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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Olive Oil-Poached Halibut

I own more than my fair share of cookbooks.  I have the best of intentions to use every book that I keep on my shelves (and conversely, not to keep books that I don't use), but invariably there are cookbooks that I find myself reaching for without even thinking.  One of these is the big yellow Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl.  I have never been disappointed by any of its recipes, so when I saw a recipe for Oil Poached Fish I had enough confidence to try this new-to-me technique with my very favorite fish, halibut.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  Although I found the recipe in my copy of the yellow Gourmet cookbook, the good news is that you can find the recipe online, here.  Although really you won't go wrong if you purchase the cookbook.  And guess what? I just checked at Amazon, and the price right now is $7.17.  You can hardly afford not to buy the book!

-  The recipe has just five ingredients: fish, lemon, capers, olive oil and parsley, along with salt and pepper.  I made half a recipe in an oval Pyrex dish.

-  It's a quick matter to throw the fish together, but it is baked low and slow - at 250 degrees for an hour or more.

the verdict:

This fish was velvety, tender, and subtly but clearly flavored with citrus, herb and salty elements.  I'll definitely return to this recipe.  As I wrote in my notes: 
the fish was not oily tasting
the oil was not fishy tasting

Although the recipe says that you can re-use the oil for other purposes, that's not exactly my forte, so I'll admit that I didn't keep the oil.

My friend Di of the blog Di's Kitchen Notebook is once again hosting a seasonal blog event.  The theme this time around is "Cooking The Books" and I'm submitting this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks.  Click over to her post to see the other fun things that bloggers have cooked and baked from their books.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Traditional Madeleines

In the course of my baking with the original Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, I've had several opportunities to use my little 6-well madeleine mold from Pairs.  We've baked various flavors of madeleines from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From My Home to Yours: chocolate, tea infused, and honey, brown sugar and lemon.  But the classic plain madeleine recipe in the book was chosen for the group before I joined.  

Now that I'm busy catching up on all of the recipes from Dorie's book that I missed four years ago, this week brought me to the basic madeleine, baked by the TWD bakers 4 years ago this week.  Not only did this give me a chance to try one of the quintessentially French recipes in the book, it also presented the opportunity to use all of my previous experience to try for madeleines with maximum "humps" on their ridged backs.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-   Click  here for the recipe, on the blog of one of the early TWD host, Tara of the blog Smells Like Home.

- From previous experience with Dorie's recipes for madeleines, I have learned that half recipe makes enough batter to just over-fill my particular madeleine pan with its six wells.  I tried to remind myself that it is deceptively easy to put too much batter in the wells and purposefully left a bit in the bowl.  It turned out to be almost the perfect amount of batter in each well.

-  I also remembered (as I had not the last time I baked madeleines) that on her blog Dorie had given a few new tips for baking madeleines so that they would puff even more while baking, producing a profligate hump.   I followed her suggestion to place the madeleine pan on a hot baking stone in the pre-heated oven.  I did this, and voila! My madeleines formed beautiful puffed shapes as they baked.

the verdict:

These madeleines were easy to mix up, fun to bake, and delicious to eat.  I had forgotten the delicate pleasure of eating a madeleine with a cup of hot tea, but this recipe brought it all back.  And I was very glad to finally bake the basic classic.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mini-Tortes

Along with fruit jelly candy, my biggest weakness is a Reese's Fast Break candy bar.  Soft nougat and peanut butter encased in chocolate: what's not to love?  Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Peanut Butter Torte has always looked like the homemade-dessert version of the Fast Break bar and I've been looking forward to baking it for years.  Well, my chance finally arrived: the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group baked the peanut butter torte four years ago this week, and so my quest to finish the book brought me face to face with this much-anticipated recipe.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The recipe is not available from the original TWD host, but I found the recipe posted on the Brown Eyed Baker blog, here.

-  I made 1/2 recipe in six 1-cup silicone molds. Another way to do minis would be to use a dozen smaller silicone cupcake molds.  A cupcake-sized serving is probably an ideal size since this recipe is quite rich.

-  The recipe includes directions for making "crunch," a mixture of chocolate chips and peanuts with spices but I didn't want crunch in my mousse, so I opted to skip those and top my tortes with mini-peanut butter cups, which are nice and soft.  If I were going to go the crunchy route,  I might try toffee bits on top (or stirred in).

-  The whole recipe is very straightforward, if a bit bowl + equipment intensive. I used my stovetop, microwave, sifter, cutting board, sharp knife, several bowls, mixer, food processor, spoons, spatulas, scrapers, etc.

-  The silicone molds released the little tortes beautifully.

the verdict:

This recipe was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the book to me.  I had looked at the picture in the book countless times and anticipated how fabulous the chocolate would taste with luxurious peanut butter mousse, but the reality was far from that.  

The peanut butter flavor was too subtle and was totally overpowered by all of the cream cheese + whipped cream. And the flavor of the crust was ...oreos! I found that distracting, and would use a different chocolate base, such as the gluten-free chocolate crust from Deliciously Organic that I used for the Tuesdays With Dorie/Baking With Julia chocolate tarts.  

The best part of this dessert was the chocolate topping, but that's no surprise - it's ganache, after all.

In the end I decided that the filling resembled cheesecake more than mousse, and I found that I liked it a lot better as long as I didn't expect to taste peanut butter.  But no matter what, the dessert was so rich that I couldn't eat more than a few bites.  Ulitmately I was left wishing I'd had a Reese's Fast Break candy bar instead. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake

 One thing I've learned from nearly 4 years of baking Dorie Greenspan's recipes weekly, and that is that I can trust her instincts.  Dorie can turn the most unusual combination of ingredients into the most sublime of baked goods.  I've seen it time and again, and this week's recipe, the Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake, gave me an opportunity experiment in the kitchen again with Dorie.  I've gathered that here were a lot of bakers who were not fans of this cake when it was baked by the Tuesdays With Dorie group four years ago but it sounded good to me so I was interested to see how we would like it.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The cake was selected four years ago by Caitlin of the blog Engineer Baker, and you can find the recipe on her cake post

-  The recipe calls for dried figs (the seeds add to the crunch provided by the medium grind cornmeal/polenta, but I went a different direction and added chopped prunes.

-  I baked a half recipe in 8" fluted tart pan.

-  This recipe produced a definitely pourable cake batter, but it thickened nicely as it baked, and the butter pats left little light patches all over the surface of the cake.

-  I served the cake with honey-sweetened yogurt.

the verdict:

This is a rustic, homey cake, not a show-off special-occasion fancy-dress cake.  My husband and I loved it; his observation was, "this cake is a perfect balance: not too sweet, nice taste of honey, substantial texture."   Although the prunes were fine in the cake, we both agreed that it would be perfect with dates; I will make it that way next time (which might just be right away!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Almond Marshmallows

In my quest to finish all of the recipes in Dorie Greenspan's book  Baking: From My Home to Yours, I arrived at a recipe, Marshmallows, that, being egg-white-based, is humidity-sensitive.  It was rainy and damp for a good week around here, and I was foiled in my plan to make the marshmallows in time to post them last Tuesday.  But this week was gloriously dry and crisp Spring weather, just perfect for marshmallows, so I whipped up a (half) batch.

I've always liked marshmallows, although not so much in hot chocolate or in baked goods.  S'mores (marshmallow + graham cracker + chocolate) are good, but mostly I like to eat marshmallows plain.  And stale.  To me the best marshmallows are stiff but still chewy, almost a taffy consistency.  On the other end of the spectrum, the "marshmallows" in breakfast cereals such as Lucky Charms - little hard nuggets - are beyond the pale.  I was interested to see the texture of Dorie's marshmallows.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The recipe for marshmallows was chosen for the Tuesdays With Dorie group by Judy and you can find the recipe on her 2008 post. There is an omission in the book; one Tablespoon of sugar that is mentioned in the ingredient list but not in the instructions.  Dorie later cleared up the mystery:

I'm sorry about the mysterious 1 tablespoon sugar -- it was meant to be added to the egg whites once they started to thicken. The little bit of sugar shouldn't make a difference in the marshmallows, it's there to ever-so-slightly stabilize the egg whites and make it easier to beat them without overbeating.
-  I've never made marshmallows before, and there are recipes that don't involve egg whites, and recipes - such as Dorie's - that do.  The basic method for these marshmallows involves 3 elements: beaten egg whites (stiff but still glossy), gelatin (bloomed in cool water then heated until liquid), and sugar syrup (boiled without stirring until precisely 265 degrees).  The three components are prepared separately, and simultaneously(!), and then beaten together, producing a bowl of frothy, shiny, meringue, which is then spread out on a shallow pan to set.  I'm never confident about my sugar syrup into egg white skills, but it worked out well for me this time, although the whisk beater slung sugar syrup all over the bowl and onto the counter as I poured it into the beaten egg whites.

-  I made half a recipe, although I really wanted to make 2/3 recipe because of the amount of egg whites and open gelatin packets I had on hand.  But the math was a little daunting for me (did I really say that?) so I dropped back to the easier calculations for halving the recipe. 

-  Dorie gives several flavoring options for the marshmallows, and a simple internet search will produce tons of creative flavor/color combinations for homemade marshmallows.  I decided to go with an almond flavor combination.  Almond: the little black dress of flavors.

-  To the basic recipe I added the following flavorings, based loosely on the flavor of this recipe from the Washington Post:
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract
1.5 tsp amaretto
I stirred all of these into the gelatin mixture before beating into the syrup/egg white combination.

-  My half recipe nearly filled a parchment-lined toaster-oven tray.

-  I used potato starch to coat the marshmallows to keep them from sticking, but, really, mine weren't all that sticky.  I was able to use the same knife to cut the whole bunch, without having to wash down the blade in the middle of cutting.

the verdict:

I found the marshmallows to be quite tender, not-too-sweet, not at all chewy, and quite subtle (but noticeable) in the almond department.  So, while they hardly resembled the stale stiffness of my usual marshmallow ideal, they were lovely nonetheless.  I'm looking forward to sharing them with my book group later this week (and I'm leaving the box uncovered in the hopes that they might get the littlest bit stale!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lemon Loaf

There's one thing to be said for the Lemon Loaf cake that was assigned for this week's recipe by the Tuesdays With Dorie; Baking With Julia baking group: it's really easy. Really, really easy.  I arrived home very late on this rainy Tuesday afternoon and stood in my kitchen debating with myself whether I had time to bake this cake.  Or more importantly, whether there would be enough daylight after the cake was baked to photograph it so that I could actually post it on time.  When I saw how short the recipe is, I started pulling out ingredients and before I knew it, the cake was in the oven.  And was baked, cooled (mostly) and sliced in time to photograph in natural light on the back deck, thanks in just a small measure to Daylight Savings Time.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe for the Lemon Loaf on the blogs of this week's hosts:
Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty of Life

-  The virtue of this recipe is that it is made in a bowl with a whisk; no mixer or creaming of butter required.  Instead, the butter is melted and folded into the cake batter at the end.

-  I baked 1/2 recipe, in a little skinny loaf pan that my daughter JDE brought back from her 2011 trip to Hong Kong.

-  All of the lemon flavor of the recipe is from lemon zest.  I wanted that zest to contribute its lemony limits, so I used a favorite Dorie Greenspan tip: first I rubbed the zest into the sugar with my fingers, until the sugar was a bit damp and very fragrant.  Then I whisked the sugar/zest mixture with the salt and eggs as directed by the recipe.

-  I deviated a tiny bit from the recipe by adding a healthy dose of lemon oil to the batter (about 1/2 teaspoon for my half recipe).

the verdict:

This had a wonderfully dense, moist crumb, but wasn't in the least bit heavy or dull.  The lemon flavor was subtle, but noticeable (in part from the lemon oil I'm guessing).  It made a wonderful dessert with some sliced strawberries.  This is a great recipe to keep bookmarked for those occasions where you need a not-fussy, quick, easily transportable cake.  Although I kept mine plain, the cake could easily be gussied up by adding a lemon glaze or soaking it with a lemon syrup.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lemon Cream Tart + Grapefruit Cream Tart

Four years ago this week the bakers of Tuesdays With Dorie had a choice of recipes: either Dorie Greenspan's Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart or her Orange Cream Tart.  I'm still working away at making every recipe in the book, so I made both! The lemon tart was pretty much by the book, but in my kitchen the orange cream tart transformed into a grapefruit version with a chocolate crust.  In both cases, I froze most of the cream for future use and assembled mini tarts for tasting purposes.

n.o.e.'s notes:

Lemon tart

- Dorie herself shared the lemon recipe on Serious Eats, under the headline "lemon, lemon, lemon cream," here.  Additionally, in May of 2008 Dorie revisited the recipe for her lemon cream tart and shared tips in this post on her blog.

-  I made a gluten-free crust for my lemon tart, using Alice Medrich's shortbread base found in her cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. (I highly recommend this book, by the way!)

Orange tart

-  The recipe for the orange cream tart can be found on Michelle's original blog, here. (Michelle now blogs at the Brown Eyed Baker)

-  I've been in a serious grapefruit phase, so I decided to adapt the recipe from orange to grapefruit.  I used an especially wonderful, juicy, dark red grapefruit for the recipe.  Here's how I adapted the recipe: I used some lemon juice, but maybe not the full amount, finishing up a lemon that I'd already cut.  I cut the sugar to about 3/4 the amount specified by the recipe.  I used about 4T rather than 5.5 T butter.  I got a bit mixed up in my steps, and added the gelatin just after I started to put in butter.

- The grapefruit cream wasn't as tart/flavorful as I would have liked, so next time I'd use more lemon juice and perhaps reduce the grapefruit juice by boiling it down a bit to concentrate the flavor.

-  The grapefruit cream "set", probably because of the gelatin in it, and it didn't stir up smooth.  Although the filling looked a bit bumpy it wasn't really lumpy at all.  

-  I put the filling into a mini chocolate tart shell, and topped the tart with whipped cream and chopped pistachios.

the verdict:

Lemon tart

The lemon filling was nothing short of amazing: silky, creamy, and very tangy.  I mellowed it a bit by a dab of whipped cream on top of the tart.  Alice Medrich's gluten free crust baked beautifully into a sturdy shortbread cookie, the sweetness a perfect complement to the filling.  This is a great recipe to have in the gluten-free arsenal and can be used as a base for any bar cookie or tart.

Grapefruit tart

The grapefruit cream was subtle and the tiniest bit bitter on its own.  But it was perfect paired with the chocolate tart shell, which smoothed out the rough edges of the cream, while the cream contributed a subtle note of citrus to the chocolate.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Caramel Topped Flan

Flan was on the menu four years ago this week for the Tuesdays With Dorie bakers, and it was on my menu in my quest to bake all the TWD recipes that were baked before I joined the group.  Flan is one of those order-at-a-restaurant treats for my family, and I was interested to see how it would work in my kitchen.

Dorie's recipe for Caramel Topped Flan is one of those mysterious recipes: you put everything in the baking dish and bake the flan and when you unmold it you have a lovely custard which through the magic of baking ends up covered in a delightful caramel sauce formed from the ingredients you put in the bottom of the flan dish.  Of course, as will all upside-down desserts, you never really know how it's going to turn out until it comes out of the pan!

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  Steph, of A Whisk and a Spoon has the recipe here:

-  I made a half-recipe of flan in a 6" round cake pan.

-  The first step in this recipe is to make caramel which is then spread - evenly, Dorie emphasizes - into the bottom of the cake pan.  My caramel kept pulling away from the edges of the pan; you can see from the picture above how that ended up looking.

-  Next, I mixed the custard, poured it into the pan, then baked it in a water bath in the oven until the custard was set.

-  The final step was unmolding the flan, flipping it onto a serving plate, leaving room for the caramel sauce to run down and pool around the edges of the flan. I was a little concerned that the magic wouldn't work, but the flan turned out perfectly. 

 the verdict:

This flan was every bit as tasty, and tastier even, than the versions that we order when we eat out.  We savored every spoonful.  Who knew that making fabulous flan at home could be so easy?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

In honor of St. Patrick's day, the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group baked Irish Soda Bread as the second March recipe.   The group chooses one easy recipe each month from the book Baking With Julia, and one that's a bit more involved.  The soda bread is the easy one, and, folks, it doesn't get any easier than this: 4 ingredients and a minute of kneading and it's ready for the oven!

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  Julia's contributing baker for the soda bread is Marion Cunningham; you can find her recipe on either of the host blogs this week:
Carla of Chocolate Moosey put dried cherries in her bread
 Cathy of My Culinary Mission  made a gruyere version
-  Although the most traditional form of soda bread is plain, the recipe suggest adding currants so that's what I did.

-  I baked a half recipe, yielding one smallish loaf.

-  For one quarter of the flour I used Irish Style Wholemeal Flour from King Arthur Flour.  How could I not?  I had it on hand and it even has Irish in its name!  I love the slightly rough texture and full flavor of this flour.

-  I've learned from my yeast bread baking (thanks to British bread baker extraordinaire Dan Lepard) to knead the dough on an oiled rather than a floured counter.   For the soda bread, I used walnut oil, figuring it wouldn't hurt to add a bit of nutty flavor while I was conditioning the dough.

-  Soda bread is usually baked as a hearth loaf, but around my house bread made in loaf pans is the preferred type when it's destined for toasting, as this was.  So I used a medium-sized loaf pan.  The bread baked for 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

the verdict:

Eaten fresh and barely cooled from the oven, this bread was delicious: tender, nutty from the wholemeal, with little pops of sweet fruitiness from the currants.  I ate it spread with salted butter and my husband toasted it then buttered it.  Although the recipe indicates otherwise, we found the bread to be a decent "keeper." We both liked the bread, and you absolutely cannot beat the ease of preparation.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brioche Raisin Almond Snails

In the breakfast section of her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan has a recipe for basic brioche dough which makes Golden Brioche Loaves and also forms the base for her Brioche Raisin Snails, which were originally baked by the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group four years ago today.  Thus the raisin snail recipe is this week's recipe in my TWD catch-up project.  (The brioche dough is also the base for Pecan Sticky Buns, which will be coming up in a few weeks' time)

As it worked out, although the raisin snails and the pecan sticky buns were chosen in the first 6 months of TWD, we baked the plain(er) Golden Brioche Loaves towards the end of TWD, just a few months ago, and I saved enough dough in my freezer to make the snails that I had not yet baked (and the upcoming sticky buns too!)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- [edited to add:
The recipe for these pastries is on Laurie's post here.]

- I made 1/2 recipe, yielding 6 rolls, using 1/4 of Dorie's brioche recipe that I had kept in the freezer.

-  There are four elements to the raisin snails recipe: brioche dough topped with pastry cream and flambeed rum raisins then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  These are all rolled together, sliced into individual coils (resembling snail shells), left to rise at room temperature, then baked until golden brown.

-  When I paged to the back of the book to find the pastry cream recipe, I saw Dorie's recipe for almond cream and began to formulate a plan to go rogue and use almond cream rather than pastry cream in my snails.  Then I saw in the almond cream recipe that Dorie actually suggests that would be a good filling for her brioche snails.  So I even had Dorie's permission to make the switch and I feel so much less guilty!

-  I added almond extract instead of vanilla or rum to the almond cream to intensify the almond quotient.

-  I soaked the raisins in hot water, then heated them, doused them with rum and lit a match. and another match. and another, well, four matches actually and there really wasn't much flambe, even though I had doubled the rum.  There wasn't much rum flavor to the raisins either.  Next time I'll soak them in hot rum instead of hot water.

- According to the recipe, right before rolling up the dough, it's time to sprinkle with cinnamon + white sugar.  My plan was to sprinkle with brown sugar and leave out the cinnamon so it wouldn't fight with the almond direction I was taking. At the appropriate time I was so busy rolling the dough that I forgot about the sugar step entirely.

-  My rolls didn't rise much before baking and they didn't rise much in the oven either.  They spread horizontally but not so much in height.  As it baked the almond cream puffed but it also oozed onto the silicone baking sheet liner and browned.  When I removed the rolls from the pan, it was an easy matter to break off the browned almond cream.

the verdict:

Things these snails were: buttery, yeasty, almond-y, raisiny.  Things the snails were not: rummy, sugary.  We enjoyed them for breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, and for dessert with vanilla ice cream.  They were a little involved to make, so it's not likely that they will go into any regular rotation in my kitchen, but they were definitely delicious.

My baking buddy Leslie baked the snails this week; she's also playing TWD catch-up!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shaker Lemon Pie for Pi Day

Baking has a lot to do with math - proportions, quantities of ingredients, precision all come in handy for optimal results.  I seem to end up using extra math in my baking.  I'm always reducing a recipe, or increasing it, and I have to multiply or divide ingredient quantities.  Or I am using a different type and/or shape of pan and have to calculate areas or volumes.  This kind of math is oddly satisfying to me, although I know that it gives most bakers headaches.

But once a year - on March 14 - all bakers get to have FUN with math: it's Pi Day (3/14, get it?) and we can all just bake a pie to celebrate and forget about the actual math if we want!

For this year's big pie holiday, I decided to make a recipe that intrigued me: Shaker Lemon Pie.  The distinguishing feature of this pie is that it is made with the entire lemon, rind and all. I had read a lot of recipes for the Shaker Lemon Pie, and many of them stresses what a great pie the Meyer lemons made (and what a tart pie the regular lemons made). Whole Foods was fresh out of Meyer lemons the day I stopped in so I had to make do with regular lemon in my pie.  After all, most of the recipes - and I daresay the Shakers themselves - use regular lemons.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  As Deb Smitten explains in her Shaker Lemon Pie post, most recipes for this pie are nearly identical: 2 lemons, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs. A variation is to add melted butter and flour, and the recipe I used, from Molly O'Neill's One Big Table, followed this variation.  It it similar to the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but doesn't require zesting the lemon before slicing it, and uses one tablespoon less of both the butter and the flour.  Also, the recipe I used calls for an initial oven temperature of 450.

-  My favorite part of this Shaker pie version is that it calls for a lattice top crust.  It looks so pretty and I like how the crust ends up being variable in thickness, with some parts crisper and other softer.

-  For this pie, the lemon is sliced very very thin, and I did this step by hand because my cheapo mandoline doesn't actually slice super thin. My lemon slices macerated in sugar on the countertop for about 8 hours before I put the pie together and bakes it.

-  I made a mini pie in 7 pie shell. For the crust I used half a recipe of the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough, which I posted here.  This time the dough was on the sticky side, which was controllable as long as I refrigerated the dough at every step. Making the lattice top, while not difficult per se, got a little tricky as the dough warmed.

-  I also made half recipe of the filling

the verdict:

This recipe was a runaway hit at our house.  My daughter JDE said it was her new favorite pie recipe, and this is coming from a girl who is a serious fan of pie.  Indeed the pie combined flaky dough with dense lemon intensity.  If you like lemon desserts, I'd highly recommend this pie - but don't wait until Pi Day rolls around again to bake it!

My previous Pi Day pies:
2011 Buttermilk Pie
2010 German Apple Pie