Tuesday, August 31, 2010

{TWD} Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Although I don't drink coffee - the caffeine doesn't agree with me - I love its flavor. In fact, coffee is my very favorite ice cream variety, and when it's paired with chocolate, so much the better. So this week's Tuesdays With Dorie confection, Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, seemingly had my name written all over it!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First picked Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies on page 125 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. You can also find the recipe on Donna's post.

- Shortbread is one of my favorite types of cookies. We have a family stand-by recipe, from Sheila Lukins' Around the World Cookbook. It consists of butter and powdered sugar and little else. I could eat it by the pound.

- I made half recipe. I was pretty sure that despite all the chilling in the world my cookies would spread, so to avoid that outcome, rather than cutting the dough into squares, I pressed it into a 6" springform pan.

- I wanted to experience this recipe just as Dorie intended it, so I followed it to a "T"... well, I did darker chocolate than specified, but otherwise, no substitutions.

- There was a bag of Trader Joe's Organic Powdered Sugar in my baking drawer, so that's what I put in these cookies.

- I scored the dough in wedges before putting it in the oven, then cut it immediately after I pulled it out.

the verdict:

This recipe had all the things that I love: coffee flavor, dark chocolate, butter and sugar. And it's shortbread. I thought I'd love the cookies, I planned to love them, I expected to love them. But in the end, I just did not love them. There was something odd about the combination of the espresso and the powdered sugar in my cookies that was not right. The cookies were bitter and the powdered sugar taste really stood out in an almost artificially sweet way.

I've read reviews from some of the other bakers, and they loved the cookies, so I'm going to assume it was user error, or else I'll blame the Trader Joe's sugar. At any rate, now I'm craving good shortbread!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

{TWD} Peach Tart With Nut Crust

Eating a perfectly ripe juicy local peach is the highlight of our (very hot) Georgia summers. Mind you, just-right peaches from the farm box or the produce stand are not to be squandered on any old recipe. Fabulous peaches taste so good eaten out of hand (well, peeled first, of course) that it's a pity to use them in a setting that doesn't do them justice. My favorite way to enjoy peaches is grilled with herbs and olive oil in Jamie Oliver's wonderful summer salad (which I posted here). I also love them tossed with blackberries, blueberries, and/or red cherries. And a good peach ice cream is tough to beat.

This week's assigned recipe for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart. I've never ever known a Dorie Greenspan tart to disappoint so I was hopeful that this one would be a worthy vehicle for some particularly tasty peaches from my weekly farm box.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This tart was chosen by Rachel of sweet tarte and you can find the recipe on her post.

- In keeping with our preferences lately, I used a gluten-free nutty tart crust (made this time with almond meal and chopped pecans). For a sweetener I used palm sugar.

- Here are the ingredients I used in the custard: duck egg, cream, palm sugar, almond extract, and salt.

- Once I assembled the tart it was looking a little bare, so I added another peach, which filled up the empty spaces in the tart nicely. Maybe too nicely! There wasn't much of the custard showing so I ended up with extra topping (since it was supposed to be placed on the custardy parts of the tart).

- I omitted the flour in the topping, and made mine with: almond meal, chopped pecans, date sugar, and butter. Per the recipe's instructions I used cold butter, but the topping only came together once the butter softened, so starting with room temp butter might have been better.

- The oven time for my tart was:
10 min at 425
20 min at 375
then I put on the topping and baked an additional 15 minutes or so at 375?

the verdict:

We enjoyed the tart very much, especially the first day. The peaches and almond-flavored custard paired nicely with the the nuts in the crust. There was a bit of a problem because the nut crust was porous and absorbed the custard, especially by the next day. I realized too late that I should have brushed the crust with egg white before I "blind baked" it, which would have sealed the crust against the custard. I'll have to try that the next time I bake this tart - and there will be a next time with a tart this tasty!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

{TWD} Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is called Oatmeal Breakfast Bread. Just from reading the recipe I knew it would be a favorite: it is a quick bread loaf, packed full of oats and nuts and dried fruit. I actually baked this one a few months ago, because it sounded so good and I got tired of waiting for it to be chosen! So thanks, Natalie of the blog Oven Love, for picking this one and letting me post from my "drafts" folder.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe for this bread this week on Natalie's blog.

- I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly trading the sweeteners. I used maple sugar instead of brown sugar in the topping, and used palm sugar in the dough because of its lower glycemic load.

- For liquids, I chose the buttermilk option

- I used walnut oil which I enjoy in quick breads.

- Along with the all purpose flour, I threw in some white whole wheat flour and oat flour.

- For the dried fruit I used currants.

- I had some very sad apples in my produce drawer, which were perfect for making homemade applesauce - I got to use it for this bread and some muffins.

- The bread ended up with a very loose crumb, a bit prone to falling to pieces, but it was beautifully moist.

I took 5 photos of the slices of this bread, and all of them turned out blurry. By the time I realized, the bread was long gone! I included the least blurry picture to give some idea of the crumb.
the verdict:

We loved the apple taste, highlighted by bursts of curranty sweetness and the soft moist texture. It was wonderful toasted, even if it did fall apart a bit in the toaster.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

{TWD} Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream

I make a lot of ice cream. Summer and winter, I churn ice cream nearly every week. In fact, my ice cream maker has earned a permanent place on my kitchen counter and I try to always have the canister frozen and ready to churn a new batch of ice cream. The most common flavor around here is vanilla, because that is my husband's favorite, but I make my share of chocolate as well (and when it comes to chocolate, my share is usually pretty much all of it since my husband is allergic to chocolate!) As luck would have it, we invited some friends over for dinner last week and I knew that this week's assigned Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream, would be the perfect dessert. I altered it a tiny bit to meet dietary restrictions and preferences, but the end result was still quite wonderful.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- - Katrina of Baking and Boys picked this Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream. Find the recipe on her post.

- Very dark chcolate is a favorite of mine, so I used a combination of Callebaut bittersweet and Green & Black 85% chocolate to make the ganache.

- One of my guests is sensitive to milk (but not cream) so I replaced the milk with coconut milk. I've done this before in chocolate ice cream; and the coconut flavor is not actually detectable, and the ice cream's texture is nice and creamy.

- I used palm sugar rather than granulated. This has become a favorite sugar of mine - thanks to Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker for pointing it out to me.

- To bring out the flavor, I added pinch of salt.

- The custard was very thick and pudding-like. It was so thick that I knew it wouldn't churn very well. I was temped to just skip the ice cream maker and freeze the custard, but I ened up churning it for several minutes anyway.

the verdict:

My daughter JDE said this ice cream was the Platonic ideal of the kind of chocolate frozen treat that a fudgsicle is but a mere earthly reflection. Put another way: this ice cream is similar to a Fudgsicle but far better tasting.

I found it to be a very creamy, subtle chocolate ice cream. I've made chocolate ice cream that was more intensely chocolate in flavor (lots of cocoa powder involved), and I've made chocolate ice cream that was more mysteriously complex in flavor (based on steeped cocoa nibs), but this is a nice, straightforward, deeply chocolate ice cream.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

{TWD} Gingered Carrot Breakfast Cookies

I'm going to admit that I was pretty excited when I started reading Dorie Greenspan's introduction to her recipe for Gingered Carrot Cookies, "I wanted to make the cookie equivalent of carrot cake," says Dorie. "Yes, fantastic idea!" I agreed mentally. Carrot cake is a huge favorite in our house. As I've mentioned before (picture included), we had carrot cake for our wedding, and it's often the cake of choice for my husband's birthday. My longtime recipe is for a carrot bundt cake, but we also loved Dorie's Bill's Big Carrot Cake (or at least my adapted version of it.)

Reading Dorie's account further, I learned that although she used far too few carrots to approximate carrot cake's intense carroty goodness, she decided the "scone-like" cookies that resulted were keepers. Well, alright then, even though these cookies were not going to replicate our favorite cake after all, we happen to love scones, so I figured we'd do fine with these cookies, especially if I served them for breakfast!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- These cookies were chosen this week for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group by my long distance baking buddy Natalia of the lovely blog Gatti, Fili e Farina and you can find the recipe on her cookie post.

- My husband is a confirmed coconut-phobe, so I omitted the recipe's coconut and bumped up the carrots and the pecans to compensate.

- For about a quarter of the flour, I used oat flour.

- I reduced the total volume of sugar, used a combination of dark muscovado and palm sugar. To make up for the reduction in liquid (the sugar bakes as a liquid) I threw in a spoonful of creamy yogurt.

- I formed my cookies a bit bigger, getting an even dozen from my half batch of dough.

the verdict:

I sampled a cookie warm from the oven and enjoyed the subtle flavor of these cookies. They were slightly sweet and had a bit of a tang from the yogurt and the ginger. The texture was moist and wonderfully soft from the oats. I think they'd be even better with a bit of butter, but what isn't, really?

My husband tried them the next morning for breakfast. His vote: very good. I've gotta say, though, now I'm in the mood for real, honest-to-goodness carrot cake!