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds to sugar; discard bean. Work the vanilla seeds into sugar with fingers until well combined.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and sugar mixture, stirring with a whisk to combine.

Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in juice. Sift flour mixture over egg white mixture, 1/4 cup at a time; fold in after each addition.

Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto plate.

Fruit Salsa
Source: Cooks Illustrated via All Things Mimi

2 T. apple jelly
2 T. light brown sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
2 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and chopped fine
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped fine
3 kiwis peeled and chopped fine

Whisk jelly, brown sugar, orange juice and chile together in a large bowl. Add apples, strawberries and kiwi and toss to coat.

VTV: Freestyle=Eggplant

This week's vegetable was up to us! Since I missed eggplant week I thought I would go back and revisit that vegetable.

Eggplant is something I don't really remember eating as a child. I think my mom stuck to the basic in order to please 5 children.

One of my favorite ways to eat eggplant is parmigiana style. I found this recipe while watching a Tyler Florence episode in which he searched the world for eggplant dishes. He visited a charming woman in Sicily, Anna Tasca Lanza. I decided to give it a try. It is fantastic! I chose to grill the eggplant instead of frying them so I felt like it was a healthy version of eggplant parmigiana.

Involtine di Melanzane con Capelli d'Angelo
Recipe courtesy Anna Tasca Lanza via foodnetwork.com

3 eggplants
2 cups olive oil, to fry the eggplants
2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded
1/4 pound angel hair pasta, or spaghetti
1 cup tomato sauce, or passata
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons caciocavallo cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut off the bottoms and stems of the eggplants. Peel them using a vegetable peeler and slice them into 1/2-inch slices.

In a heavy bottomed pan heat some olive oil and fry the eggplant slices for about 4 to 5 minutes (if you prefer a healthier version of the dish, you can grill the eggplants). Place the cooked slices on some paper towels to drain any excess oil.

In a large bowl combine the butter, freshly grated Parmesan, and salt, to taste. Add the roughly shredded fresh basil leaves.

Place the angel hair pasta or spaghetti into a pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook until al dente. Drain.

Add the cooked pasta into the big bowl with the butter mixture and combine.

Take a small portion of the pasta and place it on top of an eggplant slice. Roll the eggplant around the pasta and place it in an oven-proof dish. Repeat this process with all the eggplants slices.

Pour some pureed tomato sauce, or passata, over the eggplant rolls. Place slices of cacioavallo on the top. Finally cover the dish with more freshly grated Parmesan.

Place the dish in oven for around 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly.

Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Side Note: Does anyone know how to make the VTV logo smaller for my sidebar??

Thursday, June 12, 2008

TWD: La Palette's Strawberry Tart

Super apologies for my lateness!!! My excuses are as follows...

Thursday through Tuesday's temperatures exceeded 95 degrees in NYC.
Only the bedroom of my apartment has A/C (I actually put the tart dough into the pans in my bedroom using a TV tray)
Thus, you can conclude I am a dedicated TWD baker for turning on my oven in these conditions.

I had grand ideas for these little tarts! One day soon (I hope) I will execute my ideas. For now, I bring the original recipe with strawberry jam and strawberries (my favorite, so far) and black raspberry jam with raspberries (a little too sweet). I loved the tart (and so did my husband!) even though mine wasn't crumbly because the butter was melting as I was cutting it into the dry ingredients!

In conclusion, I am very happy I braved the heat to turn on my oven because these tarts were fabulous!

Thank you to Marie from A Year From Oak Cottage for hosting this week!
See other amazing tarts on the TWD blogroll.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


This week's recipe is coming, I promise! Come back tomorrow evening, please :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

My husband's rehearsals are often where I send my baked goods so they don't stay in the house for us to eat. This week was perfect because they were having dinner together in between rehearsal and their show so I offered to bring dessert. I, of course, was running a bit late so the brownies were barely out of the oven before I had to leave. I figured I would just have to settle for cell phone pictures. My husband posed for me while eating a brownie. Check him out at the bottom. Luckily, the group is small so I was able to bring a couple home and got a good picture.

I really enjoyed making these brownies! I love the way the top crackled and the fruit...oh, it was just fabulous. I am not a drinker of any kind but on occasion I enjoy a good beverage. My favorite drink is an amaretto sour. What can I say, I like the sweet drinks. That said, the only alcohol in my pantry is amaretto. I paired that with dried cherries and lets just say that I should have doubled that part of the recipe for all the cherries I ate before I mixed them in! I didn't get a flame when I tried to ignite the cherries. I think I burned off the alcohol too quickly.

Thank you to Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook for a wonderful selection! Check out the TWD blogroll for more fabulous looking brownies!

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) I didn't chose this option
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden I made my own option here and used dried cherries
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum There is no rum in my pantry but there was amaretto!
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped I used semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.