Tuesday, September 29, 2009

{TWD} Salted Pecan Caramel Chocolate Tart

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart, which combines chocolate, caramel and peanuts. Despite the fact that Snickers bar is the most popular candy bar around, I've learned long ago that I'm not one of those millions who like chocolate and peanuts together. The peanuts' crunch seemed to be an integral part of the tart (it's in the name after all) so I wanted a worthy substitute.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We've used the combination of those three flavors once before since I've been in TWD, for brownie caramel cake that was chosen almost exactly a year ago. That time I substituted macadamia nuts and toffee bits for the peanuts.

- I wanted to emphasize the salted edge of the caramel, so I decided to use roasted salted pecans from Trader Joe's. The best part is that they are already chopped in tiny pieces, just perfect for adding crunch to the tart.

- There are several components in this tart, all of which need to be prepared and chilled in advance of assembling the tart.

- I was a little bit wary about over-handling the tart dough, and unsure about how high to press the dough in my tall tart pan, so I think my crust could have been thinner/tall, thus holding more filling.

- I don't have a ton of caramel-making experience (and truth be told the idea of making caramel is still pretty scary to me) so this skillet method was new and different for me. Because there is a relatively small quantity of sugar in the skillet I had to tilt the pan to measure the temperature, even though my digital thermometer has the sensor in the tip. One thing I did that really helped: I held my skillet in the air above the burner, checking the temperature – and lowered it to the burner at intervals to better control the heat.

- In the recipe Dorie gives both time and temperature for the last step of the caramel. I was glad to have the thermometer; mine reached the correct temp in half the time – just over a minute.

- My caramel cooked to a deep amber, producing a very strong toffee flavor

- When I assembled the tart, I had too much ganache. I filled the tart shell as high as I dared, then froze the leftover ganache. I've learned that ganache in the freezer will never go to waste.

- For some reason the recipe is very specific: "refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes - no longer". I followed that exactly (I was afraid not to!) but my ganache ended up a bit soft. That just wasn't enough time for it to set properly. I was much happier with the texture of the piece I left in the fridge overnight:

the verdict:

The entire book group was enamored with this tart, and all the members were quite vocal (and quotable) in their reactions:

SF: "You taste this and it makes your toes tingle"

JT: "This is the taste of love"

AT: "The toffee notes are my favorite flavor"

HY: "This might be the best thing you've ever made"

Thanks to Carla of Chocolate Moosey for choosing this week's deliciousness! You can find the recipe for the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart, on Carla's tart post, or on pages 355-357 of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September m.o.m.- Rye Applesauce Muffins

I've always had a good variety of different flours in my pantry, but it's only been with my increased baking in the past year that I've worked with rye flour. To me "rye" had always brought associations of caraway seeds, toast with butter, or pastrami sandwiches. But there is more to this grain than NY deli rye bread. What I've learned is that rye flour produces some wonderfully soft and tender baked goods. In fact, I regularly add it to the bread that I bake for our morning toast.

For September's Muffin of the Month for my mom I was looking for an apple-based muffin. Nothing suits early Fall baking better than apples! I had several possible candidates in mind, but when I saw the recipe for Rye Applesauce Muffins in my Fanny Farmer Baking Book, I was reminded of the lovely Rye Apple Cake that I baked last year, with the added bonus that the muffin recipe calls for loads of autumn spices.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made a batch of homemade applesauce to use in these muffins: cut and peel 6 apples, place in a saucepan with 1 c. water and 1/2 c. sugar, simmer for 45 minutes, then mash. I like my applesauce pretty rustic, with nice pieces of apple, so I don't go crazy with the mashing. You can add cinnamon and/or finish the applesauce with a tablespoon or two of butter, but I left them both out, since the muffins had plenty of spice and butter. I ended up with a couple of cups of applesauce, so had leftover sauce after I measured out the amount needed for the muffins

the verdict:

Although the picture makes them look dry, these muffins were a perfect texture:
soft, chewy, moist, spiced, with wonderful pieces of apple - a delicious muffin for Fall!

the recipe:

Rye Applesauce Muffins

4 T (1/2 stick, or 1/4 c) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 c applesauce (I used homemade, see notes above)
1 c all purpose flour
1 c rye flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins (I omitted because my mom doesn't like them in baked goods)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the muffin pans or line them with paper baking liners (I used greased silicone muffin pans)

2. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and egg n a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Stir in the applesauce.

3. In another mixing bowl,combine the all purpose flour, rye flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and stir together with a fork or whisk to mix well.

4. Add the combined dry ingredients, the milk, and the raisins to the applesauce mixture, and beat just until the batter is barely smooth - about 20 seconds with a mixing spoon.

5. Spoon into the muffin pans, filling each one about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tray Baked Salmon and Vegetables

The real name of this Jamie Oliver recipe is "Summer Tray Baked Salmon" but I figure I can get away with posting it this week, seeing as we're just a couple of days into Fall. And really, there's nothing to stop you from making this now. That "Summer" thing can be our little secret. The best part of this recipe is that you can prepare it in advance and you have the main course, complete with starch and vegetables all in one beautifully arranged pan.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Dill is not one of my favorite flavors. I will eternally be grateful to Jamie Oliver - and this recipe - for teaching me that I can substitute fennel tops for dill.

- I love that the potatoes and the green beans are boiled up in the same pot together. Some of my new potatoes were the size of grapes, so I added them a few minutes after the (slightly) bigger ones.

- For veggies I used green beans, sugar snap peas, and frozen garden peas.

- I've made a partial recipe, and baked it in a cast iron skillet. I've also made the full recipe in a roasting pan.

- The first time I made this I only scored each piece of salmon once and stuffed all of the herbs in, as you can see in the pictures. The next time I realized that the recipe's picture shows multiple scores, so that's what I did. The biggest difference was aesthetic, from what I could tell.

the verdict:

I loved the way the salmon and veggies looked in the pan, and even better, everything tasted just as good as it looked. The recipe provides great flavors and textures. The potatoes, beans and peas were perfectly cooked. The salmon was velvety, almost poached, and infused with the subtle taste of herbs. The basil and fennel complemented each other nicely, and the lemon kept everything fresh tasting. This would be a lovely dish to prepare for company.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ultimate Chicken Salad

Last week I had a bunch of shredded cooked chicken and I needed a recipe, so I turned to Tyler Florence and his Ultimate Chicken Salad Sandwich. Tyler layered his sandwiches with sliced apples and cranberry sauce (and brie cheese) on top of the chicken salad. I was planning to serve my chicken salad on a bed of greens rather than as a sandwich, so I adapted the recipe accordingly.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I liked Tyler's idea of pairing the chicken with sweet/tart fruit, so I put the apples and cranberries right into the chicken salad, which made a sort of hybrid waldorf/chicken salad. The apple was straight from my farm box, so I don't even know what kind it was, other than yummy!

- I substituted Greek yogurt for half of the mayonnaise.

- The dressing had a surprising (to me) ingredient: olive oil was stirred in with the mayonnaise (and yogurt). I'm a huge fan of olive oil, so I was glad to see it there.

- To me there was a pronounced flavor of mustard in the dressing (I'm not the world's biggest mustard fan), but when combined with the chicken, fruit and nuts it settled down nicely.

the verdict:

We totally enjoyed our chicken salad dinner plate. There was a nice combination of tastes and textures, and we were quite happy to have the leftovers a couple of nights later!

I'm submitting this post to Tyler Florence Fridays. Check out the roundup on Friday and see what folks are cooking up from Tyler's recipes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

{TWD} Cottage Cheese Choose-Your-Jam Pufflets

There are plenty of fads and trends in baking (eg. the molten chocolate cake back in the 90's), but what really makes my ears perk up is when someone talks about a favorite recipe from many years ago, especially one that is homey and simple. So I had high hopes when I first saw this week's Tuesdays With Dorie choice, Cottage Cheese Pufflets. Dorie says that these are from her "first kitchen scrapbook", which made me take notice, partly because I've never had a kitchen scrapbook and it sounds so fabulous. Note to self: find a suitable scrapbook for the kitchen.

And then there's the title ingredient: cottage cheese. Who bakes with cottage cheese? As of this week, all of us TWD-types! Last week we put sour cream in our pastry, this week it's cottage cheese. If that doesn't sound homey, I don't what would.

On further study, I realized that the recipe isn't exactly fall-off-a-log easy - there's chilling and rolling pins and cutting and folding involved - but I tried to keep an open mind. The part I looked forward to most was using a bit of my jam supply - I'm a huge fan of jammy things!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This is one of those recipes that is best eaten the day it is baked. I ran out of time to make these for last week's book group, so the cookies ended up being a Sunday evening dessert-with-ice-cream for us. Six cookies seemed reasonable for two people, so I made 1/8 recipe. Here’s the math in case anyone else is similarly inclined:

1 oz butter,

4g/1tsp sugar,

bit o salt,

1 oz cottage cheese,

1/8 tsp vanilla,

25g 7/8oz or scant 4T flour.

- The recipe requires two different 2-minute sessions of pulsing in a food processor. I tried my mini-prep and my stick blender, but neither worked on the tiny amount of butter and cottage cheese I was using. I ended up mixing it by hand.

- On a tip from Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker, I drained my cottage cheese before measuring it. My dough was soft but not impossibly sticky.

- I rolled the dough inside of a zippered sandwich bag, then chilled before cutting into 6 (uneven) squares. I chilled it again before dabbing with jam and forming into cookies.

- For my 6 pufflets, I used half-teaspoon each of 6 kinds of jam: marionberry, raspberry, cloudberry, strawberry, strawberry, and orange/fig.

- The recipe says to fold the squares of dough triangularly, but since I just did that with last week's turnovers, I decided to fold up each corner of the square and see how the cookies turned out. Actually, they look pretty pathetic, but a bit of powdered sugar and a silver tray helps a little bit, doesn't it?

- The cookies didn't really puff during baking, which didn't help endear them to me.

the verdict:

I had the fig and cloudberry cookies and gave my husband the other 4 berry-jam ones. He liked the raspberry ones the best. I agree that the dough needed a strong jam flavor - the fig/orange was better than the cloudberry. Although I really wanted to love these cookies, in truth I wasn't bowled over by the flavor of the dough. My husband's view was much more favorable, however: "These are good. You should make them for book group."

They were above-average in fussiness for just-average flavor, so it's unlikely that I'd choose them again over other jam-related baked goods. In fact, when I looked at my cookies, they reminded me of the rugelach we'd made, and then I missed rugelach!

Thanks to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for selecting this recipe for us to bake this week - it's exactly the kind of recipe I'd choose! You can find the recipe for these cookies on Jacque's post or on pages 148-149 of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie

Last summer the New York Times made quite a stir in the baking world when it published an article about Chocolate Chip Cookies with an accompanying recipe. The claim was that these cookies, based on those of Jacques Torres, were no less than the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

Like most bakers I have a "go to" chocolate chip cookie recipe (find it on this post) but I thought I should embark on a quest to see what really IS the best chocolate chip cookie. I made a start (with Dorie Greenspan's cookiesand the Copycat Levain Bakery cookies) but quickly got derailed; I haven't baked any chocolate chip cookies at all in more than a year!

Earlier this week there was a lively discussion amongst my fellow baking Twitterati about the New York Times cookies, and a bunch of us decided to do a virtual NYT CCC bake-along. I wanted something chocolate-y to serve to my book group (to go along with apple turnovers) so these cookies sounded perfect - and would knock a recipe off the "to bake" list.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- One of the biggest keys to success with the NYT recipe is to mix the dough at least 24 hours, but preferably 36 hours, before baking time. I mixed the dough on Wednesday morning, and baked the cookies Thursday evening - about 30 hours later.

- The NYT recipe can easily be found by Googling.

- This is an all-butter recipe, as opposed to my standard recipe which is 2/3 shortening, 1/3 butter.

- Although a full batch makes a big bowl of dough, the yield is only 18 cookies. 5 inch cookies, that is! Although the huge cookies sounded intriguing, I made 1/2 batch, and portioned my dough a bit smaller than the recipe specifies. I needed to have enough for 7 book group members and more to pack up in a box for my mom's bridge group.

- The NYT recommends using flat discs of chocolate. I wasn't going to make a special chocolate run, so I foraged around in the chocolate drawer. I was happy to find Ghiradelli baking pieces, which are actually small flat disks, and an assortment of bar chocolate. I used some of the baking pieces and some chopped Newman's Own dark chocolate. Both of the chocolates were around 72% cocoa. One thing I liked about chopping chocolate is that the dough ended up with all sizes of chocolate - from tiny bits to biggish nuggets.

- The recipe calls for coarse salt in the cookie dough. I have some very coarse sea salt, which is what I used. Additionally, salt is to be sprinkled on top of the cookies just before baking (this was included by the NYT based on a tip by Dorie Greenspan.) I scattered fleur de sel pretty sparingly over the cookies.

- 1/2 batch of dough yielded ten 2 oz balls (which were big cookies) and ten 1.5 oz balls (which were not small). My cookies all spread while baking, so I ended up with thin and chewy cookies, which are my very favorite type. The funny thing is that both amounts of dough produced cookies that were around 4" wide.

- These cookies are definitely better the sooner they are eaten. I think that's because they are butter based - they get a bit dry the following days.

the verdict:

The comments of my tasters mirrored the nearly-universal acclaim these cookies have recieved since the recipe was published:

HY - "this is the best cookie I've ever eaten. It's better than your regular choc chip cookie and it's better than mine"

AT: "I"m not getting into 'good, better, or best,' but this is a really delicious cookie"

The biggest issue of discussion was the salt. Our book group likes salty food, but we waffled about the salt in these cookies. AT liked the salt at first, then wondered if it was a bit much. Her husband, JT, said "I like the salt piece." I think the coarse salt in the dough was a bit aggressive. Every couple of bites there'd be a little salt pocket, and I decided it was distracting from the wonderful texture and chocolate flavor.

I brought the leftover cookies to my mom and put them directly in her freezer to wait for bridge day. She thought they looked delicious, and I wouldn't blame her if she sampled one or two before the card game - I know I would!

And here's where I need to make a pronouncement about these famous cookies. I'll admit that the NYT cookies are worthy CCCs. Spectacular, even. At the same time, maybe I'm a creature of habit, but I did miss the subtle complex flavor of my usual cookie. Oh, and there are just a few more chocolate chip cookie recipes that are begging for me to try them. So the quest will continue, but in the meantime I have two great recipes that I'd proudly serve.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

{TWD} Flaky Apple Turnovers

Now that schools are back in session and the calendar page has turned to September - or is halfway through September! - a little craving for apple desserts starts to set in. Luckily, this week for Tuesdays With Dorie (an online group of a couple hundred individual bakers around the globe get together virtually and bake one recipe a week from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours) Julie of Someone’s in the Kitchen picked Flaky Apple Turnovers. You can find the recipe on pages 316 and 317 or on Julie's turnover post.

I've made apple turnovers before, back when I was in another baking group, Sweet Melissa Sundays. That recipe was based on purchased puff pastry (although homemade puff pastry would have been a delicious, if time-consuming alternative). Dorie's recipe, on the other hand, promised a flaky crust (it's in the recipe title, see?) from a fairly simple handmade pastry dough that had lots of butter and sour cream. I was interested to work with this dough, as it seems like a versatile and useful pastry to have in the baking repertoire.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made 1/4 recipe, which was easy to scale.

- The dough is fairly quick to put together. Everything is done by hand. Dorie gives a couple of alternative methods for working the flour and butter together. I grew up using a pastry blender and also two knives when making crust, but I'd never tried rubbing butter into the flour using just the fingers.

- I wanted my butter to be as cold as possible (as that is so often the key to flaky pastry) so I put it in the freezer while I was measuring out all of the other ingredients. By the time I went to cut in the butter into the flour, it was too cold for my pastry blender to make much headway. I decided to try the finger-rubbing method and it worked beautifully.

- When I tossed the sour cream into the dough, it pulled together beautifully. I was a little worried that my dough might be too wet, but it rolled well - as long as it stayed cold!

- This was my first time turning and folding pastry dough (although I've done it with bread dough). Dorie's instructions are so clear that it was easily accomplished.

- I was tempted by Dorie's suggested filling variations, but decided to stick with classic apple for the first time I made the recipe. I added a pinch of salt and a grating of nutmeg to the cinnamon, sugar and apple filling. Since there was a ton of butter in the pastry I skipped the dots of butter in the filling.

- When it came time to roll and form the turnovers, instead of cutting rounds, as the recipe specified, I decided to cut squares. That way I could use all of the rectangle that I rolled, with no leftover scrap pieces. I was able to form 6 turnovers - triangular in shape. I used a serving fork to make wide crimps in the edges of the turnovers and to prick holes in the tops. Although the recipe calls for a sprinkling of sugar on top, I used only the egg wash because my husband (the apple dessert lover) prefers no sugar crust.

- 4 turnovers went directly into my freezer; when the apple dessert mood strikes I can pull them out and bake them frozen.

- My turnovers needed nearly 30 minutes to bake to a golden color, rather than the 20 that the recipe prescribes. They puffed a bit and looked like little golden pillows. And the crust? Nice and flaky!

The dreaded "indoor light shot" - not a great picture but it does show the flakiness of the crust

the verdict:

These were nice turnovers. I thought the apple flavor was a little mild; next time I'll amp up the spices. I'd also like to try the turnovers with dried fruit, nuts and/or jam, as Dorie suggests. The pastry was crisp and flaky, and I think it would also be good (without the sugar) as a basis for savory turnovers - mmm, spinach and cheese!

My husband, the apple-dessert lover , thought the turnovers were good, almost-great, but for him they were a bit overshadowed by the homemade vanilla ice cream that I served alongside.

Thanks, Julie, for choosing such a fun seasonal recipe for us to bake this week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Flash-Roasted Halibut on Green Herbs

I love popping into my local library and browsing the cookbook section. I've found some wonderful books there, ones that I've added to my own library, and others that I've politely returned. One that I've enjoyed is The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper cookbook. Although I haven't listened to the radio show, the book itself is quite inventive in layout and is so interesting that it can double as bedtime reading.

One of the first recipes that I bookmarked was for Flash-Roasted Trout on Green Herbs. I love fish and this sounded like a quick and tasty weeknight dish. I substituted my favorite fish, halibut.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The fish didn't get as browned as I would have liked, but that was mostly an aesthetic objection.

- I wish I'd removed the bottom skin from the pieces of fish so the herbs would have steeped up through the fish as it cooked. As it was the herbs still gave delicious flavor to the fish.

the verdict:

Served with steamed broccoli, a bountiful summer salad, and some crusty ciabatta (still store-bought), this was a wonderful dinner. I loved being able to step outside to my herb plants and pick everything I needed for the bed of herbs, and, even more, I loved finding a delicious recipe from a great new cookbook.

the recipe:

Flash-Roasted Halibut on Green Herbs
Adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper

Extra virgin olive oil
6 or 7 sprigs each of fresh herbs similar to herbes de Provence, a total of 38 sprigs
4 whole scallions, coarse chopped
4 whole farmed rainbow trout, rinsed and patted dry (I substituted halibut filets)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large lemon cut into 4 wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan and preheat in middle of oven.

2. Rinse herbs and scallions and dry them on paper towels.

3. Make 3 slashed in the skin side of the fish. Rub olive oil on the outside of the fish and into the slashes. Put crushed garlic into slashes and salt and pepper the fish.

4. Scatter herbs and scallions on the heated pan to create a nest for the fish; lay the fish on top, with room between the pieces of fish. Roast until fish is nearly opaque.

5. With two spatulas, lift fish on the herbs onto serving platter. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish and garnish with lemon wedges.

Friday, September 11, 2009

English Gooseberry Cobbler

Summer is over, or so I hear. With the passage of Labor Day everyone starts to mourn the end of Summer and/or welcome the arrival of Fall. Well not so fast, is what I say! According to my calendar Fall doesn't arrive until 5:18 pm on September 22, 2009, so Summer still has a bit of breathing room (not to mention the hot weather that will last in these parts well into football season).

So, Summer it is, and nothing says "Summer" louder than a cobbler for dessert. And gooseberries, apparently, although I'd never tasted a gooseberry until last month when I scooped up two small containers at a wonderful farmer's market/Whole Foods hybrid store [edit to explain: Whole Foods took over a local international/farmer's market chain called Harry's, which resulted in this combination store, with regular Whole Foods products plus lots more international food and unusual produce than a typical Whole Foods] about 20 miles from my house. (I'd been obsessed with gooseberries for the better part of the summer - ever since Pinkstripes baked with them here so I was very excited to finally spot some around here!) I had 10 days by myself in August which was the perfect time to experiment with my bounty. I knew that I wanted to bake a Delia Smith's recipe and finally settled on her English Gooseberry Cobbler.

Delia also has a recipe for Gooseberry Ice Cream, which sounds delicious; in fact she suggests pairing the ice cream with the cobbler. That's when I realized just how tiny my containers of gooseberries really were. I was going to need both containers just to make a partial recipe of cobbler. There would be none left to churn into ice cream. I nearly drove back to the market, but that hour-long errand just for more gooseberries -for ice cream to go with cobbler that I would be the only one eating - sounded a little crazy even to me. But I have to say that I really kicked myself when I couldn't find a single gooseberry at the market the next time I shopped there.

The gooseberries were not the only common-in-the-UK-but-unusual-in-my-neighborhood ingredient in the cobbler. Delia's recipe also called for "elderflower cordial." I had no earthly idea what it is, but thanks to wikipedia, I learned that it's a kind of soft drink made from (what else?) elderflowers, and more importantly, that Ikea produces and sells an elderflower cordial. This was terrific news because Ikea is just minutes from my house. I made a beeline for the store and sure enough there was a lovely (tall) bottle of elderflower cordial in the Ikea food market.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made 1/3 recipe of the cobbler.

- Gooseberries are about the size of blueberries, but require a bit more maintenance. They have a pointed end and a stem end, and both must be removed from each berry. I've got to say that it's might tedious to "top and tail" the gooseberries. I started with a knife but found it faster and easier (but still not enjoyable) to just pull the ends off with my fingers. I was very grateful that I was not making a full recipe!

- 1/3 of the topping recipe was perfect for my little mini food processor. The cobbler topping was very similar to a cream biscuit. There was no sweetener in it, just a sprinkling of sugar on top.

the verdict:

The cobbler was delicious and tasted like Summer itself - very fresh, intense, almost grassy flavor. It was not very sweet at all, which I quite liked, but if you prefer a sweeter taste I'd recommend that you add sweetener to the biscuit topping. The tartness of the fruit played nicely off the crumbly plainness of the biscuit, but it also needed cream of some sort to mellow it out - ice cream, whipped cream, pouring cream. In fact, the cold sweetness of ice cream was perfect counterpoint to the tart berries and warm biscuits.

Happy last few days of Summer, y'all!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

{TWD} Individual Chocolate Souffles

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Chocolate Souffle, chosen by Susan of She’s Becoming DoughMessTic.

My post will be short and sweet, just like my souffles. Sorry, that was a bit of "souffle humor"!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I've actually made souffles before, usually the savory variety, although it's been quite a while.

- This time I decided to play with individual souffles. I scaled the recipe to 1/4, which worked out the following amounts: 1.5 oz chocolate, 1/8 cup + 1/2 T sugar, scant 1 oz milk, 1 egg + 15 g egg whites (I have extra egg whites in the fridge from making ice cream). Next time I might consider adding a drop of vanilla. Whipping the egg whites worked very well with my hand mixer.

- I used two 8 oz ramekins. When I divided the batter, each of the ramekins was around 3/4 full before baking. The souffles puffed nicely in the oven, but the ramekins were too large for the souffles to rise above the rim of the dish. Next time, for a more dramatic appearance, I'd try using 6 oz ramekins instead, so they would be nearly full before going in the oven. That way, they would have that impressive rise over the top of the dish.

- Before filling, the souffle dishes are buttered and then dusted with granulated sugar, which gives a bit of a rough surface for the souffle to grab as it rises in the oven.

- I baked the souffles at 390 degrees for 23 minutes, and they tested done.

the verdict:

The souffles came out of the oven puffed and fluffy. I had just enough time to shoot a few pictures before they gently began to sink. I ate one plain while it was warm, and it was nice and chocolatey. I might have liked it better with a bit of creme anglaise, as Dorie suggests in the recipe, but I was far too lazy to make any! I loved the sugar crust, and realized that one of the benefits of individual ramekins is that there is more sugary crust!

I ate the other souffle as a "fallen souffle cake" - cold from the fridge with a bit of whipped cream on top, and actually preferred it that way.

Thanks, Susan, for choosing such a fun and yummy recipe. (You can find the recipe on Susan's post or on page 408 of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

{TWD} Espresso Cheesecake Brownies and Coffee Toffee Ice Cream

Hybrid desserts are rarely satisfactory to me (see, inter alia, Chipster Topped Brownies, Chocolate Gingerbread, and Thanksgiving Twofer Pie) While they can taste pleasant enough, I'm usually left with the nagging feeling that I'd rather have had one or the other of the elements on its own rather than the combination concoction. That being said, however, I thought there would be a solid possibility that I'd like this week's Tuesdays With Dorie assignment, Espresso Cheesecake Brownies. Brownies and I are fast friends, and cheesecake, especially espresso cheesecake, sounded like a decent addition. The best part? I could make these for a neighborhood potluck dinner and whether I liked them or not I wouldn't have to worry about finishing a pan of brownies by myself (that prospect sounded alternately wonderful and horrible to me).

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made 1.5 recipe,m and the math was perfect for a 9 x 13 pan. I was a little concerned that the middle wouldn't cook through. It was only later that I realized (after I wrestled with done-ness testing angst) that I should have used two 8 x 8 pans.

- My swirling was pretty weak; the brownie batter was too thick and Dorie warned against over-swirling.

- I found it very difficult to test the brownie layer because it was under the cheesecake layer, which also had to be done. I may have left in a tad too long because the brownies seemed dry. Luckily, the fridge time helped; the brownies became denser and fudgier in texture.

- I left off the sour cream layer for ease of cutting and transport to my neighbor's house.

- I was lazy when I cut the brownies and didn't wipe my knife clean between each cut, so they ended up pretty raggedy-looking!

the verdict:

Unfortunately we left the party before dessert was served, so I don't know how people liked the brownies! The plate came back empty but I'm not sure I can draw any conclusions from that. I kept a few brownies for photographing (see? no swirls) and tasting.

To me these brownies were lackluster. The brownie layer needed more chocolate or more texture or something. Some chocolate covered cocoa nibs (those things are to die for!) would have perked up the brownies nicely, I think. The espresso cheesecake layer was delicious, though. But I would definitely like a different brownie on the base. Hmm, on second thought, maybe I'll just take a fantastic fudgy brownie...

...and while we're in the espresso/coffee mode, here's the final installment of Ice Cream Week (actually it's been Ice Cream Week Plus 1 Day) This weekend we were invited to a spur of the moment family cookout. I offered to bring homemade ice cream and my brother-in-law (the Grill Meister) semi-jokingly dreamed up a flavor request: "Coffee Heath Bar Crunch." He was pretty surprised when I showed up at dinner the next evening with his ideal ice cream flavor in hand (along with a full container of chocolate gelato).

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I figured that I'd make my BIL's requested flavor (I think Coffee Toffee sounds catchier, don't you?) by stirring in Heath bar bits into a coffee ice cream. I was pretty excited to make this because coffee ice cream and Heath bars are two of my favorite sweets individually and sounded like a winning combination together!

- There were at least three coffee ice cream recipes that I wanted to try, but ultimately chose the America's Test Kitchen Coffee Ice Cream recipe that my friend Tracey made because (1) it was easiest and (2) I wanted to try ice cream from a different recipe source than I'd previously used.

- My friend Maria suggested that I use chopped Heath bars rather than the packaged Heath bits, so I bought a bag of mini Heaths, figuring there'd be a bit higher ratio of chocolate coating per interior toffee. I chopped about half the bars (6 oz).

- I cooked my custard a minute too long (thought I'd turned off the stove burner but didn't) so I had to deal with some custard scrambling. I strained out the eggy bits and it was fine.


This ice cream was seriously delicious!! It was lovely as plain coffee ice cream (I had a spoonful before I stirred in the toffee) and fantastic with the Heath bar pieces. My brother-in-law and his family were thrilled with the dessert and even more excited when I left the extra ice cream in their freezer.