Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BBA #27: Portuguese Sweet Bread

The twenty-seventh bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Portuguese sweet bread. This was an easy bread to make as it is only a one day bread. The sponge only ferments for about 90 minutes and then it's on to bread making.

This bread is sweet so it contains some sugar along with three extracts: orange, lemon, and vanilla. The rising times are a big longer to achieve the rise in one day. This bread takes a good part of the day to make. It bakes for almost and hour and the crust gets very dark. Reinhart says not to be fooled into thinking it's done. The dark mahogany brown is expected. I used the clock and thermometer as my guides instead of bread color.
Personally, the crust was a bit thick for me. I'm not wild about thick hard crusts. The inside was fantastic though. It was soft and almost cake-like. The slight sweetness and extract flavors came through just enough. This bread would be a great addition to a meal, especially a potluck as it's just different enough to catch your attention.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Modern Baker: Lemony Cheese Tart with Sour-Cream Glaze

The next tart from the sweet tarts and pies section of The Modern Baker cookbook is lemony cheese tart. Like always I made a 1/4 recipe which filled two 4 1/2'' tarts.

This little tart is basically a little lemon cheesecake. After mixing cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, eggs, and sour cream together. I poured it into the tart pan and baked. It was good. I'm not saying it wasn't. But, after conducting a cheesecake showdown last year and crowning a winner, any cheesecake I make has quite a recipe to live up to. So, I'm saying it was good, but not the best I've ever had.
Have you ever seen the site Shit My Kids Ruined? It's a great laugh out loud site for any parent. (Another favorite LOL site is DamnYouAutoCorrect). This poor little tart could be an entry for me. I guess it's not that bad, but it hurt to see the little thing crumble under the hands of the toddler.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Knife Skills 101

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Knife Skills 101 class instructed by chef Nicholas Smith.  Nick was trained at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute - Le Cordon Bleu and has worked as a chef in many restaurants.

Nick showed us how to hold a knife properly (everyone was doing it wrong), how to use our guide hand (without chopping off your fingers), and how to do the basic circular cut. It's not necessarily hard, but it definitely takes practice. The guide hand part was hard for me. I don't like having my fingers that close to the knife. I realize if you do it correctly the whole intent is that it's safe for your hand and allows you to cut the food properly. However, after I chopped off the tip of my thumb a few years ago cutting jicama, I'm just a bit skiddish around knives.

I learned a ton and came home and started using my knew knife skills right away!

We learned the following:
Julienne- matchstick or french fry cut
Brunoise- cubes out of julienne- little and big
Onion- chopping- which requires cutting the onion in three different directions. This was totally new to me.
Onions- Saute crescents and onion rings
Mince- Parsley and garlic

Monday, June 20, 2011

BBA #26: Poolish Baguettes

The twenty-sixth bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is poolish baguettes. At the beginning of the book Reinhart talks about his culinary students. Some students come of his bread making class and never fully learn the art of bread making. Others come and become entranced with the delicate balance of flour, yeast, and time. I had hoped I'd be a student that would become engrossed in the science of bread. I have not. That is not to say that I am not thoroughly enjoying this challenge and plan to continue bread baking beyond this book. I simply say it to explain why I am not quite sure how this baguette is different from the other baguettes I've made.

I should stop for a moment and explain that this bread was fantastic. I took the baguettes to a family dinner and got tons of compliments. The crust was wonderfully crunchy, but perhaps a bit undercooked. I appreciate crunchy crust so much more now! The center was soft and dough-like. It was a delicious baguette!
One mistake I made was that I did not score them quite like I should have. I was experimenting. I took a sharp knife and only pressed it into the dough instead of sliding it. It didn't give the bread the nice score marks like I've done before.

Yes, this bread was great and I could see myself making it again. However, if I decided to make baguettes one day, I'm not sure what would draw me to this recipe over any of the other wonderful baguette recipes in this book. There is another layer of bread making I'm just not seeing yet- the subtle differences.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Modern Baker: Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Tart

I'm still baking sweet tarts and pies with my fellow Modern Bakers as we make our way through The Modern Baker cookbook. This chocolate orange hazelnut tart was a surprising hit for me.

I say surprising because I am usually not a huge fan of orange chocolate. I know tons of people love flavor in their chocolate, but I'm kind of boring in that I like my chocolate to just be chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised with this tart. The orange was not overpowering. It was light and mixed well with the chocolate and really well with the hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts. I dare say I think I liked this tart better than the divine Bittersweet Chocolate Tart from a few weeks ago.
It's a very small thing- but I so enjoyed doing the chocolate drizzle over the top too. Such fun and so divine!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Modern Baker: Blueberry Crumble Pie

I'm back with more sweet tarts and pies and the Modern Bakers as we continue baking from The Modern Baker cookbook.  I had not planned to bake this pie. I don't like blueberry pie. I love berry medley pies but I've never had a blueberry-only pie I've enjoyed much.

But, when Kayte, Phyl, and Abby all swore up and down this was the best blueberry pie ever, I had to try it. Abby also mentioned the blueberry crumb muffins from the beginning of this challenge. Those were fantastic! I knew if N.M. could make such a fantastic blueberry muffins, I'm sure his blueberry pie is decent enough.
I made 1/4 recipe which filled two 4 1/2'' tarts. I cooked the berries and sugar, whisked in the cornstarch, topped them with the crumble and baked. Oh yes, this is a great pie. First of all, the berries were tart. Those that know me know I love tart! I eat the red blackberries, prefer grapes early in the season, and have been known to peel and eat lemons like one eats and orange. Perhaps I'm just an early season blueberry pie maker when the blueberries are still nice and tart. For me, tart berries in pie is important because when the berries are sweet and mixed with sugar the resulting pie of often too sweet for me. In addition, I loved how gooey the pie was. It wasn't runny but it wasn't gelatinous. It was at that perfect gooey stage. So, a definite hit here!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Modern Baker: Mango & Rice Tart

The Modern Bakers are baking their way through The Modern Baker cookbook and we're still in the sweet tarts and pies section! It's a tough job but somebody has to try all these tarts!

The next tart up is mango and rice tart. I love mango sticky rice at Thai restaurants. It's my favorite dessert. I knew I'd like this tart as soon as I saw it and I wasn't disappointed. I made a 1/4 recipe to fill two 4 1/2'' tarts.

I guess my only small complaint is that I really like the sticky rice and this rice isn't sticky, however it doesn't claim to be either so maybe I'm just wishing N.M had made it a mango and sticky rice tart. It's really a small complaint. Sweet rice is insanely easy to make and who doesn't love mangoes around the house! Yummy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Leek and Cherry Tomato Clafouti

My good friend (in-real-life) and fellow food blogger Karen at Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market made this delicious clafouti for Mother's Day. Funny, how we now must make the distinction between real life friends and online friends.

Karen was recently featured on food52 a site founded by Amanda Hesser (former NYTimes food writer). Karen has been blogging all kinds of bean recipes this winter after joining a local bean CSA. I never knew beans could be so fun! I'm thinking of joining that CSA this winter.

This clafouti recipe caught my attention for a couple of reasons.
1. It looked like something I'd like.
2. I loved the pan Karen made hers in. Is that a paella pan??
3. I'd never heard of a clafouti before and was intrigued. I understand most clafoutis are traditionally desserts and this is a savory twist on one.
I began by roasting the tomatoes in the oven for half an hour. I then sauteed the leeks in butter and vermouth. (Another trip to the liquor store!) I made the clafouti batter and was ready to begin the assembly. Karen likened the beginning to making a crepe. I was a bit nervous. The last time I made anything crepe-like it was for my mom's manicotti recipe. Those things were hard.

I poured in a thin layer of batter. Let it cook until it was yellow and then assembled the clafouti with the leeks, tomatoes, and goat cheese. I poured in the rest of the batter and popped it all in the oven for an hour.

We ate it almost straight out of the oven. It was delicious! The clafouti was very light and eggy like a light quiche might be and the ingredients were fantastic. I particularly liked the roasted tomatoes. I got most of the tomatoes too as Austin is not a huge tomato fan. I think he's still recovering from three summers of working 7 days a week in a tomato factory in college. He was a quality control analyst testing for bacteria. Luckily, he never found any. If he had, he had the power to shut down the whole plant.

Penelope, the 19 month old was quite interested in what we were eating. She'd long finished her dinner (like 20 minutes beforehand) but came begging for a bite. We gave her a bite and she pulled up a chair and insisted on her own portion. A hit!! Thanks Karen!!!

Get the recipe here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Modern Baker: Sour-Cream Apple Pie

The Modern Bakers have been baking up sweet tarts and pies all spring. This sour-cream apple pie was requested specifically by my husband. He loves apple pie, especially apple pie with crumble topping. Overall, I tend to think apple pie is just okay.
Again, I'm making 1/4 of a recipe which fits into two 4 1/2'' tart pans. I chose to make it as a tart rather than a pie simply because I have small tart pans and no small pie pans. I was blown away by how easy apple pie is to make. Don't tell my husband though. He'll be requesting it all the time!
My verdict was that it was good, but remember apple pie isn't my thing. My husband took one bite and said, "Yeah, that's what I'm having for dinner." A few nights later when we had company for dinner and I broke out some tarts for dessert he was trying to convince them that the apple tart wasn't very good so that he could have it all to himself. If you're an apple pie fan, this tart is a home run!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Deceptively Delicious Spring

I have thumbed through Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious cookbook a number of times. I was intrigued with the concept and yet I wondered if I had the time. The concept: puree vegetables and fruits and then sneak a 1/2 cup or so of a puree into everyday dishes your kids eat. Your kids get their vegetables and you lessen the guilt and stress around food.
My girls are 3 and 18 months. Up until 6 months ago I didn't think we had much of a food issue in the house. Charlotte (3) ate everything. Then, she turned 3 and started having LOTS of opinions. To be fair she really does do a good job with food, but she's definitely shying away from things she used to eat with gusto- like vegetables.

I decided to give some of the Deceptively Delicious recipes a try. What could it hurt and I was interested in expanding my repertoire of basic kid-friendly foods. I might love to give scallops and beef daube a try, but the kids really aren't going to eat much- yet. I do serve it to them. I just don't insist they eat it. I'm all about exposure with occasional pressure to taste new things.

I wasn't completely sold on the whole concept. I never made my own baby food- too much work. Would this be a lot of work? But, the first time I served a dish- the french toast- and I watched the girls gobble down their french toast knowing they were getting a serving of vegetables- I was secretly thrilled.

I didn't plan to blog each post or post the recipes. Instead, I thought I'd just give a little summary of what I tried this spring and what we thought.

French Toast- butternut squash puree. Kids- Loved it. Me-Loved it!
Scrambled Eggs- cauliflower puree. Kids- Loved it. Me-meh.
Mac and Cheese 1- butternut squash puree. Who knew 3 year olds already know that mac and cheese must be elbow pasta. Charlotte already declared the dish wrong upon sight. I was trying to use up the pasta I had. Mistake. I'll try again with elbow pasta.
Banana Bread- cauliflower puree. I didn't bake it long enough so it wasn't cooked through and it didn't rise. Flop! However, the girls had helped me make it and kept pestering me for some. I tore off pieces of the top and they loved it.
Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins- cauliflower puree. OMG! Why on earth would I ever make banana bread again when I could make these muffins? Utterly Fantastic!!
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