Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie

This time it wasn’t my fault.

You see… I’m not the only one with a chocolate chip cookie obsession. A couple of weeks ago a little publication called The New York Times (maybe you’ve heard of it?) published this article along with a recipe for what it considered to be the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe (written by Jacques Torres no less).

The article talks about the wonders of chilling your dough. Which, I’ve been a big believer of, anyway. It suggests chilling your dough at least 24 hours, but 36-72 at best. Which is definitely longer than I’d chilled doughs in the past. Usually I would just chill my dough for 2-3 hours to let the butter firm back up.

I decided to not just make these cookies to test them; I decided to bake them along with the recipe that I had previously loved David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe link below): So, I’d have a real comparison.

I made both batches at the same time and stuck them in the fridge where they chilled out for the full 72 hours (I know, I could BARELY stand it, but I can’t deny sneaking bites of dough every once in awhile when I walked by the fridge… god, I love chocolate chip cookie dough).

The recipes are pretty different. The Torres recipe calls for a mixture of bread flour and cake flour. The butter proportions were also different… but, I used the same chocolate chips in both recipes. I didn’t have those fancy dancy chocolate disks and I didn’t need them. My Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips are good enough for me. And it was only fair to use the same chocolate in each recipe.

Both doughs were delicious. I mean, really… I couldn’t say that I liked one more than the either. The Torres dough seemed to be thicker, I think it had more flour than the Lebovitz recipe, but they both tasted great. I LOVE cookie dough, so it’s hard for me to pick a clear favorite there.

Then it was time for the baking. The Lebovitz recipe calls for a much lower temperature, so I baked them first and then cranked the oven up to bake the Torres cookies. I used a cookie scoop and tried to make both cookies the same size (about two scoops of dough per cookie, I have a small scoop). A note on the Torres recipe.. it calls for a sprinkling of sea salt on top. Which, I did do…. But, I didn’t do it to the Lebovitz cookies.

Okay enough with the recipe differences, etc… I know what you’re really here for…



The Lebovitz cookies came out huge and thin.

The Torres cookies came out thick and pretty. I have to admit, the flecks of sea salt kind of threw me off, but aside from that, they looked beautiful.

Appearance Winner: Torres cookie.


Who cares about appearance, I mean the taste is what really matters with a chocolate chip cookie right?

The Lebovitz cookie tasted just as good as it always does. Slightly crunchy edges, very buttery flavor and super, super chewy. I love chewy, so this is a bonus for me.

The Torres cookie tasted absolutely phenomenal. It’s like the grown up version of the Lebovitz cookie (and admittedly…. I totally didn’t want to like this fancy recipe, I wanted Lebovitz to totally knock this cookie on its fancy French ass). The cookies are thick and crispy edged and crispy edged all around, but chewy in the center. With just enough chew… not too much (after eating this cookie, I felt that maybe Lebovitz’s were TOO chewy… maybe your jaw doesn’t have to hurt after eating a cookie for it to be perfectly chewy). And the salt... Wow. As soon as your tongue hits the salt, the saliva bursts in your mouth (sounds dirty, huh… kinda felt that way, too, but in an oooohhh so good way) and allows you to taste the sweetness of the cookie. It’s like the salt amplifies the flavors of the cookie… the sugar, the chocolate, the vanilla. It’s all amplified by the salty pockets on top.

Taste Winner: Torres Cookies

Milk Dunking and Milk-laden taste:

I’m a milk drinker, so this is an important category for me. I like my cookies to stand up in a glass of milk and for the flavor of the cookie to barrel through the milk flavor. It’s a delicate matter.

The Lebovitz cookie has a tendency to crumble into the glass, which I don’t like. And since it’s a thinner cookie with more butter proportionally, the milk doesn’t get absorbed too well into the cookie.

The Torres cookie… well, eating this cookie dunked in a glass of milk was seriously one of the best taste experiences I’ve ever had. And I’m not kidding. The cookie was thick enough to hold up to the milk and not crumble and held a good amount of milk within the cookie. Perfection. Sheer perfection.

Milk Dunking Winner: Torres Cookies

So, there you have it folks. In my opinion, the Torres cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. Better than bakery cookies, better than toll house tube cookies, better than your mom’s recipe (sure, I’ve never had her cookies, but I can assure you that they aren’t this good). They are my perfect cookie.

Maybe my quest is finally over…

Here is the recipe for the Lebovitz cookie. Which, is a DELICIOUS cookie. Don’t get me wrong. If I needed to whip up a quick batch of cookies or didn’t have bread flour or cake flour on hand, I’d make these cookies.

But, this recipe for the Torres cookies…. is the best. Give it a try and let me know how it holds up against your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TWD: Summer Fruit Galette

Well played, Dorie... well, played, indeed.

Just when I was feeling a little disheartened... you come back with a vengeance. I felt like we'd gone through some rough patches lately. I'm not sure who's to blame, honestly... whether it's my inexperience with baking catching up with me, or possibly we just have different tastes. Whatever the case, I hadn't been too thrilled with the finished products for the bulk of the last few recipes. Sure, some of them were good. But they weren't anything special. The cobblers, the blueberry pie... none of those turned out well for me. I was starting to get frustrated...

Food Processor?? Bah! Who needs it when you got a pastry cutter?
When I saw that the latest Tuesdays with Dorie pick was a Summer Fruit Galette chosen by Michelle of Michelle in Colorado Springs, I set my expectations low... since I'd been bombing with the fruit selections lately.

A galette is kind of like an open faced pie. You use a pie crust, dump some fruit in the center and then fold up the sides around the fruit.

Cherry Preserves... so pretty and so damn tasty!

I decided to halve the recipe (per usual with me) and started preparing it Sunday. It came together pretty easily. We got to choose our own fruits and fruit preserves for the recipe and I chose fresh sliced peaches and cherry preserves. And yes, I was worried about the combination... I'd never had peaches and cherries together... but I was hopeful that my love of the two separately would also translate to a love of the two together.

Even after a quick blanch, these peaches didn't want to lose their peel.... ornery little buggers.

Everything came together quickly and easily... This was my first time with a galette and I gladly welcomed it's free-formedness (yeah, you're right, it's not a word).

No pinching required... just folding.

I did do one kind of stupid thing though... after I smeared the dough with the preserves, I decided to be smart and pop the pan in the freezer, while I peeled my peaches.

All folded and ready for the first trip to the oven

And yeah, great idea, you're thinking, right? Well... wrong. It got a little hard and dry in the freezer and so I had a little bit of a time folding it up without it just straight up cracking on me. I had to do some minor touch ups with water... and hey... it's free-form, it's supposed to look rustic, right?

The galette cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes and then the recipe instructed us to pull it out and spoon in a "custard" mixture into the center of the filling. Weird sounding, right??

Yes, I admit, I was nervous spooning this custardy mix into the center of the Galette...

When it came to making the custard, that was a breeze and I was able to fit about 2 tablespoons into my galette.

Thank god for Silpats.

But by the time I pulled the galette out of the oven for the last time, the custard had set (not weird looking anymore!) and looked like it belong there. The pan was all oozy and bubbly when I set it down on the counter. And the smell. Ohhhhhh the smell of peaches.

At this point, I admit.... I started to get a little excited. I mean, it looked so damn good and it smelled good. I couldn't wait for it to cool off.

This dessert, is absolutely amazing! The mixture of the fresh peaches with the cherry preserves and the sweetness of the custard in the center that just blends effortlessly into the filling. Yum! Yum! Yum! The crust was of course flaky, yet tender (god, I love that pie crust recipe). I will definitely, definitely be making this recipe again. Next time, I'll use more cherry preserves and maybe I'll even throw a few cherries into the filling as well.

This was a home run. Thank you, Dorie and thank you, Michelle for picking this recipe!

Check out the blogroll at Tuesdays with Dorie and if you want the recipe (and yes... trust me, you do) buy Dorie's Book... Baking: From My Home to Yours or go to the above link to Michelle's blog.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coconut Cake

My Grandma loved coconut cake. It was her cake of choice for birthday, mother’s day, etc. And usually someone would bring one to Christmas, too. She liked the big, tall kind that you get at the grocery store that comes in the big plastic container with the cherry on top. Those cakes were basically just butter cakes with a marshmallow-type filling that had coconut inside it and then coconut pressed all along the sides.

At the age of 89, my Grandma passed away this past Tuesday morning. She lived a happy, long life. I mean, 89 years! That’s fantastic! And the bulk of those 89 years she was healthy and happy. Having a grandparent around for 28 years is a blessing that a lot of people don’t get in their lives, so, I am very thankful for that. And thankful for all the memories I have of her.

With that being said, though.... this has been a really hard week for me and my family. My heart is completely broken and unfortunately, there really isn’t anything that can make it better, besides time.

So, I’ve tried to figure out how to deal with the grief. And that’s where the coconut cake comes into play… it was a nice distraction… first, I spent an hour or so at work on friday (sorry, boss, I know I should have been working, particularly since I missed a lot of work this week) trying to find just the right recipe (more on that later). And then the recipe took me to the grocery store Friday after work… seeking out the ingredients and then once home: the measuring, stirring, and baking… But, it wasn’t just a distraction, it was also therapeutic.

I entered into the recipe with trepidation… I knew this had the potential to be a disastrous situation. I mean, here I am, mourning the loss of my grandma, trying to bake her favorite cake two days after her funeral. I had to remember, that this cake wasn’t a tribute to my grandma, so it didn’t have to be perfect. It was more of an honor to her memory and a celebration of her life and the way she lived it.

The cake that I finally decided on, seemed like the perfect recipe. It appeared to be much like the simple, basic cakes she loved from the grocery store. It’s not your fancy restaurant type of cake. Though don’t get me wrong, this cake sounds divine and I will certainly be making it one day… it wasn’t the right recipe for this occasion. I wanted to come up with a regular coconut cake recipe to make on special occasions to honor her.

This recipe seemed to headed in the right direction. I didn't want to make a huge cake, so I halved the recipe and tweaked it a bit for my tastes. I ended up with one cake pan layer that I split into half and then iced. It turned out delicious and you know what? It kinda worked. Making this cake and sharing it with my mom and dad made me feel a little better. And I know that this would be a cake that grandma would love.

Coconut Cake - Grandma Style

This recipe is adapted from the above linked recipe for Nee Nee's Prized Coconut Cake on Recipezaar. I only made a half recipe, and half a recipe only fit in one 9 inch cake pan, so instead of a 3 layer cake full recipe, I think this is actually only a two layer cake full recipe, FYI. I'm posting the full recipe.

Also, FYI, this is what I consider a traditional coconut cake. Very sweet and very moist. If you don't like your cakes full of sugar and sweetness, then you won't like this cake.

Oh, and another FYI... this recipe is easy, but it dirties up a lot of bowls!

For the Cake:
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
1 lb Powdered Sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk (i used lite)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut
1/4 tsp coconut extract

For the layers: (you might need more of this, depending on how many layers you make your cake)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup light karo syrup
6 tbsp of water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut flavoring
2 cups of coconut (I used frozen kind-defrosted)
Additional Coconut for outside of cake (the dry shredded kind)

For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine boiling water to butter and sugar. Cream well with mixer (2-3 minutes). Add 4 egg yolks (reserve all the egg whites in a separate bowl), one at a time, beating well with each addition. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together 3 times.

Alternate adding your dry ingredients with the coconut milk to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla and coconut extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat your egg whites till stiff and then fold them and the coconut into the cake batter gently by hand. Pour into cake pans and put in the over for about 20-25 minutes.

Take the cakes out and allow to cool.

Layer Glaze:
Combine the coconut milk and powdered sugar in a bowl. Whisk till smooth. With a pastry brush, brush the mixture over each layer before you but a layer of frosting down. The more generous you are with this glaze, the moister your cake will be.

Combine egg whites, sugar, syrup, walter, salt and cream of tartar. Place in a double boiler over boiling water. Beat with a hand mixer until mixture stands with peaks (approximately 7 minutes or so). Remove from heat, add vanilla and coconut flavoring and continue to beat until thick enough to spread. Place a layer of the icing on top of the glazed layers and then sprinkle with the defrosted frozen coconut before placing the next cake layer and repeating process.

Frost entire cake in icing and cover with shredded coconut. Put in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. The cake gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TWD: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Fruit, fruit, fruit… I loves me some fruit. So, I’ve been excited about a lot of the Tuesdays with Dorie selections incorporating seasonal fruit. Yum.

This week, I was especially excited, because the recipe that I originally had picked out was chosen: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler. You see… I had this recipe picked out for months, there hadn’t been any cobblers chosen yet and I love cherries and was so curious to find out how rhubarb tasted with cherries… But, then, a couple of weeks before my turn came up… someone picked a cobbler and I decided to try out a pie recipe instead of having cobbler recipes back to back. So, I was totally psyched when this recipe was chosen.

I happily paid $7.25 for my 1.24 lbs of sweet Rainer cherries at the grocery store last week and it was all I could do to keep from eating them all. Dude, I totally forgot how dadgum delicious fresh cherries are! And especially sweet ones!

I whipped up the cobbler on Saturday morning and took it over to my parents house. It came together easily. I used fresh cherries and frozen rhubarb, which I thawed and squeezed additional water out of.

And, I’m not sure if I didn’t do the topping correctly or what, but I just didn’t like it. The topping had a weird flavor to it, I can’t help but think that it was the whole wheat flour. I mean, I love being able to use whole wheat flour (heck, I even used the white whole wheat flour that King Arthur makes), but it just had a weird "wang" that I wasn’t happy about. And the fruit filling… well, it was good, but it didn’t get as thick as I would have liked. Maybe it could have used more cornstarch? I found myself wishing that I hadn’t used all the cherries in the recipe. I’d rather had them raw.

Well, anyway… I’ll stick to my clafouti-type cobblers from now on, I think. I'm starting to feel like an ingrateful TWDer... it seems like I haven't really loved many of the recipes in awhile (including the one I chose!). I'm in a dorie slump methinks. But, at least I'm getting to try a bunch of different things that I normally would never make! And the experience of trying lots of different things can only make me a better and more informed baker. (Even if I am one picky beotch sometimes).

I’m sure everyone else’s was good and if you like a hearty biscuit topped cobbler, give this one a try… the cherries and rhubarb complement each other pretty well. And be sure to check out the recipe at Amanda's blog: Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake and all the other TWDers (who are hopefully less picky and easier to please than moi) at: Tuesdays With Dorie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Something random happened to me this week… in anticipation of the new season premiere of Project Runway (one of my favorite shows), I decided to bake something. It happened rather suddenly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan (otherwise I would have gone to the craft store, bought some cute cookie cutters in fashion shapes and made and decorated sugar cookies!)… so, I just opted for a quick and easy bar recipe.

I think, I have decided to make this a kind of regular thing, so… I need to start thinking about the premiere of Mad Men in 10 (long) days and figure out what perfect thing to bake for it’s new season. Maybe cigarette shaped sugar cookies? Ha ha. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, that would be fitting. Hmmmm…

Back to Project Runway… these cookies are pretty much the antithesis of Project Runway. They are easy, homey and hardy.

I think I would have liked them better if I had taken them out of the oven a little quicker. Usually, I undercook my bars. This time around, I slightly overcooked them. The oats definitely lend a chewy, interesting texture to the bars… but, I’m beginning to think that maybe I don’t care for peanut butter in bar cookies. It makes them a little sandy for my tastes. I like gooey bars, not sandy ones.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars Recipe

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

The actual act of preparing and baking a cake is very easy. There isn’t too much more involved in making a cake from scratch than there is from making a cake from a box. But, in my experience… I’m finding a huge difference in the texture and taste of a homemade cake vs. a box cake. And folks… I’m not going to lie… the box…. Well, it’s kicking the homemade cake’s ass.

For my own sake because my memory is god-awful terrible, I’m going to review some of my past cake making experiences…

The Bad:
Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream : This is the cake I made for my brother's birthday. (Again, I'm sorry, Mike). This was possibly my worst cake attempt ever. Seriously… the cake was dry with no flavor and the frosting was crunchy and bland.

Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting: This cake, I think I overcooked. The crumb turned out dry and kind of tasteless. But, the frosting…. Ohhhh the frosting… The frosting belongs in the Top Shelf Category for sure.

The Good:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Butterfingers: Good, but not as good as expected. I mean, with chocolate, peanut butter, cream cheese, and butterfingers, you'd think you hit the motherload of all cakes, right? But, it didn't live up to the awesomeness of all it's ingredients. Tasty, but not mindblowingly good. Next time, I would add more peanut butter to the actual cake.

Amy Sedaris's Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting: This cake was good. A good vanilla cake recipe. The frosting…. Not my favorite, though.

Especially Dark Chocolate Cake: A very good, moist, rich chocolate cake.

Italian Cream Cake: A good cake. Again, I may have overcooked the layers, but this isn’t your moist light cake. The frosting is amazing and I plan on making this cake again and see if I can’t get it to come out a little moister (is that a word? More moist?).

Top Shelf, The Creme De La Creme or whatever:

Bill's Big Carrot Cake: Holy Moses, this cake is delicious! And I didn't even think I really liked carrot cake that much! The perfect carrot cake recipe.

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Chocolate Guinness Cream Cheese Frosting: Ummm... Is there anything else that needs to be said here? This will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe. I can't wait to make this in a huge layer cake.

So, in review… I have an excellent chocolate cake and carrot cake recipe. But… not everyone likes chocolate or carrot cake. I need a go-to delicious white/vanilla cake. And, I’ve found it. Thanks to Dorie Greenspan.

I made cupcakes out of her Perfect Party Cake Recipe this weekend and it was delicious. Light and tender and moist. It would have been perfect as a cake with the suggested fruit filling. But, since I was making cupcakes and wanted to get a taste of the actual cake… I kept things basic and simple. No fruit filling. Just cake and frosting.

Speaking of the frosting… this was the first time I’d ever had a meringue buttercream, let alone make one! And while I thought my arm would fall off while cooking the meringue on the stove, the recipe was fairly simple and it turned out delicious! I’m definitely going to try out some more meringue buttercream frostings in the future.

So, if you’re making this recipe… I suggest adding something to it. Fruit filling or flavored frosting… because as a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, it’s a bit boring. Delicious, but boring.

I halved the recipe for the cake and made cupcakes and cut the frosting recipe into thirds. I didn’t have any buttermilk, so I used light sour cream instead in the cake and I didn't use the lemon extract, but used Vanilla Extract instead.

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake
From: Baking: from my Home to Yours

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

For Finishing: (Which I didn't do this time, but recommend)
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream:
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.

Remove the bowl from the heat. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake:
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Pudding

Alright, so chocolate pudding isn't one of my favorite things. I mean... sure, I'll eat the snack packs and when dieting, I'll opt for the sugar free pudding, but it's just not something I ever sit around and think... damn, I'd love me a bowl full of chocolate pudding.

So when Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen chose Chocolate Pudding for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I was kind of like... hmmm.. chocolate pudding. Not bad, but not something to jump up and down about, right?

I didn't get around to making the pudding this weekend, but I did read the recipe and I noticed that a food processor was a key component in the recipe. I don't have a food processor, so I just thought... well, I can just use my Mixer (Betty) and she'll do a fine job.

Last night rolled around and I still hadn't made the pudding. I thought... well... I've made like 4-5 TWD's in a row... maybe it's time to take a break. So, yes, I decided to take a break. But, then I got home from work and I started to feel a little guilty.... I mean, I did have all the ingredients on hand...

So, I sat down with the recipe and broke it into a quarter of recipe and made two little cups of pudding. I must admit, this recipe is easy... but, I advise you measure out all your ingredients and have them ready before you begin... I was caught off guard how quickly my pudding mixture started to thicken once I put it on the stove.

And, as I was taking pictures of the pudding... I took a little taste... and then I took another little taste... and then I decided... wow... this is a lot better than snack pack pudding. And I kept sneaking spoonfuls in, until the entire cup looked like this...

So, a big thanks to Melissa for picking a recipe that I normally would have NEVER tried. If you are a big pudding fan, you'll love this recipe and even if you don't think you like pudding that much, you should give it a try. Yum.

Recipe Notes* The only change I made, was using 2% milk. I love milk. I usually drink 2% to be somewhat healthy... but if I have some leftover whole milk sitting in my fridge, I drink it up in one sitting. So, I try to stay away from buying whole milk. I thought that the 2% worked great! Very rich and creamy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Monster Cookies

Imagine this... a cookie with all your favorite things...

Chocolate Chips
M & Ms
Reese Pieces
Peanut Butter

I know what you're thinking... Favorites overload, right?? But, amazingly... it's not! Somehow, these cookies with way too much stuff in them are well balanced and delicious. The peanut butter is mild, the oatmeal isn't too heavy. It works in a harmonious blend to create a super yummy, easy cookie.

And there's no flour (although, I'm sure the calories that would be in the flour, are just lurking in the peanut butter or the m & m's or whatever). So, this is a yummy cookie recipe. One that I will definitely make again.

Monster Cookies (I quartered this recipe, and it still made about 12 HUGE cookies, so keep that in mind).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding Dessert

I'm going on record to officially call it a rut. That's right... I'm in a baking/sweet making rut. Maybe I'm getting pickier? But, I just can't seem to make anything mindblowingly tasty lately. What's the deal?

Sure, I've made some delicious bar cookies... but, as far as pies and cakes and regular cookies go... I'm consistently striking out. And that sucks. Like really, really sucks, ya know?

This dessert was supposed to be mindblowingly good. But, it missed the mark. I mean, sure... it's tasty.... but, it's not quite there. You know what I mean? Like, it's on the cusp of being excellent... I served this as the anti-fruit dessert this weekend. (My brother Mike doesn't like anything fruit for dessert) and alongside the white goo infested blueberry pie it was good. But, it wasn't great. It was creamy, and peanut buttery.... but, it was too much like a pudding for me. I needed some contrast. I think that a layer of oreo cookies between the peanut butter layer and the chocolate layer would have been delicious. I love it when crunchy things get soggy. (Weird, I know).

Hopefully, I'll get my mojo back soon.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dessert.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TWD: Double Crusted Blueberry Pie

So, finally… it was my turn to make the Tuesday’s With Dorie selection. And boy, did it come with pressure, I mean… there are like a bazillion members now… and of course, there is no pleasing everyone with a group that big. So while I wavered between a cheesecake or chocolate bread pudding… since my week was over the holiday weekend, I opted for the most patriotic recipe I could find (well, with the exception of the apple pie, I guess)… Double Crusted Blueberry Pie.
Nevermind the fact that I have never actually had a blueberry pie. I like fresh blueberries and I like blueberry muffins… so, by logical deduction, I should like blueberry pie, right? Yes, I thought so, too. Plus, I picked the darn recipe! So, of course I’ll love blueberry pie and it will become my most favorite dessert ever.
I had made Dorie’s Pie Crust recipe before… just a couple of weeks ago, in fact and loved it. It instantly became my go-to pie crust recipe (sorry Emeril).

And again, using just a pastry cutter (who needs a stinking food processor, anyway?) the dough came together beautifully.
When it came time to prepare the filling, I was little wary. What I had was a bowl full of sugar crystals and blueberries. I poured into the crust and said a little prayer as I slid it into the oven that it would all meld together happily in the oven.

When I pulled it out of the oven, the blueberry filling was bubbling through the slits and the crust was a nice golden brown. I made this pie on Friday… thinking that it would be consumed on Saturday at a cookout at my parents. Except… the cookout got moved to Sunday… so, after sitting out all night on Friday, I moved the pie to a pie carrier till Sunday. I’ve always enclosed my cherry pie in a pie carrier, and found that the pie got better the longer it set. I assumed the same would be true for the blueberry pie, too.
Sunday, when I got to my parents and unveiled the pie, it was noticeably soggy in the center. This started to concern me. And when I finally cut into the pie I was greeted with a disgusting white goo that oozed from the center of the pie. It was like the bottom of the crust in the center, hadn’t even been cooked.

My mother says, “did you blind bake the crust, first?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Oh, you should always blind bake every crust.” (She heard Martha Stewart say this once and now my mom deems herself a pie crust expert).

“Well, the recipe didn’t say to blind bake it and, I never blind bake the crust for a cherry pie.”

I soldiered on… thinking, well, maybe it will taste good… aside from the white, gooey center. And, I’m sure it tasted good for a blueberry pie, but here’s the thing…. I don’t think I like blueberry pie! (Ohhhhhhh… crap… as I was typing the recipe below I realized I forgot to cut a circle out of the top of the pie before I baked it!!!! That certainly didn’t help me any. Uggh. I hate it when I miss stuff like that!).

I think that the fact that the pie was made on Friday and not cut into until Sunday made all the difference in the weird, white center (and also, the no center hole in the top of the pie, dad gummit!). But, the actual flavor of the pie itself wasn’t my cup of tea. I ate my slice, but I think I prefer my blueberries fresh, rather than cooked.

Oh well, if you like blueberry pie, I think you’ll really enjoy this pie (as long as you consume it fairly soon after it has completely cooled). I may give it another go at some point. Be sure to check out everyone else’s pies at Tuesdays With Dorie.
Double Crusted Blueberry Pie
From: Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.


Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough for Double Crust , chilled (below)
2 ½ pints fresh blueberries
1 cup of sugar, or a little more, to taste, plus more for dusting
½ cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Coarsely grated zest of ½ lemon
Squirt of fresh lemon juice, or a little more, to taste
¼ cup dry bread crumbs (you can use packaged unseasoned crumbs)

1 large egg, beaten with 1 tsp of water, for egg wash
Sugar, for dusting

Getting Ready: Butter a 9-inch pie plate (Dorie uses a standard Pyrex pie plate).

Working on a well-floured surface (or between wax paper or plastic wrap), roll out one piece of the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 – inch. Fit the dough onto the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a ½ inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8 inch thick circle and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover both the circle and the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you pre-heat the oven and prepare the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the berries in a large bowl and gently stir in the sugar, flour, salt, zest and juice; let sit for about 5 minutes. Taste the filling and add more sugar and/or lemon juice, if needed.

Remove the pie shell and top crust from the refrigerator. Sprinkle an even layer of the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the shell. Give the filling a last stir and turn it into the crust.

Using your fingertips, moisten the rim of the bottom crust with a little cold water. Center the top crust over the filling and gently press the top crust against the bottom. Either fold the overhang from the top crust under the bottom crust and crimp the edges attractively or press the top crust against the bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts even with the rim of the pie plate. If you’ve pressed and trimmed the crust, use the tines of a fork to press the two crusts together securely. Using a small, sharp knife, cut 4 slits in the top crust crust and cut a circle out of the center, then lift the plate onto the baking sheet. (If you have time, refrigerate the pie for about 30 minutes. The pie can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Glaze and sugar it before you put it in the over and add at least 15 minutes to the baking time).

Brush the top crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle the crust with a little sugar, just to give it sparkle.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake the pie for another 30 minutes or so (total baking time is about an hour) or until the crust is a beautiful golden brown and the filling is bubbling up through the slits. If the crust seems to be browning too quickly, make a loose foil tent for the pie.

Transfer the pie to a rack and let it cool and settle for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough

For a 9 inch Double Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 ½ sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tbsp size pieces
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
About ½ cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don’t overdo the mixing- what you’re aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tbsps of the water- add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a work surface.

Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling (if your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge).

To Roll Out the Dough: Have a buttered 9 inch pie plate at hand.

You can roll the dough out onto a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap or in a rolling slipcover. If you’re working on a counter, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured. If you are rolling between paper, plastic or in a slipcover, make sure to turn the dough over often and to life the paper, plastic, or cover frequently so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases.

If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes to rest and firm up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

TWD: Apple Cheddar Scones

I’m not a coffee drinker. And as such, I’ve always kind of stereotyped coffee-type of baked goods into the…. “Not for me pile.” So, this means that when it comes to scones, biscotti, tea cakes, coffee cake, etc… I’ve just completely ignored their realm of baked goods.

And then, as usual when I actually try something that I think I don’t like…. I end up loving it and wondering why I was so opposed to the darn thing in the first place.

Case in point: Scones.

A few months ago, while staying at the Elizabeth Street Inn, I heard from another hotel guest that their scones in the morning were “to die for.” Which seemed ridiculous. I mean, how could a scone be “to die for”? That phrase is saved for Pecan Pie Cheesecake or Guinness Chocolate Cake, something really decadent and luscious. Not some silly coffee accompaniment, right? Well, even though I wouldn’t describe a scone as to die for, the scones at the hotel were absolutely delicious. Especially a lemon flavored one they had. And ever since that morning, I’ve been craving more scones. I’ve looked for a recipe, but hadn’t decided one specific one yet.

Anyway, fast forward to this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection: Apple Cheddar Scones. I was super excited when I saw this selection…. I mean, apples, cheese, and bread. Three of my favorite things (although, admittedly I’d never had them all together). These were a breeze to whip up, but you know what…. Mine turned into light, fluffy biscuits instead of crumbly scones. The scones I had at the Elizabeth Street Inn were a crumbly, harder texture. Whereas mine turned out light and fluffy (the best biscuit texture I’ve ever made, in fact). Maybe I did something wrong? I did use a cookie scoop to dollop them out, so that I’d have evenly sized pieces that I didn’t have to fight with bare hands. Could that have been the problem? Maybe it needs to cook as a larger mass?

Regardless… they were really, really good. I would definitely make these again as a brunch bread.

Thanks to Karina for the great choice and if you want to check out the recipe, head over to her blog… The Floured Apron.
And…. Guess who got to pick out next week’s selection? Yup, me. Woo