Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deceptively Delicious Summer

We've been whipping up lots more Deceptively Delicious recipes this summer. Check out my post from the spring to see the first recipes we tried.

I must say that it's gotten a lot easier. I've even thrown purees into my own recipes! I think the most complicated part now is that I'll see a new recipe that I want to try but I won't have that puree on hand. Making a puree just for one recipe is a lot of work. I don't like that. The key I see is using purees often. I'm still working on that. We'll see if this sticks or was simply a fun experiment I tried for awhile.

Overall, I've been happy with the cookbook. I love Jessica's muffin recipes! Here's what else we've made recently.

Pancakes- sweet potato puree. Delicious!! We'll be doing these again as waffles!
Applesauce Muffins- sweet potato puree. The muffins were kind of plain to me, but the kids loved them. The crumble top is fantastic.
Egg Puffs- yellow squash puree. Utterly fantastic!
Green eggs- spinach puree. If you don't like cooked spinach (like me) just don't. Sorry Dr. Seuss, we won't be serving these for your birthday again.  Bring on the green food coloring next year!
Oatmeal- sweet potato puree. We don't eat much oatmeal at our house. I don't like oatmeal. (Although, I love oatmeal cookies.) The girls didn't eat much of this. I tried it and think it was probably one of the best oatmeals I've ever had, but I'm still just not an oatmeal person. If we ever decide to get into oatmeal, I'll start here again.
Blueberry Lemon Muffins- yellow squash puree. Kids- good! Me- Yum! A definite repeat! Like maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Truffles {Candy!}

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
It's been awhile since I've tried a Daring Baker's challenge. I couldn't resist when I saw it was candy this month. I've become intrigued with candy. It's quite challenging though and there is a part of me that wonders if I should actually learn how to make candy. If you know how to make it, it's all too easy to make.
Regardless, this candy was a fun experiment. I made a caramel sauce that was then poured over hazelnuts I had roasted. I actually had to make the caramel sauce twice as I had the heat up too high the first time and the caramel went from bubbling to black tar in a matter of seconds at one point. I called for backup before the smoke alarm went off since I was doing this post-kid-bedtime. Doors and windows flew open and I tried to figure out what to do with black bubbling sugar before it hardened and ruined my pan. A empty coffee can from the recycling helped out.
I made a second batch of caramel and this time watched it more closely. After the hazelnut and caramel cooled I broke them up and put them in the blended. Wow, that's loud! I added the ground mixture to my chocolate ganache and let it set.
Once the ganache has set I made little balls.
Rolled them in more ground roasted hazelnuts. And, set them in papers.
My truffles were not very round. I think the ganache was a bit soft so it was hard to get a round ball to stay round. They did well out of the fridge but slumped a lot when left out. Not perfectly pretty but sure tasty!!!

2nd Candy Recipe- 
I also tried a second candy recipe: Citrus Paté de Fruits- epoch fail! It never set! I even recooked it and added more (a lot more!) pectin. After re-reading the recipe 5 times and consulting my mom, stepmom, mother-in-law, and sister I'm pretty confident that my pectin was bad. I'll have to try this another time. From the finger dips I did in the mixture, it tasted great, it just never set. Maybe I should have just passed out spoon.
Citrus Pate de Fruits just slids around pan even after 8 hrs in fridge.
Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Truffles
Servings: Makes +- 30 truffles, recipe easily doubled or halved
Printable Recipe

Praline Ingredients:
½ cup hazelnuts, shelled & skinned
½ cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F
2. Place whole hazelnut on a non-stick baking tray and dry roast for 10mins
3. Allow to cool
4. Place hazelnuts in a clean dry kitchen towel and rub to remove the skins
5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicon mat
6. Place the skinned hazelnuts onto the prepared tray
7. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved
8. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil (do not stir), brushing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals
9. Boil until the mixture turns amber (160°C - 170°C / 320°F- 340°F on a candy thermometer)
10. Remove from heat immediately and pour the syrup over the hazelnuts
11. Allow to cool completely
12. Break into small pieces
13. Transfer pieces to a food processor and process until desired texture, either fine or rough
14. Set aside

Ganache Ingredients
1¾ cup Milk chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup Double/Heavy Cream (36% - 46% butterfat content)
Praline ingredient (above)
2-3 Tablespoons Frangelico Liqueur, optional
½ - 1 cup Crushed or Ground Roasted Hazelnuts for coating

1. Finely chop the milk chocolate
2. Place into a heatproof medium sized bowl
3. Heat cream in a saucepan until just about to boil
4. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until smooth and melted
5. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes
6. Stir in the praline and (optional) liqueur
7. Leave to cool and set overnight or for a few hours in the fridge
8. Bring to room temperature to use

Forming the truffles:
1. Using teaspoons or a melon baller, scoop round balls of ganache
2. Roll them between the palms of your hands to round them off
Tip: Handle them as little as possible to avoid melting
Tip: I suggest wearing food safe latex gloves, less messy and slightly less heat from your hands
3. Finish off by rolling the truffle in the crushed roasted hazelnuts
Tip: You can also roll them in hazelnut praline
4. Place on parchment paper and leave to set
Tip: They look great when put into small petit four cases and boxed up as a gift!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BBA #31: New York Deli Rye

The thirty-first bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is new york deli rye. I just happen to be baking this bread the day before some friends invited us over for brunch. I asked what we could bring and they said to bake something. Well, I had the perfect addition.

The recipe calls for white rye flour but I could only find dark rye flour. It recipe also calls for two diced onions, however it does not specify the size of the dice. I chose to dice them at a medium dice which turned out just fine but next time I think I'll try a finer dice. The chunks of onion where not off-putting but sometimes I wished they were smaller.
The proofing time got away from me and the loaves proofed quite a bit longer than I meant them to but they were right where they were supposed to be when I finally got back to them. Either this was just luck or the rising strength was pretty slow. I'm finding bread more forgiving than I previously thought. I used to be very meticulous in my timing. I'm realizing more that rise time is not like bake time. You can fudge it and it doesn't ruin the end product.

The bread tasted incredible! It's a definite favorite. This bread is not hearth baked and it's the first one in awhile that hasn't been. I now understand the distinct difference hearth baking makes in the bread- particularly the crust.

Hearth baking is when you bake on a baking stone and usually start the oven around 500 degrees. Hearth breads have crunchy crusts like baguettes. Other breads have crusts like sandwich bread. I must say I'm becoming quite partial to hearth baking.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

BBA #30: Basic Sourdough Bread

The thirtieth bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice is basic sourdough bread. This bread has make a bread baker out of me!

I made my first starter and sourdough bread months ago. The bread turned out quite well (rising and baking), but it wasn't very sour. I love sourdough bread and was feeling a little annoyed mine had not turned out the way I had hoped. I was preparing for the next bread but this basic sourdough kept nagging at me. I wanted to bake a real sourdough. The biggest problem was that I didn't know what to do to make it better.

Good thing I know some experienced bread bakers! I send a "help me!" email to Phyl. I followed his advice and ended up creating a new starter based on his Sourdough 101 Tutorial. (My old starter worked but the flavor never developed.)
I've been baking sourdough about every week for the past two months and I can now say that I know how to bake sourdough! My last two breads have been very nice! Chunky crusts and dense sour bread!

Now, how do I get it super sour? I see "extra sour" on breads in the store. How do they get the extra flavor? Developing my starter longer? Letting it ferment on counter longer? Or altering part of the bread making process to let it rise or proof longer?

My brother-in-law was telling me how much he loved sourdough bread. He said he once stayed the night with friends and in the morning decided to make pancakes with the leftover pancake batter on the counter. He made them and they were the best pancakes he'd ever had, although they were not very fluffy. Turns out it wasn't pancake batter. He used their sourdough starter. I thought this was both hilarious and interesting. I bet those were fantastic pancakes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baked Kale Chips

I've only recently discovered kale. Kale and bok choy where the two biggest veggie discoveries for me last year doing the CSA (community supported agriculture). I like sauteed kale but I could never get the kids to touch it.
I saw these on Smitten Kitchen over a year ago and have wanted to try them. My youngest has recently become addicted to nori. Trader Joes sells it in convenient little packages and she can eat a whole package in a sitting. I usually help her. The salty crunchiness is quite appealing. I thought she'd love kale chips too and I was right.
She ate two pans worth in a matter of minutes. Okay, to be fair there was a fair bit on her face, hands, and the floor too.
Baked Kale Chips
Adapted From: Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

1 bunch kale
olive oil
salt (I prefer kosher)

Preheat oven to 300°. Remove stems and centers from kale leaves. Cut or tear into pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp. Cool.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Modern Baker: Spinach and Feta Turnovers

The Modern Bakers are now in the puff pastry section of The Modern Baker cookbook! My official post for this section is the spinach and feta turnovers.

I made a half batch of the instant puff pastry and then divided the dough in half again to make these and the chocolate napoleons. The 1/4th recipe of the puff pastry made 5 turnovers. I made my turnovers larger than instructed at about 5 1/2 inch squares.

Puff pastry is almost too easy to make in the food processor. Watching all that butter go in will sure stop your heart!
I made a half recipe of the filling which includes: spinach, dill, scallions, feta, pepper, and eggs. I used 1 tsp of dried dill as I had no fresh dill on hand. Nick cautions against salting the filling before tasting because feta is salty on it's own. I found there to be no need for further salt.
I brushed the egg wash on the edges of each square and divided the filling between the squares.
I folded over each and sealed the edges.
I vented each turnover and baked.
The turnovers came out golden and flaky.
These turnovers were delicious! The puff pastry was flaky and the filling was gooey and flavorful. I'm not always a fan of cooked spinach but this recipe did it perfectly. I would caution those who are not big cooked spinach lovers to try and not saute the spinach for too long while preparing the filling.

Both toddlers loved it (even Charlotte who has an issue with 'green things' sometimes). They both gobbled up their pieces and asked for more. Honestly, I was a bit put out that they wanted the second half of theirs. I was sort of hoping to eat it myself. I guess that's the best endorsement I can make for this recipe- I was hoping my kids would refuse it so there would be more for me!

The alteration options are endless. Personally, I'd love to add mushrooms and maybe try some additional cheeses. I bet Parmesan would be wonderful.
Thumbs up for this recipe!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Modern Baker: Perfect Elephant Ears

The Modern Bakers are now in the puff pastry section of The Modern Baker cookbook! I'll go ahead and state right from the start that I probably will not be baking many of the puff pastry recipes. This is not because they don't look delicious or because I don't like puff pastry. It's a baking lifestyle choice. Much like my decision to not learn to fry foods. I holding out on putting puff pastry into my baking skills. Puff pastry is basically flour and butter and a lot of it. It's good, but I can live without it.

With that said, I make no guarantees and reserve the right to bake every last one of the recipes if I so choose. Going forward though, I absolutely had to give this recipe a try.

When I first saw the recipe title I was so excited. I LOVE elephant ears (the fried dough kind) that you get at the fair. In fact, I'm not sure you can actually say you've gone to the fair if you don't get one. These elephant ears are not fried dough though, they're rolled puff pastry.
I began by making the instant puff pastry dough in the food processor. It was quite easy as most of N.M.'s doughs are. I chilled the dough thoroughly and then proceeded with the directions to make the elephant ears. It involves pressing, rolling and folding the pastry dough and instead of rolling out on flour, you roll out on sugar.

After I finished the folding and started the cutting I wasn't sure I'd done it right. The dough looked nothing like the picture. It was much like a towel or sheets you fold up to put in the closet. But, once it hit the oven the expanding happened like magic and my elephant ears came out perfectly.
They were delicious, crisp and buttery. Who knew such simple goodness could be made with only flour, salt, water, butter, and sugar.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Little Sous Chef?

Penelope absolutely insisted (in the way that only a one year old can) that we bring this book home from the library. Aspiring chef or a comment on my cooking? I choose to believe the former.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

BBA #29: Pugliese

The twenty-ninth bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is pugliese. This bread is inspired by the region in southeastern Italy. It is very similar to ciabatta. I was thrilled when I read this. I didn't read the intro to this bread before baking it. After I made it, I thought it really reminded me of ciabatta. When I read that it is very similar to cibatta I was so excited! I must be doing something right in this bread baking! My bread tasted like cibatta!
This is a wet dough to work with and this time I really enjoyed it. Reinhart lists using fancy durum flour. I tried two stores, one an upscale grocery store, and I couldn't find any. I opted to just use all bread flour for the bread. I'm curious how the durum flour would alter the bread though.

My scoring marks weren't very clean again. I need one of those lame tools. Again, my holes are not even close to what Reinhart shows in his picture. How do you get those great big holes? The flavor of the bread was great and the crust was deliciously crunchy. I'm liking the hearth baked breads and the crusts that result from hearth baking.
I made a full batch of this bread but didn't have a lot of time this week to eat two loaves. The bread was getting a bit dried out and I was trying to think of a creative way to use it up. Hello french toast!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Modern Baker: Perfect Pound Cake

Perfect. That's quite a title to live up to!

Yes, this cake out of Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker Cookbook is absolutely perfect. My fellow Modern Bakers should prepare for total enjoyment! (Yes, I'm jumping ahead a bit, but a day of berry picking necessitated some perfect pound cake.)

The preparation process for this cake is quite unique and you will need many bowls! I enjoyed that this little cake required me to fulfill my blog title. I've never had some many dirty dishes for one little 9x5 cake.

Here's the process:
The egg yolks are whipped with the sugar and extracts.
The yolks are set aside and the butter is then beat in the uncleaned bowl.
The flour is beat with the butter.
The flour and butter paste is scraped into the yolks and mixed.
The electric mixing bowl is cleaned and the egg whites are whipped until firm.
The egg whites and cake mixture are combined.
Everything goes back into the mixer for a good long beating.

Given that most cakes either use a "throw it all in the bowl and mix" strategy or the boring classic "cream butter into sugar" process this cake is rather fussy. The results though seem to warrant it. Had I been thinking ahead of time I would have documented the process in photos.

The cake was dense and the flavor quite light without being blah. It is as perfect pound cake should be- a delicious canvas for whatever you're adding. Today, we added freshly picked raspberries and marionberries.

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