Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TWD: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars (BCM)

I'm back!  I did not post with TWD last week, as (1) I was on vacation in Florida (yeah, me!) and (2) when I looked for barley flour in the grocery store I couldn't find it and decided it wasn't worth the stress of getting "pebble bread" done before vacation.  But I am back this week with Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars, from Baking Chez Moi

This cookie is sort of like a super-fancy rice-crispy treat, but better!  My family was not a big fan of the marshmallow-y rice-crispy treat, so my mom made them with peanut butter instead.  This was definitely an improvement, but nothing compared to working with CARAMELIZED rice crispies!  Yes, caramelized.  That even sounds better, right?

The base of this cookie is what I think a sugar cookie would taste like if made with brown sugar instead of white.  Though Dorie says that the cookie layer is thin and chewy, mine was more crunchy, but not overly hard.  Many fellow bloggers had warned about baking the cookie layer too long, so I kept a close eye on mine and took it out as soon as it started getting golden brown.  I maybe should have taken it out sooner to get the chewy texture Dorie describes...

On top of the cookie is a thin layer of dark chocolate.  You literally chop it into small pieces and spread them over the cookie bottom when it is still hot from the oven.  Pop it into the still-warm oven for a few moments and then spread that melted chocolate all over the cookie.  Mmmm.

Now, it is the top layer that is the most important.  This is where the caramelized rice crispies come into play.  Before starting this entire project, the caramelized rice crispies are prepared and allowed to form a sort of brittle.  This crunchy deliciousness is crumbled on top of the melted chocolate and then the entire thing is refrigerated until the chocolate hardens.

What you end up with is a crunchy, fun sweet treat!  This would be fun for a school bake sale - a surprising upgrade from your typical rice crispy treat.  The end result is pretty sweet, and you could probably get away with cutting them into smaller pieces, to be honest.  But they are fun to eat and oh, that caramelized topping.  I'll be making more of that to put on ice cream and such!

These bars are a bit hard to cut and eat, as bits of caramelized rice crispies fly off in every direction.  But finding those little bits of goodness makes it all fine in the end!

The recipe for Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars can be found on pages 324-325 of Baking Chez Moi.  If you google the recipe, you will find some people who have posted the recipe on their blogs, but you might just want to buy the book instead...  It's a good one!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Belated Pi Day!

Happy Belated Pi Day!  Yes, I know I am late, but I have good reason!  And the mathy part of me just could not let this date pass me by.  By date, I'm talking about 3-14-15, and if you remember back to geometry class, Pi equals 3.1415....  There won't be another date like this!  Thus, March 14, 2015 was the best Pi day we will have in my lifetime, and what better way to celebrate than baking a pie?  It turns out that we left for Spring Break on March 13, and got to Florida on the 14th.  I did not have the ability (or groceries) to bake a pie right then, so I made it on the 15th instead.  And then didn't blog about it til now, because, well, I was on vacation!

We were on a beach vacation so I decided we needed a beachy pie.  I found  recipe for Pina Colada Pie!  Mmmm, hmmm.  If you are thinking, yum, you would be right!  However this ended up being somewhat of a comedy of errors pie as well.  See, I (being the baking nerd that I am) actually made and froze a pie dough disk in advance to bring to Florida.  Which totally worked.  However when I chose my Pina Colada Pie recipe, I did not think about the fact that you CAN NOT par-bake a pie with no weights inside.  I had not thought of bringing pie weights or buying dried beans, so guess what?  My delicious home-made pie crust slid down the sides of the pie pan and bubbled up in the middle and was pretty much a bona-fide mess!  Time for Plan B!  The pie recipe actually called for breaking up pecan cookies to make into a crust, so since I had thankfully brought a sleeve of graham crackers (theoretically for the clever boy's snacks), I used them for the cookies!  Problem solved!  Oh, and I sprinkled some brown sugar and cinnamon over the weirdo-looking pie shell, baked it for a bit longer, and we had that as a random treat.  I can't throw a delicious (though ugly) pie crust in the trash!

Ok, now that that craziness is all explained, let's talk about the actual pie!!  As I mentioned, the pie crust is made of crushed graham crackers (cookies), which is mixed with coconut and butter, pressed into a pie pan, and baked until browned.  The crust is topped with a layer of pineapple compote - crushed pineapple cooked with sugar and cornstarch until thick.  I added about a cup of coconut to this layer (as I originally thought I'd be using a regular pie crust and not have actual coconut anywhere in the pie).  On top of this comes a creamy layer of cream cheese, coconut cream and eggs.  The entire pie is baked, then you top this with whipped cream that has been beaten with more coconut cream.  I sprinkled toasted coconut around the edges and into a Pi shape in the middle.  Yum.  I mean. YUM.  It tastes like vacation in pie form!

Want to make this beachy treat for your family?  Here is the recipe!

Pina Colada Pie
adapted from Southern Living
2 cups pecan shortbread cookie crumbs (about 16 cookies) or 1 sleeve of graham crackers
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple in juice
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups coconut cream (1 can - you can find this in the Asian section of the grocery store near coconut milk, OR near mix-ins for cocktails, called "cream of coconut" and often the Coco Lopez brand)
2 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream


Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together the cookie crumbs, coconut and butter, and press against the bottom and sides of a lightly buttered deep dish pie pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  

Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small heavy saucepan.  Stir in the pineapple (I added 1 cup flaked coconut here).  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Cook for 1 minute (keep stirring) until thickened.  Allow to cool completely (takes about 20 minutes).

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, using whisk attachment, until smooth. Slowly add 1 cup coconut cream, beating at low speed just until blended.  Refrigerate the remaining 1/2 cup coconut cream until later.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended each time.

Spread the cooled pineapple mixture over the crust, then spread the cream mixture over the pineapple.  Bake for 38-42 minutes, until set.  Cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours. 

Beat the whipping cream on high speed until foamy.  Add the coconut cream and continue to beat until soft-to-somewhat firm peaks form.  Spread over the pie.  Optional:  top with toasted coconut.
Printable Recipe

All in all, this turned out to be a super delicious pie!  I would definitely make it again, though this time I'd do the crust the right way from the start!

Did you do anything special for pi day??

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Lemon Madeleines

Lemon Madeleines, from Baking Chez Moi.  Yes, the glaze is a bit drippy looking.  Let's just ignore that, shall we?  I should probably entitled this "looks can be deceiving" or something, as that would certainly be appropriate.  

My madeleines don't look anything like the glorious picture in the book.  They were supposed to be a bit more golden instead of brown, and have a lovely hump on the underside.  My oven temp seems to be off, which would explain the darkness of the madeleine.  Plus I super overfilled the pan, as the recipe said it would make 12 so I just used all of the batter in the 12 madeleine holes, instead of getting out my second pan and putting some in there.  They certainly would have looked prettier if they hadn't overflowed the pan.

This recipe was supposed to GUARANTEE a lovely  hump on the non-grooved side, which mine did not get.  This also could be due to overfilling the pan, I suppose.

However, looks aren't everything, because these are delicious little lemony treats.  I want to make a cup of tea and devour the entire bunch.  I will make these again someday.  That time I'll use more pans and see if that makes a difference.  But really, looks aren't everything.  These taste delicious, which is what it's really about!

The recipe for the Lemon Madeleines can be found on pages 212 -213 on Baking Chez Moi

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TWD: Baking with Julia - Not-Your-Usual Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie is something I have made many times.  We are pretty big lemon pie eaters in my family, on both sides, actually.  It is my dad's favorite and something Mr. Clever Mom requests as well.  This is not to say that I make the perfect lemon meringue pie.  Not at all.  In fact recently I tried a lemon icebox pie and found that to MAYBE be superior to a lemon meringue....  (fighting words!)

Anyway, when I saw this week's recipe, literally entitled "not-your-usual lemon meringue pie" I definitely gave it a second look.  Huh.  It is sort of like a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, I would say.  Sign me up!

You start with making a lemon curd.  I followed the recipe against my better judgement, in that I used the requested amount of sugar.  We are tart lemon pie lovers, not sweet.  So I should have reduced the amount of sugar or used more lemon zest.  However if you like a sweeter lemon pie, the amount of sweetness might be just fine for you.  Even on our regular lemon meringues we drastically reduce the sugar amount.  Pucker up!

After the curd is made, it has to sit in the refrigerator for a little while to set.  In the mean time, you can take a nap as the rest of this recipe is really pretty simple to put together!

Using phyllo dough (from the frozen section of the grocery store), you make little triangles that are layered with clarified butter and sugar, and then baked until crispy.  This is the deconstructed crust.  You were supposed to bake this with a baking sheet on the top so that the phyllo does not puff, but instead I baked it most of the way with the sheet on top and then removed it for the last minute or so, which allowed the phyllo to brown a little.  No puffiness!

By the way, is anyone else watching The Great British Baking Challenge on PBS??  If so, I haven't watched the finale yet so don't spoil it, ok?  In a recent episode they MADE phyllo dough.  As in FROM SCRATCH.  Holy guacamole it was incredible.  These are home bakers, and their challenge was to make homemade phyllo.  I just sat there with my mouth gaping open, watching them pull the dough so thin!  (I do typically watch this show with my mouth gaping open at the bakers total amazingness, and drooling a bit as well, to be honest!  It really does  blow my mind!)  If you haven't been watching this show, I highly recommend seeking it out.  It is available "on demand" here... 

Anyway, back to the deconstructed lemon meringue pie!  Once the phyllo is made into crispy little triangles, whip up some egg whites with brown sugar and then all of the components are ready!

Here we go!  Layer one phyllo triangle,

Spread some lemon curd on the top,

Then top it with a zig-zag of meringue and torch the top.
Repeat this layering one more time and then end with a triangle.  Dust with powdered sugar and there you go!

This was a fun little treat to eat.  I liked breaking apart the phyllo triangles to get a full piece, and they provided a nice crunch to a pie with soft fillings.  Had I reduced the sweetness in the lemon curd, this pie would have been perfect!

Fun, relatively easy, and tasty!  A win-win over here!

You can find this recipe on pages 403-405 of Baking with Julia, or you can also find it here.   I made half of the recipe for  my little family, which worked out just perfectly!  Click on over to the Tuesday's with Dorie blog and check out what the other bakers though of this recipe, okay?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Pink Grapefruit Tart

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Pink Grapefruit Tart.  This is a tasty recipe that has a LOT of steps.  I am not trying to dissuade you from wanting to make this recipe, I am just warning you that there are lots of steps that have hours of timing inbetween.  Figuring out how to actually plan for this tart was more than I could handle, so it wasn't actually chilled enough at dessert time and was eaten later.  No big deal, it just meant that the clever girl didn't get a piece at that time as she was already in bed.  However that worked out fine, as quite honestly I don't think she would have cared for this tart. Which is not to say that it isn't good, because it is.  But there is a bitter component that I am certain she would not like.  You'll understand as I go along...

Are you ready for the components of this tart?  Looks like there isn't much, doesn't it?  Ha.  First, there is the sweet tart dough.  Easy to mix together, and the it is refrigerated for at least 2 hours, then rolled out and placed into the pan, then chilled again for 30 minutes.  Bake for approximately 35 minutes and allow to totally cool.  That's step 1.  Other steps can be made simultaneously, as there are lots of different timing issues in this recipe.

Next:  Lemon Almond Cream.  This is essentially butter, brown sugar, almond flour, lemon zest and an egg, that get whirled together and the refrigerated for at least 1 hour.  I was excited for this element, as it gave me a chance to use the almond flour that I made by drying some pulp from making almond milk!  Almond milk is my new true love and I make it extremely often so we always have some available.  Thus I have lots of almond pulp left over for which I try to figure out uses.  Almond flour is one of my first!  The bonus is that this almond flour also contains a little vanilla and date, as that is how I make my almond milk.  Mmmm.  I digress...  Let's continue with the Pink Grapefruit Tart components as we are still just beginning...

The next item is grapefruit cremeux.  Here is where I learned a great lesson.  Well, maybe two lessons.  Fresh grapefruit juice is used in this mixture.  So of the 100's of giant Texas grapefruits I purchase and eat every year, there are always a handful that are not very sweet, they are a bit more bitter.  Of course the grapefruit I grabbed to juice for this recipe was one of those!  And of course, I did not taste the juice before using it, as that would have been the OBVIOUS thing to do.  I realized the problem when the cremeaux was almost finished and I noticed a tiny bit of grapefruit pulp sitting by, so I tasted it.  Ack!  I was horrified.  Doubly horrified as I knew that another ingredient for the cremeaux is Campari.  I didn't know anything about Campari before I bought it and then checked it out via my friend Google.  (Had I done that first I probably would not have purchased it, and used Grand Marnier instead or something).  About.com uses these terms to describe Campari:  "extremely unique flavor" of "very bitter orange", it "takes some getting used to" which "might take a few years".  Years?  Good grief.  So here I have a bitter liquor mixing with bitter grapefruit to make a tasty dessert?  Yikes.  I used  little less Campri and added 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar towards the end of making the cremeaux (when I realized my predicament) and hoped for the best.  Honestly, had i used a normal sweet grapefruit, it would have been MUCH better.  You live, you learn.  My lessons here?  Taste, taste, taste.  Oh, and don't work on desserts after drinking 3 glasses of wine.  Just saying.  Probably not my best choice...

Oh, in case you are wondering, the cremeaux has to chill for at least 6 hours.

Then there are the grapefruit supremes.  They are supposed to sit between thick layers of paper towels for 3-8 hours BEFORE you plan to eat the tart.

The lemon almond cream is spread in the tart shell and then baked, then it has to chill completely before the cremeaux is spread inside.  Then, guess what, the whole tart is refrigerated AGAIN after you place the supremes on top, for at least 2 hours.

You see the timing confusion here?  Easy steps, but lots of timing issues!

Taste:  The crust is kind of like a shortbread cookie, yum.  The lemon almond cream is good, though I probably could have used less lemon zest.  It called for the zest of one lemon, and since lemons differ in size I may have used too much.  Good though.  The cremeux definitely has a bitter tone, but isn't bad, especially when you get a piece of the supreme with your bite.  The burst of sweet juiciness of the supreme makes up for the bitter in the cremeux.  Oh, and I served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  Mmmm. 

Would I make this again?  I would love to taste it with a sweet grapefruit inside instead of the crummy bitter one I used.  But I don't think it is worth the extensive timing for this dessert.  It is beautiful and fairly tasty, but a ton of prep.  Maybe one of the other bakers figured out a better way to coordinate the timing of this one.  I should have planned this by figuring out what time I wanted to eat the tart and worked backwards from there to figure out the right timing, probably.  But that takes real forethought, which I rarely have on  good day it seems, and certainly don't have after 3 glasses of wine!

The recipe for the Pink Grapefruit Tart is on pages 139-141 of Baking Chez Moi

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yummy Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

I regularly get a hankering for chocolate chips cookies.  Very very regularly.  This time my hankering took a different turn... I wanted oatmeal, too.  Weird, as I am often a chocolate chip cookie purist, but I had to go with the craving.  What else was I to do?  So I found a recipe that I thought might just  be what I "needed", and boy was I right!  Whooey, these are some delicious cookies!  I changed the recipe a bit by adding chopped toasted pecans to the batter (if I am going to get crazy with my cookies, I might as well go all the way)!  Holey moley, these are so good I wonder if I will still make my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe as often....?  We'll see!

Here is an awesome trick I tried with this recipe.....  FREEZE cookie balls, then just pop a few in the oven when you start eating dinner to have FRESH BAKED cookies whenever you want them!!!  Oh, heaven...   Why haven't I done this before???

Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
adapted a bit from King Arthur Flour
yield depends.... see below

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats (quick cooking would work, too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/4 teaspoon regular salt)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 325F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugars together until they are smooth.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Decide what size cookies you want.  I used my new 3/4 oz. cookie scoop (1 1/2 TB) and ended up with approximately 36 cookies.  If you use a muffin scoop (1/4 cup) you'll end up with about 20 cookies.  A tablespoon cookie scoop will give you around 50 cookies. 

Scoop the dough onto the parchment covered sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  Scoop as many as you want to bake right now onto that sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden brown and slightly darker on the edges.  Remove from the oven and let them sit on the pan for around 5 minutes, until fully set.  Transfer to racks to cool.

Scoop the remaining batter onto another parchment covered sheet, as close together as you want.  This pan will go into the freezer so the spacing does not matter.  Freeze  until the cookie balls are solid, then remove the pan from the freezer and place all of the cookie balls into a freezer zip-lock bag.  Mark on the bag that you will want to bake these at 325F for around 14-16 minutes (a tad longer because they start from frozen).  When you are ready for more fresh cookies, place some cookie balls onto a parchment covered sheet and bake! 
Printable Recipe

These cookies are finger-licking good!  Yum.  Another benefit of having frozen cookie dough?  You have fewer actual cookies sitting around, so it is harder to act on impulse and eat a cookie.  You have to actually heat the oven and wait, instead of just popping your hand into the cookie jar.  That extra step is SUPER helpful to me and my complete lack of self control when it comes to chocolate chip cookies in the house!

I will be very sad when my freezer bag is empty.  Knowing that there are cookie balls in my freezer is very comforting to me.  All is right with the world.  It's a good thing the ingredients for this cookie are items I always have on hand!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TWD: Baking with Julia - Creme Bruleed Chocolate Bundt

Our recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie this week is Creme Bruleed Chocolate Bundt cake.  Since it was chosen at a time that corresponds with Valentine's Day, I think many of us probably served it then.  I did, anyway!  We had some neighbor friends over for dinner, which is a good plan as this cake serves a lot and I certainly don't need to eat the entire thing!!

So let's think about this - it is a chocolate bundt cake that is filled with liqueur soaked raspberries and then topped with a light creme brulee custard and then caramelized.  Um, okay, sign me up!  Let's go over the individual elements:

The cake itself is a recipe I would make again even just on its own.  It is delicious.  Super moist and chocolatey.  And guess what, it involved lots of folding and I did a good job!  Maybe I am getting better at this folding business...  Hoping that is true, anyway!  So, chocolate bundt?  Yum.

The next element is the berries...  This is simply raspberries that are tossed with liqueur.  I used a raspberry brandy that we happened to have.  I think I would use less liqueur next time, as it was a bit strong for me.  Plus it ran out under the cake and then mixed a bit strangely with the custard that came next.  So, liqueur soaked raspberries?  Okay but needs a slight revision.

Finally, we get the creme brulee.  To be honest, I am not sure what makes this a creme brulee and not a creme anglaise.  Is there a difference, really?  This is a creme brulee that you can pour, which is unlike any creme brulee that I have ever had.  Which is not to say that this was bad in any way, but I had a different idea in my head as to what it was going to be like.  Unless maybe I screwed up somewhere and it really was supposed to be thicker?  But then you couldn't pour it over the top of the cake, so surely not.  Anyway, the "creme brulee" was delicious (as it always is, thick or thin!)

Overall?  Yum.  The adults all really liked the cake.  The kids did not, but I think that was because of the brandy in the raspberries.  This was not a difficult dessert to make,  it just took a little planning ahead to allow the creme brulee to refrigerate for a while.  It certainly has great visual appeal and looks like you did something tremendous, especially when you pull out a brulee torch! 

You can find the recipe on pages 280-281 of Baking with Julia, or you can find it here.  To see what some of the other bakers thought of this dessert, head to the Baking with Dorie blog and check out the LYL posts (leave your link).