Thursday, July 31, 2008

BBD: Small Breads, Biscuits

This months Bread Baking Daily Challenge was Small Breads Hosted by My Diverse Kitchen.

Biscuits are one of the quintessential American small breads. Easy to make, versatile, and presized for the individual. I started 'helping' my mother make biscuits since I was old enough to be trusted not to dump the flour everywhere, I started making biscuits on my own when I was 11. Sadly Bisquick, biscuits in a can and my hectic life has made me let my skills lapse. This is the recipe I grew up with.

Richer Biscuits
from the Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, copyright 1950
It says it makes 20 1 3/4" biscuits, I say you will be lucky to get a dozen.

Shift together
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

cut in finely
6 tblsp shortening

stir in
2/3 cup milk.

roll out 1/2 inch thick and cut. place on ungreased baking sheet and bake til golden brown (about 10 minutes) in a 450 degree oven.

You Bar, Now a Me bar!

Protien suppliments and I usualy get along like oil and water only not that well. Just the smell of the protien makes my stomach roll. Which I usualy take in stride after all I am a dedicated carnivore and definitly not a muscle builder so I really don't need protien suppliments. But occasionaly when I am out and about it would be nice to have a quick snack that was more protien then sugar. Up until now that has been impossible, But the whey protien in You Bars doesn't smell funny or taste funky either. Whoo Hoo!

I signed up for Blake Makes Sooperz, periodicaly he has food items that companies want to get the word out about their products and he shares the goodies with others. This time it was You Bars, personalized protien bars. I got a sampler of 4 bars, two of their creations and two random extra's from someone elses order. All 4 were very good. They were heavy with big chunks of fruit and a rough homemade look to them. They were not to dry or greasy. infact they were so good I didn't share them as I had originaly intended. I also ate them too fast to get a good picture, darn I guess that means I need more. :)

Bedino Nero, or what to do with bad cake

Remember in my last post, failure #2? This is what I did with it. Bodino Nero from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts. With my own special touches of course.

Bodino Nero is Italian Chocolate Bread Pudding. So the first thing I did was use overcooked pecan gateau instead of bread. Then I tweaked the recipe a Little and added some blackberry / blueberry preserves to the bottom of my ramekins. The results make failed cake something to look forward to. Rich chocolate flavor an almost cheese cake like texture, a hint of nuttiness and the tart sweetness of the berries.

Bodino Nero [my version]

Ingredients for 4 servings
Fine dry bread crumbs, for coating the pan [didn't use]
3 1/2 ounce chocolate semisweet, chopped [2 oz chocolate]
1 cup Whole milk [3/4 cup heavy cream]
2 large eggs [1 large egg]
1/4 cup sugar [2 tblsp sugar]
4 cup (about 3 ounces) cubed (1/2 inch size), day-old French or Italian bread, crusts removed (semolina bread works well) [pecan gateau, 2 cups]
Confectioners' sugar, for serving
Softly whipped cream, for serving

Recipe Preparation
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, with a rack in the center. Butter an 8-inch springform pan or a 6-cup ring or other mold; coat with bread crumbs, shaking out the excess. Wrap the exterior bottom and sides of the springform pan in foil, forming a tight seal where the sides join; set aside. [ 2 ramekins, well buttered with a tablespoon berry preserves on the bottom]

2. Combine the chocolate and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is partially melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely smooth.

3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in the chocolate mixture; fold in the bread cubes. If the bread is quite dry, let the mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes, so the bread absorbs some of the liquid.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Cover the top with a buttered sheet of foil, buttered side down. Set the pan in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the pan.

5. Bake until the pudding is nearly set, but still slightly wobbly, about 35 minutes (the timing can vary based on the size and depth of the pan; do not overbake). [I overbaked, it was delicious]

6. Carefully remove the pan from the water bath and cool to lukewarm on a wire rack. Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pudding; remove the sides, if you are using a springform pan. Serve on a platter - without inverting. (If using a ring mold, invert the pudding and lift off the mold.) Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, and serve warm, with softly whipped cream.

The Pecan Gateau is the one from this months Daring Bakers Challenge. It was my second try and terribly over cooked, which made it tough. It was still good though, and after I ran out of pecan buttercream and ganache to make little finger sandwiches with I still had a fair amount left.

Pecan Gateau
1 ½ cups pecans, toasted
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

Tempers Notes:
This recipe is sooo good!, it was so rich the servings should be 8 instead of 4 and I needed smaller ramekins. It also cured any and all chocolate cravings I had for the day. I am thinking a white chocolate version with toasted pound cake and coconut would be wonderful too, if I ever kept pound cake around that long.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

DB: Pecan Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Chris of Mele Cotte chose Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Carole Walters’ Great Cakes for this months Daring Bakers challenge. I chose Pecan Gateau with Praline Buttercream because I am in Texas and what is more Texan than Pecan Pralines?

To put it bluntly I failed. I did this the same weekend as my R2R challenge with about the same amount of luck.

Try 1. I over processed the pecans and didn't add the sugar to the egg yolks slowly. This failure is in the fridge waiting to be 'rescued'

Try 2. Undercooked the gateau and then over cooked it in the microwave. It ended up tough and short and I cut it up and stuffed it in the freezer (see tomorrows post for the results of that).

Try 3. Over cooked the nuts, but hey a little smoke never hurt anyone right? and then the gateau went funky and the bottom 3/4 was inedible (I know I tried). At that point between the two challenges I was down about 2 dozen eggs. So with my 1/4th of a layer I made a mini cake.

I had originally wanted to make a mini cake, just not quite that mini (3 X 2), or at least not just one. Unlike alot of people my pralines came together beautifully and the buttercream was Divine.

This cake was alot of firsts for me, first gateau, first Swiss buttercream, first ganache, first caramelized sugar (I am from TX I am not calling what we did a praline), first mini cake.

The cake was surprisingly easy to assemble even if the instructions were a little long.
step 1, cut the cake in three layers (floss works great)
step 2, spread cut side with sugar syrup
step 3, spread praline buttercream 1/4 inch thick
step 4, spread whipped cream to 1/4 inch of edge
step 5, repeat steps 2 - 4
step 6, gently align layers and trim the sides
step 7, let sit in fridge 30 minutes
step 8, cover sides and tops with thinned Plum Jelly
step 9, let sit again
step 10, cover in ganache,
step 11, Sit again
step 12, decorate
step 13, sit again
step 14, EAT!

You can see the complete recipe on Chris's blog. It is simply too long for me to post here. I will be post select portions of the recipe as I reuse it in the future.

Tempers notes:
Every bit of this cake was good and the bite or two I managed to salvage of it all together was wonderful. I had to make a second batch of the caramelized pecans they were such a hit and keeping Indra away from the Buttercream was a loosing battle. Come fall when our pecans come in season (and it gets cooler inside) I will definitely be making this again. I am thinking for X-mas people may get a jar of ganache and some fancy nuts from me (with other homemade goodies), cause it was just that good.

here are some fellow DB bloggers I wanted to share. Evil Lemons is a riot, and it has one of the best walk thrus I have seen. I added him to my list of blogs to read regularly. PrettyTastyCakes got ambitious and made her cake a dome. And I will admit it I am a little jealous of the smooth finish and lovely circles. Ann of Redacted Recipes has my vote for best looking though. I love the organicness of the buttercream decoration, it reminds me of growing things.

PS: I am pretty sure from looking at other peoples challenges that my problem was i did not whip the eggs enough.

Friday, July 25, 2008

R2R, Thank George's Bank

I was really excited when we decided to do this recipe. Thank George's Bank, it is Cod cakes with Poached eggs and Hollendaise. I love hollendaise but have never made it so I was really looking forward to making it. I was less excited by the poached egg (I like crispy greasy eggs darn it) and the fish, (despite stereotypes to the contrary not all lesbians like fish). But I figured the hollendaise would make it all good.

I have never steamed fish before so I was surprised how easy it was and it smelled pretty darn good (I will admit I also tasted it an except for being over seasoned it tastes pretty good too). One step Down, so far so good. I had mashed potatoes left over from supper and I always have eggs so once the fish was cooled the patties were ready to go. I covered them and stuck them in the fridge overnight.

The next morning bright and early I started the cod cakes cooking (like the alliteration?) I had already read about the problems other people had and armed with my potato patty experience I started Frying them up. I expected the first batch to turn out a little scrambled. But so was the second... and the third, which left me with 12 scrambled patties that taste Great, I mean really really good, but look well horrible. Not to worry cover it with Hollendaise and will all be good.

I am sorry to report that the hollendaise was a disaster. I tried again, still a disaster. It was not the recipes fault. I blame the equipment. The recipe says to use your food processor, and the blades were just not low enough to really mix the two egg yolks and after adding the butter nothing happened. I waited and waited and still no emulsification. I might have tried a third time and used the cooked version but It had been a long weekend and between this and the DB challenge (also failed) I had already gone thru 2 dozen eggs so I decided to call it quits.

I skipped poaching the egg because with out the sauce it just wasn't worth the effort. I will try again to make hollendaise, though I will not use the food processor. And I will probably even try poaching an egg just so I can say I have. But the Cod cakes really stole the show for me and as someone who is ambivalent about fish that is saying alot, I will definitely be trying those again. And maybe next time I will have some photos.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Taste and Create: Spring Ramp Gnocchi

My partner for this months Taste and Create is Maybelle's Mom of Feeding Maybelle. Her blog is lovely and her food fresh and creative, a wonderful blend of her families Indian and Italian heritage. I am not vegan, and I hardly noticed that alot of her recipes were, glorious food does not need meat, there was no working around meat, there just was no meat. Someday I want a blog like hers. pictures, food, savory and sweet, you know things that make others drool.

She is yet another person who has access to an abundance of rhubarb and various other fresh ingredients (I am soo jealous of the rhubarb). It was very very hard to choose what to make and as much as I wanted to make the Rosewater Kulfi with Cherry Juice Steeped Noodles or the Strawberry Tomato Caprese Fusili, I decided to go with something Heartier and more Savory.

I had originally wanted to do the Marrow Bones she had done since they were a sure fire hit with My carnivore. But alas and alack, there were no morrow bones to be had. So I took another look and decided on the Spring Ramp Gnocchi, even though it wasn't spring and I didn't have any ramps (had to look Ramps up in Wikipedia to even know what they were).

According to Wikipedia ramps taste like a cross between onions and garlic and you can eat the whole thing. So I went with a mix of Onion, Garlic, Thyme and Italian Parsley.

Spring Ramp Gnocchi (my way)
2 servings

8 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese (that has been drained)
1 egg
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped ramps (I substitute 1.5 tbls chopped garlic, 1.5 tbls chopped onion, 2 tbls fresh thyme, 3 tbls fresh Italian Parsley)

¾ cup flour

Work gently until a dough is formed

Let rest, roll into long snakes and then cut into bite-sized pieces. You may roll it against a fork to get the characteristic indentations.

Boil until they come to the surface—watch not to over cook them.

Dress with bacon and sautéed ramp bulbs or if vegetarian with ramp bulbs and pecorino. (I used the bacon but felt that sauteed onions and garlic would be a little much so I went with chopped fresh tomato.)

Tempers Notes:
I discovered gnocchi after I moved to TX in the pasta aisle and was intrigued. I have played with it several times but never actually made my own. So I was very excited to try this recipe. It was so easy and soo good, a little bit of Pasta Heaven. It made two perfect portions. Indra even agreed to eat it and indicated she would be willing to have it again (and it wasn't just the bacon talking).

I need to learn the fork trick though. I also want to find out how to make them ahead and store them. I had a bit of a problem with the dough being very soft and the gnocchi sticking together, I am not sure if this is because I needed more flour or if it was their way of telling me to work faster.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Strawberries and Almond Custard.

This was a learning experience, a rich, delectable, lick the bowl learning experience, but still its not quite there.

I took the Almond Custard I made for the Danish Braid and some fresh strawberries and got creative. The strawberries were past their prime for eating (they had been snacked on for the last several days and were starting to dry up) but still good.

I dumped the strawberries in a sauce pan with a half a cup sugar and 1/4 cup apple juice and simmered till the strawberries were soft. And then stuck them in the fridge to cool down while the Almond Custard cooked. They smelled heavenly.

After the custard was brown around the edges I removed them from the oven and drizzled the juice from the strawberries over the top. It soaked in right away which I was not expecting (lesson #1) and made some cool crackly sounds. I let them cool a little and served.

I had forgotten how rich the custard was and the overly sweet strawberries just upped the anti, It really needed something to offset that (lesson #2). I also forgot that just because you take it out of the oven it doesn't stop cooking (lesson #3) and therefore the texture wasn't quite what I remembered.

So for next time here are some other lessons I learned... Fresh strawberries are better than whatever it is I did. If you use a syrup wait til the custard has cooled. Liquids added while hot soak it like a sponge (alcohol might be nice). Patience is a virtue, so make sure you have a good picture before eating.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Vanilla Sugar

One of the side effects of Daring Bakers is Real Vanilla to play with. So I did what any enterprising young baker would do and made Vanilla Sugar.

Let me first of talk of the Vanilla bean itself. It was leathery and oily and didn't smell as sweet / fresh / vanillaish / whatever as I had expected. But I am use to that, I learned the hard way not to taste my ingredients (this is a lesson i keep having to relearn) or judge the finished product by the raw taste.

So I followed directions and seeded the things. They were still oily and I think I ended up with almost as much on me as in the bowl. It was as bad as trying to get cling film to stop sticking to the wrong thing. I kept scraping it off one thing and trying to scrape it where I wanted it and it never quite worked right. I am sure with practice this procedure will get easier (meaning less messy) As a Bonus I smelled nummy!

The vanilla bean added pretty specks to everything and made some very nice whipped cream. I don't think however that the Danish Braid was really the best platform to showcase the vanilla bean. Which brings me to the Vanilla sugar.

The vanilla sugar certainly smells more like what I expected than the bean. But seeing the bean remnants poking up thru the pristine sugar is a little odd. And as much as I would like to tell you that the Kool-Aid I made with my vanilla sugar was raised to a whole new level of Kool-aidness, it was still just Kool Aid. It is possible I need more vanilla in my sugar and eventually as I use more vanilla beans there will be more vanilla in my sugar.