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.