Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Salad with Strawberries, Asparagus, and Avocado-Orange Dressing



In case there are any long-time readers out there, I know it's been nearly a year since I've posted on this blog.  Although I have not been photographing or posting my food lately, my adventures in the kitchen have not stopped.  There are tempting recipes to be tried - always! - and now, more and more, I've been finding intriguing recipes through social media.  One site (service? obsession?) I've enjoyed has been Pinterest.  Maybe you've tried it too?  It's borderline-addictive to explore food (and crafts, and quotes, and decorating ideas, and organizational tips) that others have "pinned." And it's useful for me to save great ideas by "pinning" as I find them on my internet forays.

One thing that happens with my pins is that they tend to stay pinned - they sit on my pin boards looking beautiful, but that's often as far as it goes.  To date I've pinned 4,175 things.  As for finished projects from those pins? Um, just a handful.

To remedy this common (as it turns out) situation and get us all trying - and finishing - some of the things that we pin, my internet buddy Dorian has started a roundup for finished pins, pin finishers, or "pinishers" as she calls them/us.

This week's Pinisher roundup theme is "food" (her list of weekly themes here) and I have a pinished product to share, and to link up with the other Pinishers! 

I found this spring salad recipe in a link tweeted by Whole Foods about a month ago.  I pinned it immediately.  And then, wonder of wonders, I actually made it the same week.  And every week since then.

 n.o.e.'s notes:


- This salad is a snap to put together.  I shaved the raw asparagus with a vegetable peeler, and I mixed the salad dressing with an immersion blender.

- I have found it easier - and more attractive - to toss just the greens with the dressing in a large bowl and then portion them onto individual salad plates.  Then I top the greens with the asparagus and then the strawberries, spooning a little more dressing over it all.

 
the verdict:

I am so glad I pinned and tried this recipe; it will be at the top of my rotation, especially for springtime dinners.  It's perfect for entertaining because it can be prepped ahead of time and assembled quickly before serving.  And it's as delicious as it is pretty.

I'm linking to Dorian's Pinisher roundup: The Pinishers, volume 1, Food - head over there to see the different pinished products, and join in yourself any week.
Pinisher blog link-up

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Apple Gruyere Date Scones


Way back in the mists of time, before my blog even existed, my daughter JDE came home for a summer break during college toting a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, a dazzling book, filled with a mind-boggling array of enticing baked goods. The question:

Where to start?

With Apple Cheddar Scones, of course!  At any rate, that's where we started, back in the summer of 2008.  That was the first recipe we baked from Dorie's book, although it was more my daughter doing the baking and me rounding up the ingredients and equipment.  Neither one of us was all that impressed with the scones, (but the next couple of recipes, World Peace Cookies and the Perfect Party Cake were runaway hits).

We didn't photograph those early scones (no blog yet!) but a few weeks later I joined Tuesdays With Dorie and began baking weekly from Dorie's book, photographing the baked goods and posting them on Tuesdays.

As it happened, the TWD bakers had actually baked those same  scones just before I joined, possibly even the same week we baked them in my kitchen.  Now that I'm catching up with all of the recipes that were chosen before I joined the group, I needed to bake those scones again - to properly document them - and it only seems fitting that that first recipe should end up being the LAST RECIPE THAT I POST FROM THE BOOK!  Yep, that's right.  I've baked every single recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours and today, four years after the week that I posted my first TWD recipe, I've baked my FINAL recipe from the book.  


n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on the scones post of the original TWD host, The Floured Apron, or you can buy the book and have this and all of the other delicious baking recipes at your fingertips!

-  I cut the recipe to 1/4, and baked the dough as a disk in a small pie pan.  I ended up with 4 petite scones.

-  I grated the butter, which made adding it to the flour mixture a snap.

-  When we made the scones the first time we stuck right with the recipe, but this time I changed it up a bit to see if I would enjoy the end result a bit more.  I substituted gruyere for the cheddar and some nice soft dates (which I chopped finely) for the dried apples.  I kept the apple flavor by using concentrated boiled cider for the recipe's liquid.

the verdict:

The sweet taste of the dates combined well with the sharp bite of the gruyere in these scones.  If I were to make them again, I'd add some nuts (probably pecans) for texture and maybe some herbs (probably thyme or sage) to complement the other flavors.

I might be finished with individual recipe posts from Baking: From My Home to Yours, but I plan to put together some wrap-up posts of my experience with TWD and my very favorite of Dorie's recipes.  Watch this space!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Yellow Cake + Chocolate Frosting




Today, July 15, is my blog's 4th birthday - time for cake!   In his book The Modern Baker,  Nick Malgieri has a recipe he calls the "Perfect Birthday Cake" - yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  That just so happens to be my favorite combination, a perfect way to celebrate my blogoversary.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  Some talented and dedicated bakers have been baking their way through Nick Malgieri's book as part of an effort called the Modern Baker Challenge.  I have, on rare occasions, joined them.  This post is my contribution to the cake section of the Challenge.  I started this blog in response to a different baking challenge - weekly baking of every recipe in Dorie Greenspan and her book, Baking From My Home to Yours with the original Tuesdays With Dorie group.  The Modern Baker Challenge has given me a fun opportunity to dip, however sporadically, into another baking challenge.  The Modern Bakers do not post the recipes, so if you'd like to bake this cake, you'll have to find a copy of the book!  It has come out in paperback, so you can pick it up for a reasonable price.

-  Although I'm posting this cake in honor of my 4th blogoversary, I actually baked it for my book group's 6th anniversary.  Hence the "6" candle you can see in the picture below.

-  I baked 1/2 recipe in my 6" cake pans.  I ended up with layers that were quite petite.

-  Because there was so little batter in the small pans, the cake baked very quickly.  In fact, I probably over-baked it by just the tiniest bit, which was totally annoying.

-  The cake layers had firm structure and a fine, close crumb.  There were some mysterious "swiss cheese" type holes in the cake but I have no idea why they were there.

-  You can see from the frosting how my layers weren't totally level.  I didn't want to trim them because the layers were already so small.  So I just turned the top layer upside down, leaving a flat top and bottom, but a sizeable gap in the side, which I filled with frosting.

-  Nick's Perfect Birthday Cake combines yellow layers with a fudgy ganache frosting.  


the verdict:

I was very surprised by this cake.  It could not have been more different from the standard yellow box cakes of my previous baking life.  The layers were improbably soft and tender, despite a possible minute too long in oven.  The cake was light but not dense, dry but not sawdusty.  The intense ganache frosting was a perfect complement.  It took me until my second slice to figure out that I loved the cake!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cream Puff


It's funny: I've been baking recipes from Dorie for 4 years, but I can still get nervous butterflies when I look at a recipe.  Just thinking about today's recipe, the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring, filled me with trepidation.  The pastry is the classic French pâte à choux, and for the recipe to be successful, the dough needs to puff as it bakes, so that there's a nice hollow place for the cream filling.  You don't know until you finish baking whether you have a puff or a pancake!

I didn't have any need for a whole pastry ring this week, so I cut the recipe way back and made Cream Puffs.  In fact the ingredient volume was so small that I was able to use the little 1-cup copper saucepan that I bought in Paris.  I thought it was fitting to use this pan here at the end of my 4 year baking adventure with Dorie Greenspan and her book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  Before I joined the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group I never would have thought to go to a kitchenware store in Paris, but my visit to E. Dehillerin was a highlight of my week in Paris in 2010.  I smile every time I use the little pan I bought there.



n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe for this cream puff ring on the blog post of the original host, A Consuming Passion, here.

-  I made 1/8 recipe, which was enough dough for 2 small cream puffs.

-  As they baked, the little dough circles puffed a bit in the oven.  As they cooled they collapsed, but they were hollow inside.  I sliced the top and pulled out the bits of soft dough, as Dorie instructs.

-  I knew that I didn't want to use the peppermint cream from the original recipe - too reminiscent of toothpaste to me!  As I thought about other possible flavors, I remembered that I had leftover grapefruit cream in the freezer from this pie back in February, so I thawed it out and filled the cream puffs with that.  Dorie pipes her cream in beautiful rosettes, but I skipped that fiddly step and spooned the cream on the bottom of the puff and popped on the top.

-  I whipped up a few spoonfuls of ganache in the microwave, using 1 ounce of chopped chocolate and 1/4 ounce of heavy cream.


the verdict:

 The cream puffs were good - I liked the grapefruit and chocolate combination.  But even more than the taste, it was gratifying to tackle a classic recipe - and end up with a decent result.  It's gratifying that Dorie's book has kept me learning even up to the very end of this project (I have one more recipe to post, and then I will be finished with the book!)  And while I'm not comfortable with every single technique, I know that by now I've tried nearly every baking method that's out there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Pudding



Until I began baking with the original Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, I'd never made pudding from scratch.  Box mixes are very easy and tasty enough.  In the last few years, however, we TWD bakers have tackled homemade pudding on a couple of occasions: split level (vanilla) pudding, and real butterscotch pudding (not to mention flan, creme brulee, cup custard, pots de creme, and various bread puddings - all of these, plus a few non-Dorie offerings, can be found by clicking on my blog's pudding tag).

Dorie has a specific method to her pudding recipes, not difficult by any means, but there are several steps.  The ingredients go in and out of a saucepan and a food processor.  It might seem just a bit... unnecessary, and I know other bakers have taken shortcuts with Dorie's puddings, and proclaimed the results fine.  In the past I've tried it both ways, and I found that following each of the steps produces a smoother, creamier pudding.

The recipe for Chocolate Pudding was chosen shortly before I joined Tuesdays With Dorie in July 2008.  As I have worked my way through the recipes I missed from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours, I knew that the pudding was coming up and I figured it would be a cinch that I'd like it.  This week I got a chance to see.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Dorie has posted the recipe for her chocolate pudding on her own blog.

-  I was running low on milk, so I used half whole milk and half coconut milk.  If you wanted to make it non-dairy (and you like coconut) you could use all coconut milk.

- After mixing the ingredients in the food processor, when I poured the liquid back into the saucepan it was quite frothy.  It settled a bit as the pudding thickened, and then smoothed out beautifully in its final trip through the food processor.

- I could have boosted the coconut flavor by topping my pudding with toasted dried coconut, but I opted for chocolate-covered cocoa nibs instead.

the verdict:

This pudding was smooth and rich, the best chocolate pudding imaginable.  I liked the little hint of coconut, but I'd love it made with all regular milk also.  The pudding would still be delicious if you didn't follow all the food processor steps, but it wouldn't reach the creamy, dreamy perfection that Dorie's method produces.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

La Palette Strawberry Tart



Several months ago, when I was in California, I came across some great strawberries.  I snapped them up and immediately baked up Dorie Greenspan's La Palette's Strawberry Tart from Baking From My Home to Yours.  The recipe has only three elements: tart crust, strawberry jam, and macerated fresh strawberries, and  I knew that each element had to shine.  The berries were amazing (so much so that I didn't even macerate), and I know that Dorie's tart crust is perfection.  To match the quality of the first two elements, I splurged on some beautiful French strawberry jam. 

I baked up some little tartlet shells, assembled and photographed them.  I was months ahead of the June posting date! (I'm baking the recipes I missed from the first 7 months of the original Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, and posting on the corresponding date 4 years later.)

But then in May my MacBook hard drive (just over a year old) went to hard drive heaven and took my strawberry tart photos with it.  They were cute photos, too, darn it!

I knew I had to re-bake the tarts, and that finally happened this week.  The photos are from the new tartlets, which we enjoyed every bit as much as the first ones.



n.o.e.'s notes:

- Dorie herself posted the recipe in her column for Serious Eats.

-  The first time I baked the tart, I used Dorie's tart crust, which I've made many times before, and love!  The filling was French strawberry jam, and I used the fresh strawberries by themselves.  I didn't add sugar or liquor to them, and forgot the black pepper.

-  The second time I baked the tart, I make gluten-free tart shells using Alice Medrich's shortbread base found in her cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.  For the crust's sweetnener, I used golden palm sugar rather than plain white sugar, which gave it a golden color and a caramelized flavor.  This time I was home in Georgia and the French jam was still in California.  Rather than buy more strawberry jam I decided to make small batch Strawberry Honey Thyme Jam.  The jam was easy to make and delicious in flavor.  I again left the strawberries plain, and again I forgot the black pepper (darn!)

-  The recipe is interesting because all of the elements are kept separate until the time that the tart is served.  When one big tart is made, the shell is sliced, then spread with the jam and the strawberries are piled on top.

-  I usually find that making mini tarts adversely changes the recipe's proportion of crust to filling but in this case, the tart is assembled after the crust is fully baked, and the jam and berries can be increased or decreased to taste.  In fact, the berries are supposed to spill over the crust.

the verdict:

The recipe sounds so unassuming, a few simple elements, no big deal, but let me tell you: This was a sleeper of a recipe! We loved these tarts. (Both versions!)  The juicy fresh strawberries played off of the sweet strawberry preserves, all in the context of a buttery, almost cookie-like crust.  It's a perfect summer make-ahead dessert, and can be varied with whatever berries happen to be in season.



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream



In much of the US in recent days the weather has been just a bit warm shall we say?  I saw the forecast of the advancing heat wave, and prepared to hunker down: changed the filters in the air conditioning system, dug out shorts and tank tops, and closed the blinds against the strong afternoon sun.

And I made ice cream.

The Tuesdays With Dorie group choose Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream soon after I joined the group in 2008.  I didn't have an ice cream maker at the time, so I took and excused absence and baked something different that week.  But now that I'm trying to finish every recipe in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours, and with a well-broken-in ice cream maker in its permanent spot on my kitchen counter, this week was the perfect time for me to make that recipe.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on the post of the original TWD host for this recipe, Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity.

-  Some lovely local blueberries came in my farm box, so that's what I used for the ice cream.    I like that Dorie gives flexibility to add sugar and lemon juice to taste; I added slightly less sugar and a solid dose of lemon juice.  I cut the amount of sour cream by a little bit because I didn't want it to mask the blueberry flavor.

-  After I finished making the ice cream base I gave it a little taste.  The blueberry flavor seemed a bit mild and I debated whether to make up more of the cooked, pureed blueberries and add them, but in the end I decided that I'd leave the ice cream as it was, and add some fresh blueberries or blueberry sauce when I served it, if we thought it needed something.

the verdict:

I brought this ice cream to dinner with some friends. (I packed it in this container so it wouldn't melt in the 106 degree heat)  Everyone finished eating the ice cream, but nobody raved.  To me it fell somewhere between "OK" and "not that great,"  The texture was nice and creamy, the sour cream added just the right amount of tang, but the blueberry flavor was too faint.  I think the ice cream could have benefited from a lot more blueberries.  My husband agreed, "Something about the blueberries didn't go with the creaminess."  It was cold, though, and a beautiful color!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Double Crusted Blueberry Pie


Here's a piece of life advice: the next time you make a pie, make the crust you need and then immediately make another batch of pie dough.  You've already got the recipe in front of you, the bowls and implements are already dirty, and you will not believe the virtuous feeling you will have when you slip the extra dough into the freezer, knowing that with a bit of work now you are saving yourself a lot of time later.
And later? When you look in your freezer and there is a nice disk or two of pie crust, you know that you can have a pie in the oven in a matter of minutes.  This week I found myself in just that situation.  I had some lovely local blueberries from my farm box order, and with the crust already made, I decided on the spur of the moment to bake Dorie Greenspan's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie.  Even though it was late afternoon, I was able to have it on the dinner table in short order. 


n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The original Tuesdays With Dorie host for this recipe in 2008 was Amy of South in your Mouth.  You can find the recipe on her blog post.  I'm going a bit out of order, but this is a recipe I'm baking in my plan to finish all of the recipes in Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.

- I made half of the pie recipe in my little 7" mini metal pie pan.  I had actually rolled out and frozen a crust right in the pan.  All I needed to do was to fill the pie and roll out the top crust.  The crust thawed as I mixed up the filling.

-  Sometimes blueberry pies can be runny in the middle from all the juice released by the cooking blueberries.  Dorie combats that in two ways: adding a hefty dose of flour to the blueberries, and lining the bottom of the pie crust with dried breadcrumbs.  I don't use prepared breadcrumbs, but usually make mine by crumbling and baking fresh bread.  I was feeling lazy, though, so I skipped the crumb layer.  I added flour to my blueberries, but somehow forgot to add the full amount that I'd measured out.  As it turned out, the pie was perfect, not at all runny and also not dry.

-  The recipe calls for tossing the berries with lemon zest, sugar, flour, salt, and lemon juice.  Dorie gives measurements but advises that we add the amounts to taste, which makes sense because blueberries can vary in sweetness.  I used a bit less sugar (and I used palm sugar) and a healthy squirt of lemon juice.

- So great was my laziness that I also skipped the egg wash on the crust.  Luckily my pie turned out nice and golden anyway.

 
the verdict:

I served this pie at a family dinner last evening, and my husband and daughter agreed that it was an exceptionally excellent blueberry pie!  The lemon zest and juice added a sparkle and brought out the flavor of the berries.  This will be a "go-to" pie in the summer (or even out-of-season with frozen blueberries), especially if I have pie crust in the freezer!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mixed Berry Cobbler


Berries are my favorite fruit group, and I revel in the plentiful, reasonably-priced fresh berries that are available in the summer months.  Last year I had a huge stash of blueberries and blackberries in my fridge and realized that I wasn't going to be able to use them all before an out of town trip.  I put them all in a 2 gallon zipper freezer bag and spread them out as much as my freezer allowed, and they froze beautifully.  I figured that I could bake with them in the cold winter months when berries are sparse, imported from miles and miles away, and expensive.  But you know what?  I was busy over the cool weather months with apples and citrus and didn't really use my frozen berries.  So I was glad when I saw Dorie's Mixed Berry Cobbler on the list of recipes that I had not yet baked from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  It was the perfect time to use up some of that bounty from the freezer before this summer's berries were in full swing.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on the original host blog, Sweet Life Kitchen.

- I used the optional black pepper in the fruit mixture, and lots of lime zest.  Taking a cue from some previous Dorie fruit recipes, I also added a pinch of ginger.

- The topping is made with a biscuit method but it is then rolled out and applied like a pie crust. Because I used a deep baking dish rather than a pie pan but a deeper baking dish, I just tucked the circle of dough down on top of the berries.

- I was worried about my topping because it wouldn't hold together; it was extremely dry and crumbly.  I squished it together as best I could, put it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

-  The cobbler baked up golden on the outside and soft in the middle.  The berries had just the right amount of juiciness.

the verdict:

I served this just from the oven to my book group.  This dessert was a runaway hit with the group members.  The warm soft center of the biscuit topping was almost creamy, and combined perfectly with the berries and a bit of cold whipped cream.  One of my testers said, "This is a recipe I have GOT to have!" and she was very pleased to hear that it was a Dorie recipe, since she owns the book.  My only quibble is that the topping-to-berries was too high. Next time I make this, I will use more berries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Florida Key Lime Pie with Toasted Coconut Crust (gluten-free)


Well, it's time for another Tuesdays With Dorie adventure, featuring recipes from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  The original TWD group baked all the recipes in the book, beginning the first Tuesday of 2008, and finishing on the final Tuesday of 2011.  I didn't join the group until July of 2008 so I'm baking the recipes that I missed.  This week it's a key lime pie that Dorie jazzes up with coconut elements, producing something she dubs "Florida Pie."

Lime and coconut are a classic flavor combination, one we've seen several times over the course of Tuesdays With Dorie.  [lime coconut cookies here, complete with " You Put the Lime in the Coconut" video(!), also lime coconut tea cake here]

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on the Florida pie post of the original host from 2008, Diane of Diane's Dishes.

-  This recipe has four elements: crust (Dorie calls for homemade or purchased graham cracker crust), coconut cream, key lime custard, and coconut meringue.  I made the middle two layers according to Dorie's recipe, and changed up the bottom and top layers.

- I made a full batch of the crust, coconut cream, and key lime custard

- I decided to make the pie into a tart, using a 6" spring-form pan.  The problem with this plan was that I didn't know how high to make the sides of the tart crust when I formed and blind baked it.  My crust ended up being pretty shallow so I couldn't fit very much of the filling layers. I used some of the extra filling to make a small tart and some ramekins.

- Instead of using a purchased graham cracker crust, I made a gluten free toasted coconut crust.  I've been experimenting with this crust, and I really like it with custard-type fillings.  The crust has large unsweetened coconut flakes, and they toasted in the oven as the crust baked. My spring-form pan leaked butter when the crust was baking but I didn't worry about that too much, and just made sure to set the pan on a plate once it came out of the oven.

-  Every time I make the crust it's a little different, but here's the basic recipe I've devised:
Gluten Free Cococnut Tart Crust
8 T butter
2 c/4 oz unsweetened coconut flakes (I use the big ones, chopping them a bit if necessary)
1/3 c (or less) sugar or palm sugar
1/3 c almond meal or ground almonds
1/3 - 1/2 c pecan pieces
1 egg
Melt the butter, then stir in the other ingredients.  Press into pie or tart pan. Bake at 375 degrees until browned and set, about 25 minutes.

- The recipe made a large quantity of the coconut cream layer, and I didn't end up using all of it.  Rather than sweetened coconut, I used shredded unsweetened coconut.

- For the lime layer, I used bottled key lime juice.  Luckily my buddy Leslie, of Lethally Delicious, who is a key lime snob, does permit the bottled stuff in a pinch.

- I did not make the meringue, instead I just piled on some unsweetened whipped cream.

the verdict:

This tart was a runaway hit at the barbecue - people were raving about the combination of the lime with the coconut crust.  Because I added the coconut crust, I think that the coconut cream layer was not as noticeable - or essential, even.  The key lime layer was amazing - tart and silky - a great contrast to the chewy toasted coconut in the crust.  I think the next time I bake this pie/tart, I'll skip the coconut cream layer and pile the key lime layer as deep as I can.  And to me the whipped cream was a perfect complement on the top.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

French Chocolate Brownies, regular and gluten-free


Hello readers!  Sorry for neglecting you lately.  I am here, still working my way through the final recipes of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours, even though this post is a little bit behind my self-imposed schedule.  

The upside of posting late is that now I have two versions of these brownies to talk about: regular and gluten-free.  I only have pictures of the gluten free, but if it weren't for needing pictures to put on this post then I'd have never made the gluten-free version.  This is what happened: I baked a full batch of Dorie Greenspan's French Chocolate Brownies for a neighborhood cookout.  It was only when I started this blog post that I realized that I had whisked the brownies to the cookout without taking any photos.  So I decided to bake them again, for photos (and for my book group)  But I didn't want to waste a baking opportunity to try something new: I thought I'd adapt the recipe to make it gluten-free.  There is so little flour in a brownie recipe anyway that I figured it would work. 

n.o.e.'s notes:

French Chocolate Brownies, Dorie's original version

-  The French Chocolate Brownies were the first pick of my baking buddy Di, of Di's Kitchen Notebook (back before I knew Di).  You can find the recipe on her brownie post.

-  I made a full recipe in an 8"x8" metal pan.  The recipe calls for raisins, rum-soaked then flambeed,  to be added to the batter. When TWD baked these brownies back in June 2008 there was a tempest of controversy about the raisins, but I wasn't about to omit the distinguishing ingredient of the recipe.  I've baked with Dorie's rum raisins before, and again this time the flambeeing was a bit anticlimactic.  The flames were half-hearted, but I guess they burned off most of the alcohol.  I chopped the raisins finely, so they'd be disguised, just in case there were any raisin haters in the group I was serving.

-  I omitted the cinnamon.

-  The brownies baked up nicely, with a dense crumb.  They looked just like a fudgy brownie usually looks, with that shiny, crackly, papery top (sorry I forgot the photo session).  The recipe makes a small pan of brownies, and they disappear quickly.  Just a heads up on that!


French Chocolate Brownies, Gluten Free version

-  When faced with making the recipe a second time I knew I wanted to experiment with gluten-free, so I sought a little guidance as to which gluten-free flour, or combination of flours to use.  On Shauna Ahern's Gluten Free Girl and The Chef blog I found this recipe, which is quite similar to Dorie's French Chocolate Brownies.  I figured I could take some clues from Shauna's recipe and combine them with Dorie's recipe and hope for the best.

-  Shauna's recipe uses teff flour, and I actually had a bag (unopened) of teff flour in my baking stash.  I bake gluten-free from time to time, and at one point I stocked up on different flours.  I was glad to actually try the teff flour.  For those of you unfamiliar with teff, it is a grass-type grain and is used in Ethiopian cuisine (I had to look it up).

-  I made 1/3 of Dorie's recipe which matched with 1/2 of Shauna's recipe, in terms of butter and egg.  Shauna has more flour and more sugar for the same amount of egg and butter.  I decided to "split the difference" on both ingredients.  I made sure to use an extra-large egg (67 grams including the shell) to make sure the brownies held together.  Instead of using some melted chocolate and some chocolate chips, as Shauna did, I used all melted chocolate, as Dorie did.  I would have used darker chocolate but 61% was the darkest I had on hand.  This time I skipped the rum + flames steps for the raisins, and plumped them in hot water before chopping them finely.  I also omitted Dorie's cinnamon and added vanilla extract. I omitted the chopped hazelnuts from Shauna's recipe.

-  I baked the brownies in a 7"x3" loaf pan. Here are the quantities and ingredients I used:

2 oz chopped chocolate (I used 61% dark chocolate)
2 oz butter at room temperature
33 g teff flour
pinch of salt
scant 1/8 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg (about 67 grams with shell, 60 grams without shell)
scant 1/2 cup sugar
handful of chopped nuts, hazelnuts or any other nut of choice (optional; I didn't include them, but I think they would be great in this recipe)
Follow the mixing and baking directions in Dorie's recipe.

-  I had a hard time judging done-ness of this recipe, even though I used the King Arthur Flour Divot Test.  The divot, which started out modest in size, turned itself into a crater when I wasn't looking.

-  One problem is the thick crust that formed on top of the brownies shattered when I tried to test the brownies, and came completely unattached when I cut them into pieces. 

-  These brownies were denser and fudgier than the original recipe; in fact they looked just like pieces of fudge (but with a crust on top).  They spent an overnight in the fridge to make them even firmer and more fudgy.

the verdict:

The brownies from the original recipe were a huge hit at the neighborhood cookout, especially with the host D's college-aged daughter M.  The next day D emailed me:
You should have heard M just now offer her friend one of the few remaining brownies—she is intrigued by what “fruit” is in them! 
(Little did she suspect they were raisins!)

The gluten-free batch was equally delicious; fudgy and chewy in texture with crispy edges and crusty tops (even if the bits of crust were completely separated from the brownies).  The bits of raisin provide fruity accents to the deep chocolate flavor.  I served this batch of brownies to book group, apologizing for the top crust issue, and my testers looked at me like I was demented. "Who cares about that?" they said, "They taste great!"  Proving once again that taste rules.

All in all, I'm thrilled that my gluten-free adaptation worked.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns



In a sweet kind of synchronicity, the new Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, which is now baking its way through the book Baking With Julia, chose sticky buns for this month, exactly 4 years after the original Tuesdays With Dorie group baked the Pecan Honey Sticky Buns from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours.  I guess May is a good month for sticky buns!

Because I'm baking all of the recipes that I missed in 2008, my sticky buns were the ones the original TWD group baked from Baking; From My Home to Yours.  If you want to see the ones from Baking With Julia,  which are more complicated and involved "laminating" the already-buttery dough with butter, you can click here to find links to the sticky bun posts of 135 bakers in the current TWD group.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the sticky bun recipe on the blog of the original host blog, Madam Chow's Kitchen.

-  I had previously made a full batch of brioche dough, and saved enough in the freezer to make 1/4 recipe of these buns.  I rolled and cut the dough so that I could have more in number, if smaller in size - I ended up with 9 just-right-sized sticky buns.

-  You put the ingredients for the honey-caramel topping in the pan then place the formed and cut buns on top.  The baked buns are inverted after they come out of the oven, and the sticky caramel-y topping ends up covering the buns.

-  The dough really didn't rise as much as it I thought that it should have, and I have no idea why.  And, although I thought I did the math correctly, there seemed to be more topping than bun.  That wasn't totally a bad thing!


the verdict:

I loved the topping and the pecans on these buns.  The buns themselves were a tiny bit dense from their minimal rise, but overall the sticky buns were a delicious treat for a Sunday morning breakfast.

Margaret of the blog Tea and Scones also posted the sticky buns this week, along with the brioche raisin snails, you can read them both here.