Thursday, December 31, 2009

Butterscotch Sauce


Here's the deal. My family is one of those "weird" families. Weird as in... we celebrate Christmas on a different day than most people celebrate. We celebrate Christmas a day early. So, here's the schedule:

December 23 Evening: Our Christmas Eve (Big Family Dinner)
December 24 Morning: Open Presents (Big Family Breakfast).
December 24 Day: Exchange, return gifts.
December 25 Morning: Spend Christmas with Extended Family.

A little unconventional, but very practical. At least, it used to be... You see this whole thing started back when my brothers and I were little kids. We'd wake up on Christmas morning, unwrap all our toys, be super excited and dying to play with them and then be upset that we had to leave all our new toys to go and spend the day with extended family.

One year, my mom came up with a brilliant idea! She told us to write Santa a letter and see if he could come early that year, so that we didn't have to pack up and/or leave our toys on Christmas morning. We could leisurely spend the morning together instead of rushing out the door. Luckily, Santa got the letter and we've been celebrating Christmas the same way ever since.

Now, initially... we would go out to dinner for our Christmas Dinner to some exotic restaurant that we'd never been to before. But somewhere along the way, we nixed that idea and started having Christmas Dinner at home.

When we first started, my mom always bought this one cheesecake at Sam's Club every year. It was called a Turtle Cheesecake, it was $10 and it was heavenly. We thought it was so fancy. It came frozen and had parchment paper between all the slices and I loved pulling all the parchment from between the slices and licking the paper clean.

At some point, we stopped buying the Cheesecake and my mom and I would make homemade desserts instead. This year, I wanted to bring back the nostalgia of the Christmas Cheesecake, so I made my favorite plain cheesecake recipe and I decided to finally try something that I've had my eye on for awhile: Butterscotch.

I came across a recipe awhile back that talked about the wonders of homemade butterscotch. How it was infinitely better than store bought butterscotch (and lord knows I love me some store bought butterscotch). But, when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for an Easy Butterscotch Sauce recipe, I was sold.

And you know what? This butterscotch sauce is indeed infinitely better than store bought. And you know what else? It is super freaking easy. What I liked about it, is that I could make it as salty and rich as I wanted it. Yum. Perfect for a slice of cheesecake or a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream (Butterscotch milkshake, anyone?).

Easy Butterscotch Sauce
Recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen

I don't really have anything to offer up here, except to note that I used light brown sugar. The recipe is dead simple.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen: Here or for your convenience, cut and pasted:

Yield: About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce


1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt), plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus more to taste

Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. [A flat whisk works great here.] Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.

Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine and this is where, despite the simplicity of the recipe, you get to feel all “chef-y”. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition. I ended up using a full teaspoon of flaky salt and the listed amount of vanilla to get a butterscotch sauce with a very loud, impressive butterscotch flavor but the strength of your vanilla and intensity of your salt may vary.

Serve cold or warm over vanilla ice cream, roasted pears or pound cake. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.

To do ahead: This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD: Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake

First of all, let's have a little heart-to-heart, m'kay?

It's winter here in Middle Tennessee. Which, in a word, sucks. That's not to say that it's worse than Buffalo, NY or Wisconsin or whatever, but, it's cold, it's dark and it's wet a lot more than it's not, it seems. And that SUCKS.

You know what else sucks this time of year? Natural Light (No, not that Natural Light, the lack of real natural light). I mean... sure if I didn't have day job and I was just baking away all day instead of rushing around like a banshee trying to finish things before Christmas maybe I could get better pictures of my baked goodies than this atrocity:


I know. I'm embarrassed. It's awful. But let me set the scene for you...

It's christmas morning. My family loads up the car and heads to my uncles house. I secretly hope that when we get there no one else (well, besides my uncle) is there. But of course... we pull up and we're not the first ones. Drats! So, I have to figure out a way to get a picture of my cheesecake without my entire family thinking I'm a nutjob (they dont know I have a blog and honestly... I think they'd be a little embarrassed of me to find out how I cuss like a sailor when I'm not around them, so I keep the blog on the d/l.).

This is not an easy feat. So, I take to the laundry room and sneak 2 photos of the cheesecake while it sits on the washing machine. Seriously. 2 photos. And this is the least offensive. I'm sorry. Picture a lightly shaded chocolate sliver on a crisp white plate.

Don't let my awful photo scare you away. People loved this cheesecake. As in... there was only a small slice left at the end of the day. Now, I'm going to be honest with you... I am a plain cheesecake fan. I'm not usually crazy about the flavor of chocolate and cheesecake together. But, I did actually like this cheesecake a lot more than I thought I would. And a few members of my family thought this cheesecake was better than the plain cheesecake I made a couple days earlier. (More on that in another post).

Basically... if you love chocolate cheesecake, you will die when you have this particular cheesecake. And if you like regular cheesecake, I think you'll enjoy it, too.

Low & Lush Chocolate Cheesecake
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones

Easy. Delicious. Of course I omitted the cinnamon in the crust. But otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. It comes out rich and creamy with just enough chocolate to flavor but not overpower the cream cheese.

It's not a pretty cheesecake. The chocolate color is an unappetizing light brown, but I thought, if I'd had the time that it would have looked pretty with some whipped cream piped along the edges or something.

Recipe Here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TWD: Dorie's Favorite Pecan Pie


First off, I feel like I need to address the shittiness of these photos, lest you think I'm unaware of the shittiness. Trust me, I'm aware. FULLY AWARE and a wee bit embarrassed. But, ehhh.. what the hell, right? Everyone knows what a pecan pie is supposed to look like.

So, Pecan Pie is my absolute favorite dessert. I love the crunchy hard top, the flavor of the pecans, and the sweet jelly type of filling and I absolutely love the way that the jelly-like filling softens the buttery crust. I have been known to inhale an entire pie in one sitting. No joke.

It's because of this undying love for this baked good that I never, ever make pecan pie. Because I can't trust myself around them. One minute there's an entire pie coming out of the oven, 5 minutes later I've got my face buried in the pie plate licking every last crumb out of there. It's sick.

So, when Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina picked this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and it was pecan pie I became excited. One, because I had a REASON to bake a pecan pie and two, because I had a Christmas party coming up that I could take the pie to.

Now, this posed a wee bit of a problem. Taking a pie to a cocktail party is... not the greatest idea. I mean, sure, it can be done and sure, in hindsight, I should have done just that... but, my idea of a perfect cocktail party dessert is a finger food. Something you can casually pick up a piece of as you head over to the bar to pour yourself another glass of wine or what have you. So, my brilliant idea was to make pecan pie squares out of the recipe! I'd just prepare the entire pie in a 9x13 inch pan and cut them into little bite size bars! Brilliant!

Except, somehow in the baking process the crust kind of completely disintegrated into the pie itself so instead of becoming easy to pick up and transport bars, they became gobs of stickiness. Delicious gobs, but messy ones.

I was horrified at how these things looked. And even more horrified that I was cutting them up about 20 minutes before I needed to leave to get to the party, so no time to whip something else up. Fortunately, these things tasted absolutely amazing. Granted, I love pecan pie, but wow. Probably the best pecan pie I've ever tasted (and folks... I've had a boatload of pecan pie). It's a shame that the bar treatment didn't work out, because I'm sure most people shied away from them at the party because well... who wants to dive into a mess of sticking gobs at a cocktail party (besides me)?

I will be making this recipe again, except the traditional way: a real pie. If you like Pecan Pie, you should do yourself a favor and try this recipe sometime. It might just become your favorite, too.


Dorie's Favorite Pecan Pie
recipe by Dorie Greenspan

First of all, I omitted the espresso powder, cinnamon, and chocolate and opted for the traditional version of pecan pie. Which means I also opted for her "sweeter" and more traditional route and upped the corn syrup to 1 cup and I may have added a little bit extra brown sugar than called for. Pecan pie, to me, is supposed to be cavity-inducing sweet.

Second of all, for the crust, I substituted 2 tbsp of water with 2 tbsp of Woodford Reserve Bourbon. And while you couldn't really taste the actual bourbon, you could certainly smell it and I do think it offered a bit of something extra to the flavor of the pie without actually overwhelming it. I'll try this again when I make an actual pie and not bars.

Recipe found here

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake


It's been a good year. If I could, I would bottle it up and store it in the bottom of my coat closet to open in the middle of a future year that isn't so awesome. Maybe then I'd have the time to actually savor and really enjoy the year. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's hard not to think about all the wonderful things I've experienced this year.

I've made new friends, gone to new places, accomplished new goals. What more could you ask for?

One of the most memorable things I've done this year was run a 200 mile relay across Kentucky with 11 other runners. Some people I knew beforehand, but the majority of the team were complete and utter strangers to me up until a few months before the relay. I happened upon the role of Team Captain and throughout the planning process I worried about such a large group of random people in tight quarters, under extreme conditions (running in the middle of the night, living in a van) getting along together.

But you know what? We all did. Everyone was awesome. I was so happy and impressed with how team-oriented everyone was. It was a great experience (despite the shitty weather) and I cannot wait to Captain the team again next year.

To celebrate how awesome we were as a team (we had an amazing finish time), I hosted a post-relay party at my place. It was a good chance for the team to reassemble and hang out together. I made a big pot of chili, had a bunch of beer, set out some chips and salsa and a couple of different types of cookies.

In case you don't know any runners, let me let you into a secret about us: 1. we love food and 2. we love booze. Seriously... runners run to eat and drink (or at least all the ones I know do). I came across this recipe linked on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it.  Gooey and Butter are two words that make me swoon. And so when this party rolled around, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to give them a try.

As always, I read through the entire recipe and was undeterred by the fact that it calls for a stand mixer and yeast. I've got a hand mixer. That's good enough, right?

Well, as I was mixing the yeast mixture (for 10 godforsaken minutes) I started to realize that this method just might not work. My dough never pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Never really formed a "dough" like I thought it should. But, I proceeded anyway. And when it never really rose or doubled in size. I thought.. what the hell? I've already invested a lot of time into this, I'm just going to bake it off anyway and hope for the best.

I baked it for a little longer than it needed, just because I was nervous that the dough was going to be.. gooey gross instead of gooey good.

And you know what happened? I was thrilled with the results! The bars were chewy and oh so sweet. Simple and yet deliciously decadent. Ironic that these bars turned out much the same way as the relay team that they were intended for did. High expectations, nervous and anxious while preparing, but a stellar outcome.

I can't wait to make them again.


St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
recipe from NY Times

This recipe was supposed to turn out awful. I didn't use a stand mixer, my dough didn't rise. But in the end... it turned out awesome! I'm not sure if thats the way it's supposed to be, but I was happy with the results and so were my guests.

It's not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming, because of the yeast dough. So make sure you have the time to commit.

3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Beat dough on medium speed until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.

5. Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; cake will rise and fall in waves and have a golden brown top, but will still be liquid in center when done. Allow to cool in pan before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.

Yield: 16 to 20 servings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables


You know who I hate? Those people who make things that turn out exactly the way they're supposed to. You know who I'm talking about... those punks in your 2nd grade class who had perfect penmanship. Then in middle school they were your classmates who's science projects always looked like they were manufactured in China and purchased at Wal-Mart or something.

I have never been one of those people. My house is always a little cluttered. My fridge always has something old and growing mold on it. My handwriting is always illegible. Despite that, I always hope for change. I always hope that my extreme jealously of those people will translate into magically turning into one of them.

This recipe sadly wasn't the magical switch into perfection that I was hoping for.

It started off awesome. I laid out my egg yolks and butter in advance, I strapped on my apron and got all ready to prepare some perfectly round and beautiful sables. I followed the recipe to the letter and when it was time to dump all the contents of the bowl out onto a surface to roll into a log, my hopes for perfection crumbled.

Literally. What I dumped onto my counter was a mess of dry crumbles. What the hell? Like, there seriously wasn't anywhere near enough moisture in my dough for the dough to stick together. Did that stop me from trying? Hells no. I wrapped that saran wrap tightly around that dough, willing it to come together in some sort of semblance of a log. And by damn if I didn't get it all mashed up together. Pleased with myself and otherwise in denial about the fact that putting the log into the fridge all mashed together into a log, didn't actually make my dough moist enough to actually be a log, I went about my business for the rest of the day.

The next day, I donned my apron again, preheated my oven and pulled the log out of the fridge. I carefully unrolled it and immediately one end cracked off. Trying to stay positive I just said to myself... Perfect! That's the perfect amount to bake up today! (I wanted to save the rest of the dough for later in the month). I brushed the sides with egg yolk and rolled it in bright pink sugar. And then it was time to cut the dough into perfect little slices. And this is where all hell broke loose.

Instead of slices I ended up with little piles of crumbles. My cookie sheet looked like a sable massacre. I tried to mold the crumbles into round slices, but it just wasn't happening. The dough was just too dry.

I baked those cookies off anyway... again.. thinking that magically they'd go in the oven looking like blue cheese crumbles but come out as perfect thick slices. And again... I was wrong.

The only solution I could think of... was to add some water to the dough, reshape it into a log and let it chill again. So, I did that. I added probably 2 tbsp of water before it finally came together, rolled it into another perfect log and let it chill for a couple of hours.

This second time around I was convinced I was going to succeed. Nothing stopping me now, right? I sliced the cookies and they sliced okay... a little crumbly, but significantly better. Popped them in the oven and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to think of a cute ways to display them for a pretty picture for my blog.

And then I pulled them out of the oven and screamed. They looked awful. Spread out, too brown on the edges, it was like this recipe was just not meant to be for me. Oh well.

They still tasted good, but too bad I can't serve them to anyone except family. Ugh. So, if you're one of those people who's cookies always turn out perfect then have at it, this recipe is right up your alley. But,  if you're like me... don't make these cookies expecting to take them somewhere. (Even though they are delicious!!!!!).


Sables
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara

So, yeah, I had a bit of a time with these. Despite the fact that they come together super easy, require little ingredients and little fuss, mine still didn't turn out. I do plan on trying again at some point though, because they are just delicious to shy away from... but next time, I'll make sure my dough is moist enough to mold into a log the first time around and I might actually cut the cookies and then freeze them individually cut (sans the egg yolk and sugar) and bake them off straight from the freezer. Maybe they'll hold their shape better that way?

Don't let my problems with the recipe scare you off. They may not turn out aesthetically pleasing, but they are palate pleasing (and isn't that what really matters?). Besides, sugar cookies and slice and bake cookies generally give me trouble.



Thursday, December 3, 2009

TWD: All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake


I like to think that my intelligence goes through cycles. There's the time in my life (during elementary and middle school) where I was book-smart (ahhhh the easy years). Then I moved into the fake-smart phase (high school) where I thought I was all that and a bag of chips smart, just because I was reading books about buddhism and soliloquizing T.S. Eliot poems. That transitioned well into my creative-smart phase (college years) where I was all about music and literature. Then there was the current-events smart period of my life (post college) where I knew everything that was going on in the world and loved to debate and sneer at people who didn't have the same beliefs as me.

And somewhere along the way... I landed here... not book smart, not fake smart, not creative smart and sure as hell not current event smart. I dont know what intelligence cycle I'm in now, I have a feeling it's... my dumb phase. I'm young, single, selfish... I dont give a shit about talking about politics or music (mainly because I'm no longer "hip" to the music scene these days). What do I like? Running, Sports, Alcohol, Clothes, Sweets, Accessories, Faulkner, and Kings of Leon. Those are the things I can talk about.

Normally, this wouldn't bother me. Who cares? Well, I'll tell you... The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy cares. And why do I care that they care? Because... I'm enrolled in classes this semester in an effort to make some headway in the mound of classes that I have to take in order to have the privilege to sit for the CPA exam (which, at the rate I'm going at now, will be when I'm 42).

And now I realize why I was so much smarter in other things when I was younger... it was because I would get into anything to distract myself from doing any type of homework or focusing on my studies. Because you know what? School stinks. Wait. Let me phrase that... School is awful.

The thorn in my side this semester? Pre-Calculus. Which I like to call... 3 hours of hell in a classroom. This class makes me love my alma mater even more (Thank you, University of South Carolina for allowing me to graduate with a 3.00+ gpa without having to take any math classes. Your Liberal Arts curriculum is awesome). I'm not exaggerating. Like, at first.... I was all gung-ho about it. I thought... hey! I'm an adult now. I can take this whole math thing seriously. Maybe... I'll even get an A and enter into the ever elusive math-smart phase.

Heh. Heh.

It was clear in the first week that I was going be LUCKY to pass. I don't know what it is. But, I just don't get it. I can study. Do my homework. Take copious notes during class and still... I have no idea what I'm doing. The text seems to be written in Greek, which doesn't help. I took a test a couple of weeks ago... studied my ass off for it and felt great about it after I took it! I was actually excited to go back to class and get my test result. I got a 71. BARELY a C. And I studied my ass off.

So, now, I'm just like frustrated as hell and totally hate it. It's like... if I can study my ass off and think the material is a breeze... yet, I barely get a C on it? What's the point?

I just don't get the material. I don't. And I honestly think that I'm incapable of learning it. After class on Tuesday night I drove directly to my local bar and ordered a jack and diet coke. IT WAS THAT BAD.

The worst part? I don't just have to pass this course... ohhhhh no, I have to actually get a C in it. Because, technically pre-cal is just a pre-requisite... I just have to take pre-cal before I can get into business calculus which will allow me to take the business courses I need.

I'm just so disgusted, so disappointed, so frustrated right now. All because of this one measly little subject matter that my brain just can't comprehend. I swear... all my friends are making fun of me, because it's like a high school level class. But it might as well be advanced rocket science or some shit.

The lucky thing in this whole scenario is that I didn't have this cake waiting for me when I got home from class and the bar... otherwise I would have inhaled the entire thing. It's become clear to me that school is why I gained weight in college. It wasn't the late night chicken wing deliveries or the alcohol. (Well, yes the calories from those things caused me to gain weight). It was the hatred of class and schoolwork that drove me to drink, which drove me to order late night chicken wings (or, inhale an entire bundt cake if it were lying around). So, I gotta be careful if I'm going to continue on with this school thing. Ugh.

Last weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was this All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake. It was chosen by Britin of The Nitty Britty. I baked it last week and took it to my family's thanksgiving gathering. I thought it was delicious, but it didn't fare too well amongst the bazillion chocolate pies and the chocolate brownies and some amazing coconut pound cake (that I have to find the recipe for). It's very rustic looking and unassuming. But don't let looks fool you. It's packed with flavor.


All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake
recipe by Dorie Greenspan

Easy and delicious. The hardest part? Cutting up all the cranberies to go in (but it's worth the time. I quartered my cranberries and thought they were the perfect little size in the cake). I also made sure that I cut the apple up into a really fine dice. I'd say except for the moisture, you don't even realize that it's in the cake. But that's better than having weird chunks of it (in my opinion).

Nuts, pumpkin, cranberries, apples, cinnamon. I mean what more could you ask for? I skipped the glaze, because it didn't need it. It was yummy enough on it's own.

The only suggestion I'd make is to up the spices a little. Next time I'll probably double all the spices. Especially with no glaze, I wanted a little more of a spice punch.

The recipe is here: All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps


I admit it. I'm one of those people who totally judge a book by it's cover. If you were to look through my bookshelves, you'd find no less than 50 books that I've purchased over the course of my lifetime SOLELY because the cover art looked cool. I'm a super visual person... I can't help it.

Now, of those 50 or so books on my bookshelves that I bought solely because of their cool/weird/neat/different cover layout/artwork/title, I'd say approximately 10% of those I've actually read all the way through. Sure. I've attempted to read them all at some point or another. You'd pick one up and thumb through it and see my random bookmark around page 14 or maybe I'd make it as far as 62 (some probably a measly 6).

But, it doesn't stop at books. Oh, if only it did. I judge movies by their movie posters. Wine? Oh lord. Let's not even get into the wine and liquor discussion. I definitely have a certain aesthetic I look for in wine labels, which is why blind wine tastings are so important for me to discover good wines without the snazzy looking labels.

I don't really look at this sickness as a level of pretension, because we all do it to a certain extent. But, it's always interesting when you're surprised by something that doesn't look or sound that great to you, but then when you try it, it's amazing!

Enter this Cran-Apple Crisp. My Tuesdays with Dorie entry for today. On the one hand, I love apples. Love, love, love apples. Cranberries? Ehhh... I'll eat them, but they're not really my favorite. So, I was less than thrilled about this choice by Em The Repressed Pastry Chef. I thought. Okay, it will be good. but nothing noteworthy.

Holy crap, was I wrong! This was like one of the most amazing things I've put in my mouth (that's what she said). And I know... I know you're thinking I'm exaggerating, but I'm totally not. It's like an explosion of flavors. You get the tartness from the cranberries, the firm and sweetness from the apples, the syrupy-gooeyness from the dried cranberries and raisins, the homey-ness from the oatmeal, an unexpected exoticness from the coconut and a warm, fuzzy feeling inside from the cinnamon and spices.

Delicious. Even though it's not some 12 layer masterpiece with a zillion steps and it's not especially visually stunning, it is a deliciously simple dessert. Who knew that such simple components could yield such delicious results?

Dorie Greenspan, in my eyes, is the queen of the fruit desserts. I bow down.


Cran-Apple Crisps
recipe by Dorie Greenspan

Extremely easy. The recipe calls for either dried cranberries or raisins, but since I love raisins in cooked things, I added both.

I also upped the cranberries by a lot. I figure it couldn't hurt. And it didn't. And I used a lot more coconut than called for. If you're one of those who don't like the texture of coconut, I'd sub in some extra oatmeal to make up for the lack of coconut. But, you'd be missing out on the unexpected interest that the coconut lends to the dessert.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cranberry Scones


Call me many things... obsessive, selfish, crazy, alcoholic, self-obsessed even. Whatev. I'll admit it.. I'm a little bit of all those things. Am I working on correcting any of that about myself? Ehhh.. not really. It's all at healthy levels, I swear.  But the one thing for me, that I hope that I am NEVER described as... is uppity or snobby. That is the one thing in people that really drives me crazy. I mean, who am I to judge other people and think I'm better than them? Exactly.

As such, I try to avoid all possibly snobby-inducing situations. What are snobby-inducing situations you ask? Well.. sipping tea whilst my pinky is thrust out. Wearing hats to weddings. Having a dinner party with 14 different forks set out at each place setting. You know.. those everyday occurances for snobs. I'm never above heating the water for my tea in the microwave or getting drunk at weddings by doing shots at the bar next door everytime a slow song comes on (with the toast always... "here's to never getting married!") or breaking out the stryofoam bowls and plastic spoons for my chili at a get together... That's how I roll, baby. Class-less all the way.

So, it's only natural that I generally stay away from the scone. For me, scones fall into the pretensive food category amongst the likes of caviar, escargot, and petit fours. They were foreign to me. Until Starbucks bursted onto the scene, I'd never heard of a scone, I don't think. But as soon as I did... I immediately imagined them being eaten at high tea with some crumpets or some shit. Soooo not up my alley. I'll take biscuits and sausage gravy, please.

Back in 2008, I took a trip to Oregon with my mom. We ended up staying one night in Newport, Oregon (only because I wanted to check out the Rogue Brewery while I was there... YUM!) at this really nice hotel right on the beach, the Elizabeth Street Inn. We were on the elevator at the hotel, just after we had checked in and some other ladies were telling us about how in the afternoon they have warm chocolate chip cookies in the lobby and then one lady remarked rather emphatically about the scones at the free breakfast in the morning. "Oh the scones!" she said. "The scones are delicious!"

Scones, huh? A delicious scone? I couldn't fathom why she was so enthusasiatic about something as plain and boring as a scone.

So, of course, the next morning... I had to try a scone. And I'll be DAMNED if she wasn't right. I had a lemon poppyseed one and it was crumbly and sweet and unlike anything I'd ever had before. I've been searching for the right recipe that would give me the same texture as that scone. Some scone recipes are basically just biscuits. But, this scone... this was more cookie like. Harder, crumblier, and sweet.

Serendiptiously last week, I received an email from C&H Sugar. The email said that they wanted me to make something from their website's recipes and blog about it and in exchange they'd send me a $20 giftcard to help me with the expenses. How cool is that?

I eagerly hopped onto their recipe website and perused their recipes, trying to decide what to make. This proved to be a difficult task. I mean... it's a sugar manufacturer's website... all the recipes are going to sound amazing (doh!). But as soon as I saw this recipe for Cranberry Scones, I knew I had to try it. They turned out delicious! Crunchy and crumbly on the outside with a tender crumb on the inside. Delicious as is, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top or with a smear of jam. Not pretentious at all. In fact... dare I say... homey, even?

Thanks C&H!

Cranberry Scones
recipe by C&H Sugar

This recipe is easy. Usually biscuit recipes intimidate me, but the ingredients came together easily and turned out wonderfully!

Remember, these aren't supposed to be super sweet. They have just the right amount of sweetness that lingers on the tongue and makes you want to go back for one more little bit. Which turns into another bite, etc.

I think these would be just as good with raisins and maybe a little cinnamon thrown in. I'm including the butter-vanilla glaze recipe which sounds delicious, but I opted out of.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup C&H Pure Cane Granulated Sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, sweet chilled
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cranberries, dried
1 tsp orange rind, finely grated (optional)
Butter vanilla glaze (optional, recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or the paddle on an electric mixer, cut in butter until mixture is the size of course crumbs. Add dried cranberries (and orange rind, if using) and toss to coat. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a small bowl blend egg and buttermilk; add all at once to flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 10-12 times. Place dough onto a lined cookie sheet. Flatten dough into an 8" circle. Frequently dipping knife into flour, cut dough into 8 wedges. Separate wedges by 1". Bake 20-25 minutes. Place baked scones on a cooling rack. Let cool 5 minutes. Brush scones with glaze if desired.

Butter-Vanilla Glaze

1 1/2 cup C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all glaze ingredients in small bowl.

Makes 8 scones.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Best Yellow Cake


There are few words in the English language that intimidate me, but in the baking world there are two: Yellow Cake. As soon as I hear the words yellow cake, I scoff. Not because I don't like yellow cake. In fact, I love yellow cake! But because yellow cake is my kryptonite.

I mean yellow cake, it seems simple, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. And then last summer, my brother Mike, chose a yellow cake with chocolate frosting as his Birthday cake. My first initial thought was to previous yellow/vanilla cakes I'd made in the past up to that point, Italian Cream Cake and Caramel Cake. Both delicious, but both made even more delicious by their fancypants icings. The "cake" wasn't the star in either of those recipes. I soldiered on and ended up presenting him with an awful cake for his birthday.

Since that day, I've stayed as far away as possible from the yellow cake.

Until a few weeks ago.

Here's the backstory. So, back in September I went to brunch with a couple friends. I may have partaken in a screwdriver (I mean, I am supposed to drink orange juice with my high blood pressure medicine) and the bartender might have mixed us up a couple of complimentary shots (and doh! It's rude to say no to complimentary shots. Everyone knows that!). By the time I left the restaurant, I was approaching the perfect buzz. But, it was only 2pm! Which meant one of two things: I could either walk home and go to bed and wake up with a wicked hangover at 7pm... OR I could call every friend I have in town and see if they wanted to meet up at a bar for a beer or two.

I think you know which option I chose.

So, I convinced (pretty easily, I gotta say) a friend to imbibe with me and we hit up a local brewery in town. I'm sucking down the Dos Perros and we're having a good time and one of his friends shows up to the brewery as well.

The night continues... we switch venues and apparently at some point in the night, the friend of my friend starts talking about his birthday... to which I (allegedly) (in my happy, drunken state) slur ever so eloquently... "oooo a birthday! I'll plan your birthday! hiccup!" (to which I'm told a week later when my friend reminds me that I emphatically insisted on planning his birthday that night). Which, brings up a good point... who in their right mind believes a drunk chick??? I mean... what universe are we in?

Anyway, as a staunch believer in the Hemingway code of  "always do sober what you said you'd do drunk" (don't even ask about the other things I've had to do), I offer up to make this dude a cake as a surprise. (Incidentally, the guy is super nice, so I didn't mind).

What cake do you make when you have no idea what the recipient likes and you can't ask him cause it's a surprise? You make a yellow cake with chocolate icing, my friend.

So, my arch nemesis and I come face to face again in the kitchen. This time, I came equipped with what appeared to be a surefire bet... a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen. A recipe that she in fact named as the BEST Yellow cake.

I entered into the recipe with extreme trepidation. I almost went out and bought a yellow cake mix as a back up. But, I instead decided to just go with it. And thank God I did, because this cake is THE BEST YELLOW CAKE ever! It's moist and flavorful! It's super easy to make! I was thrilled! Hell, it was so good, I felt like it was my birthday instead! And so, I say thank you... Thank You Hemingway, for making me make good on my drunken promises (when I probably normally wouldnt have) and thank you Deb, for sharing this great recipe! You've saved my ass and I'll no longer cringe when someone utters "yellow cake" to me again.


Best Birthday Cake

This cake comes together easily and is really moist and tasty. I went ahead and made the cake exactly as Deb has it on the website, the chocolate sour cream frosting and all, and I have to say, I was not a fan of the frosting at all. Next time, I'll stick with my regular chocolate buttercream favorite: Hershey's. (If you DO use the Hershey's frosting DOUBLE the recipe to frost this 2 layer cake).

Yield: 2 layer 9 inch cake or a single 9x13 inch single layer cake.

4 cups plus 2 tbsp cake flour (not self rising)
2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsps vanilla
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at at time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack let cool completely (about an hour).

Hershey's Chocolate Buttercream

Like I said, double this recipe.


6 tbsps of butter, softened
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter in medium bowl. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Stir in vanilla.

About 2 cups frosting.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses. We have a love/hate relationship for sure. Let me try to explain it for you... One of my most favorite meals in the whole entire world is pancakes. When I was a kid, my mom would make us pancakes basically whenever we wanted. But, like so many food duos in our house (chips and salsa, bread and sandwich meat) we often had one but not the other. Sometimes we had pancake mix and no syrup and this wouldn't be noticed until the pancakes were sitting on a plate in front of you. Begging to be drowned in some Aunt Jemima.

My favorite subsitition is jelly/jam and if the pancakes had been cooked in enough butter, then I could eat them plain. But, a few times... my mom would try to pull out some kind of funky Bob White Syrup. It was kind of like a white molasses and I hated it. It WAS not pancake syrup. And to this day I have no idea what it really is (corn syrup, maybe? nasty hair product passed off as syrup? possibly). In any case, I was not a fan.

Honey? Yes! But Bob White Syrup? Molasses? Neither was I a fan of. Molasses has a bitter whang to it that I just can't get into. I LOVE brown sugar, so you'd think I like molasses. But... I cant get passed the bite. And blackstrap molasses? Holy Crap. Don't even talk to me about blackstrap molasses. I don't care how nutritional it is for you, there is no way I'm eating something that tastes, smells, and looks like tar. (Although, my mom does make granola with blackstrap molasses, and it's not so bad).

So, I kept remembering these as spice cookies, instead of molasses cookies. And then I'd read the title again... DRATS! Molasses. I persevered and bought my first ever bottle of molasses. I wanted to be wooed. I wanted to like the molasses, despite the funky-ass smell that it imparted to the whole batch of dough. I cautiously licked one of the beaters before throwing it in the sink. Ehhh... not as bad as it smelled, but I didn't go after the other beater (and that should tell you something about the dough, I prefer dough to cookies most of the time).

I baked a couple up (the rest I'm saving in the freezer for a special occasion or something) and loved the way they turned out. Flat with cracks all over the top. The taste? Spicy and yet, not too spicy. The molasses flavor is practically gone (thank goodness) and all that's left is a chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside spicy kick to your tastebuds. They are really good! And, dangerous, because since they aren't overwhelmingly sweet, you could easily get carried away and eat a bunch of these at at time. Yikes! Be careful.
Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Pamela of Cookies with Boys.

These cookies are simple to make. I omitted the pepper (I'm not a black pepper fan in general), and added vanilla (I can't bake something without it having vanilla or almond extract. It's a thing with me). The dough is quite sticky (dang molasses), but if you refrigerate it as instructed, you should be okay.

I didn't want crispy cookies, so I didn't flatten my dough balls out at all and they ended up flat and chewy. Cookie Texture Perfection in my book.

Recipe found here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Filling and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Sure, being witty and intelligent are important attributes. It's also nice if you're kind-hearted and dependable. All good things. But you know what the number one most valuable personality trait or characteristic is? Go ahead... think about it... I'll entertain you with a story while you formulate your guess.

Earlier this week... my office had a new copier installed. This was one of the happiest days of my professional life. Seriously, if you've never had a shitty copier, then you have no idea how lucky you are. The next time you walk by the copier... give it a little love tap and a thank you. Because, the copier may seem to be the meek and unforgettable piece of office equipment... but, don't you test it, because it can and will go postal on your office at any given moment and render your entire office into a frustrating, unproductive hell-hole in which you think you will never see the light of day again.

So, yeah, I was pretty psyched about the new copier installation.

The IT dude that did the install was kinda cute. Not like Eric Bana/Mike Fisher smoking hot-cute. But, more like a Jim Halpert cute. Which... I'll take. So, anyway... he's in the office for awhile and I'm helping him figure out something about our network and I'm not even really paying attention to him. All I can think about is how freaking excited I am at the prospect of having a copier that might not give me nightmares and wake me up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. And then... at some point, I look at him and I think... "huh. This guy looks familiar." So, I stare for awhile.. trying to place him...

Is he a regular at my local bar? Ehhh... doesn't seem like it would be his scene.
Is he a friend of a friend of a friend? Possibly.

And as I'm staring at him and trying to place his face, I start thinking... "huh. this guy is pretty cute." And then he looked up at me and caught me staring at him with a studied look and I blurted out the next possibility...

"You look familiar... did you do our last copier install?"

And as soon as he smiled and said yes... I realized what a dumbass I am.

You see... our last copier install was like 2 years ago. Oh wait, actually, he corrected me... it was 2.5 years ago. So, the fact that I remembered him from 2 years ago (my bad, make that 2.5 years ago) is like male-speak for... "crazy-stalker-desperate bitch" type. (Which... let's be honest... suits me to a tee).

So, I tried to downplay it... Tried to engage him in copier talk and I really, ultimately just crashed and burned.

Which brings me to the initial question I posed... the most valuable characteristic or personality trait... is being able to flirt effectively.

The past couple of years, it's been brought to my attention that my flirting skills are quite shitty. Like... if someone else gets the ball rolling first, I can usually hop on for the ride and get a little flirty back. But, when I'm trying to initiate the flirting? HA! Forget about it. It turns into an awkward mess of mispronounced words, mumbling, and broken eye contact. It's not pretty, folks. Not pretty at all. And I'm sad to say that it's actually something I've been working on and yet... I'm still operating at the speed of a 45 year old virgin. I mean, at this point, I'm thinking she could probably out-flirt me. It's THAT BAD.

So, what's a girl to do? I've tried practicing. I've tried advice. I just can't get the hang of it and the more I think about it, the worse the flirting becomes.

If only I could let my oven do the flirting for me. You see, if, in the cute copier dude story above, I had had a piece of this cake lying around and instead of mumbling on about stack bypass trays and paper jams I just said, here... have a bite. I'm sure I could have sealed the deal. Because, really... how could you resist a girl holding a piece of cake? Until I can figure out a way to carry around various baked goodies without A. jacking up the lining of my purse and B. coming off as some crazy baker chick who carries around baked goodies that, rumor has it, is laced with a sedative so that she can drag you off to her condo and when you wake up you've got a paint brush in your hand and she's thanking you for "volunteering" to help her paint her kitchen. I think I'm going to have to continue to work on the flirting. Because, all I need is to become *that* girl as well. Dammit!

The good news? Is this cake will hopefully make you forget how god-awful you are at flirting and make you realize that a good slice of cake can make you feel better about almost anything. I made this cake a couple of months ago (eek! I know! I've been in a blogging slump lately, but I'm coming back, I promise) for my friend Ash's birthday. He had a party at his house and I of course baked a cake and brought it along.

The week prior to the party, I was hanging out with Ash and I sneakily asked him (while he was drunk) what kind of cake he likes... he said chocolate. Actually, he went off on some diatribe about weird cake flavors and frostings, but all I remembered the next day (well, of course, I was drunk, too) was chocolate.

The cake was a hit. People are always impressed when they find out that you made a layer cake, and then even more impressed when they find out that it's entirely homemade. And, while, I agree... boxed mixes have their place in the culinary world, when it's a friend or family member, someone you care about... take the extra effort and bake them a cake from scratch. It might not turn out as moist as a boxed mix, but it's definitely full of more love and the recipient will be touched that you went out of your way for them. Sure, it's messy and takes time, but it's worth it, because your friend/family member is worth it.
Chocolate Velvet Cake with Vanilla Filling and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from recipes from: Southern Living and Hershey's

This cake is easy, moist, and delicious. Actually, it's almost too moist. I made a 2 layer cake and then attempted to slice the cakes in half to make a 4 layer cake. My layers came out in pieces, so I had try and smush everything back together. Not pretty. And it made for an equally ugly slice. So,I suggest you just leave it at 2 layers. The cake itself is light but flavorful. I love that it uses only brown sugar, which I think lends itself to a moister, richer flavored cake.

I wanted to lighten up the chocolate in the cake so I decided to whip up a basic vanilla filling to go between the layers instead of chocolate frosting. I think it worked. But feel free to fill the cake with whatever frosting you desire.

The outside of the cake I frosted with my all-time favorite chocolate icing. Hershey's One Bowl Chocolate Buttercream. Easy and delicious. It's like a bowl of chocolate bliss. I topped the cake off with a few chopped pecans and called it day.

Chocolate Velvet Cake
Ingredients

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 16 oz package of light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 8 oz container of sour cream
1 cup hot water
2 tsps vanilla extract
<>Grease and flour 3 8 inch cake pans (I used 2 9 inch pans) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt semisweet chocolate morsels in a microwave safe bowl at high for 30 second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth.

Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, beating about 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla. (Makes about 8 1/2 cups of batter).

Spoon cake batter evenly amongst greased pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pans and let cool completely on wire rack.

Vanilla Frosting
Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup (maybe more) of milk (I used heavy cream)
2 to 2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
Splash of vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix butter with a hand mixer until smooth, slowly add in milk and sugar while mixing. Add more confectioners sugar or more milk to get the desired consistency. Finish with vanilla and salt.

Yield: Enough to fill 3 layers of a 9 inch cake.

Hershey's One Bowl Chocolate Buttercream
Ingredients

This is a half recipe. Since I used a different frosting for the filling, I only needed enough frosting for the outside of the cake. This recipe yields one cup. If using this recipe for your filling, I'd double recipe, at the least.

3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1 1/3 cup of confectioners sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1/4 cup of milk (I used cream), maybe more
1 tsp of vanilla

Beat butter in a medium bowl. Add confectioners sugar and cocoa alternately with the milk, beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Stir in vanilla.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Healthy-ish Oatmeal Cookies

I love oatmeal. Always have. Always will. When I was growing up, oatmeal was a regular at the breakfast table. And I get it. Some of you hate oatmeal and I totally understand why. Particularly every time I order it at a restaurant or plop out some into a bowl at a hotel's continental breakfast buffet. Plainly and simply: Other people's oatmeal SUCKS.

I mean, no wonder people hate oatmeal. Other people make it and its gloopy and pasty and flavorless. It's gross. When you make it at home... the way my mom always made it, with brown sugar, salt (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T FORGET A HEALTHY PINCH OF SALT) and two slices of buttered whole wheat toast, it's heavenly. It's like a warm hug for your insides. I used to break up my buttered toast and toss it into the oatmeal and swirl it around, until it became soft, buttery bits in my oatmeal (I know, I have this gross obsession with things that are supposed to be crunchy being soggy. Don't even talk to me about my favorite part of a platter of nachos). Or, if I didn't do that, I'd slather the oatmeal onto my toast and eat it like a sandwich. Yum. Oatmeal sandwich.

Okay, so before I totally lose you oatmeal haters out there (if I haven't already), let's talk about other uses of oatmeal. Like... cookies. Oatmeal cookies. Yum. A cookie with oatmeal is hearty and filling... almost as much of a hug as the bowl of oatmeal is. There's something homey about an oatmeal cookie. And... bonus: Oatmeal is fairly good for you. It's got loads of fiber (which is supposed to make you feel fuller, but, dude... nothing makes this stomach of mine feel full) and probably some other good stuff in it that I'm too lazy to look up right now.

Sometimes, I'm just in the mood for a healthy treat. I mean, not MOST of the time. Most of the time I'm in the mood for something loaded down with butter and sugar, but SOMETIMES I want something a little healthier and when I think of a healthy baked good, I usually think: Oatmeal.

I found a recipe at David Lebovitz's site (although, generally... don't go there if you're looking for something healthy. Cause he'll easily distract you with ice cream recipes) that I decided to tweak a bit and attempt to make even healthier. I tried to used a ripened banana for most of the sugar. Good idea, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. Until I tasted the batter. And immediately pulled the sugar out of the cupboard and added some (just for good measure, ya know).

Chewy-Almost-Healthy-Oatmeal Cookies
original recipe from Nick Malgieri, adapted from David Lebovitz's adaptation.

This is the recipe I used, with the addition of the sugar that I originally tried to leave out. The cookies turn out very chewy and cakey. Very delicious. Normally, I'm not a cakey cookie kind of girl, but I find that when I'm eating something that I know has things in it that are good for me, I tend to ease my texture demands.

I will definitely make these again. And I might even experiment further to try and make these actually healthier.

1 cup of white whole wheat all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed, light brown sugar
1 ripe banana
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant!)
3/4 cup dark raisins (I used chocolate chips, can use any dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and banana until smooth-ish. Mix in the egg, applesauce and vanilla.

Stir in the dry ingredients, then the oats, then the raisins (or whatever you're using).

Drop the batter by the rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Use a fork to gently flatten the dough.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Flaky Apple Turnovers

There are two ways to look at this post.

You can look it as a being a rewind Tuesdays with Dorie post. Or you can just look at it as being a very late entry (as it was chosen by Jules of Someone's in the Kitchen and supposed to be posted back on September 8). Either way, I was determined to get around to this recipe soon.

You see. I always fancied myself a chocolate lover. But, as I've gotten older and started baking more, I realize... that I actually prefer fruit desserts over chocolate ones. I know. The horror! And while it's true that when presented with the choice of say a slice of apple pie or a brownie, I will almost always assuredly choose the brownie. And then immediately regret the decision when I dive into the overly indulgent chocolate brownie.

It's the same with men. I think I'm into one type of dude... you know the type: tall, athletic, outdoorsy, and dumb. (Yes, I said 'dumb.' What can I say? I like to know that my man is never going to ask me how I feel about the healthcare situation. Cause you know what? I.dont.give.a.shit). And then it turns out, the guys I fall for are average height. Athletic and outdoorsy? What luck! All the guys I'm into love getting their exercise and outdoors fix by sitting around on their asses at a football game tailgate party. And last by not least, they're total douche bags who think they know everything and must spend 100% of their time educating me, this poor, dumb bitch that they are doing a favor for by dating. It's true. I'm one of those girls, it seems. I fall for the douche bags. You know the type. The guy who's biggest concern is himself. Yup, that's the dude I fall for. Everysinglegodforsakentime.

So the question is. What the hell is in my brain to make me think I like one thing and then when the choice is upon me, I choose the opposite of what I really want? Is this what men are referring to when they call us bitches crazy?

Sadly, I think so. I think I'm one of those bitches that is riding the crazytrain into town. I want one thing, but choose the other. Who does that?

I'm sure there's some easy psychological mumbo jumbo that explains this phenomenon (despite the fact that it sounds wayyyy technical: "hitching a ride aboard the crazytrain" is not a scientific phrase). But, honestly... does it even matter why? The real point is, that I'm going to make a conscience effort to seek out the things that I REALLY want in life and not the things that I think I want, that I'm supposed to want, or that I think I probably deserve.

Life's short. Just because a dessert has the word "chocolate" in it doesn't mean it's the superior choice. And just because a dude is interested in bestowing his awesomeness on me... it's only awesome if I think it's awesome, too. (And, it never is).
Flaky Apple Turnovers
recipe by: Dorie Greenspan

As with all turnovers, the focus is on the crust and not the filling. The good news? This crust is freaking awesome! It's flaky and crumbly and has a good flavor to it. As always, there's not enough room to fit a bunch of a filling inside, but the cinnamon does help to amp the flavor up a bit.

The crust, like the men in my life, can be quite ornery. It gets soft really fast (okay, so yes, there's an easy pun there, but I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole. Yikes. ANOTHER pun. I'm stopping now). So, at the first sign of gooeyness, pop that crust back into the fridge to firm up (lord, I'm killing myself today, who knew a crust recipe could be so risque?). Also, like Dorie says, the longer you keep the crust dough in the fridge, the puffier it will be.

For the dough:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small
pieces

For the filling:
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Fuji or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small bits

1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
sugar, for dusting

To make the dough:
Stir the sour cream and sugar together; set aside.

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl, then toss the butter bits over the flour. Working with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers, cut the butter into the ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Don't worry about being thorough - it's better to have an uneven mix than an overworked dough. Switch to a fork and, using a lifting and tossing motion, gently stir in the sour cream. The dough will be very soft.

Divide the dough in half. Put each half in a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to shape each piece into a rectangle (don't worry about size or precision). Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour, or for up to 2 days.

Remove one piece of dough from the fridge and roll it into a rectangle about 9 x 18 inches. The dough is easiest to work with if you roll it between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap - if you want to roll it traditionally, make sure to flour the rolling surface. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, wrap it and refrigerate it. Repeat with the second piece of dough, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

To make the filling:
Whisk the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat.

Getting ready to bake:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.

Roll out one piece of dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, and cut out 4 1/2 inch rounds with a large cutter or the edge of a tartlet pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough. If you'd like, you can gather the scraps together, chill them, and make additional turnovers. (The turnovers made from scraps will taste good, but they won't be as pretty and light as the first rounders.) You'll get 7 or 8 rounds from each piece of dough.

Place 1 to 2 tablespoons apples in the center of each round and dot with the butter. Moisten the edges of each round with a little water and fold the turnovers in half, sealing the edges by pressing them together with the tines of a for. Use the fork to poke steam holes in each turnover, and transfer the turnovers to the baking sheets. (At this point, the turnovers can be frozen; wrap them airtight when they are firm and store them for up to 2 months. Bake them without defrosting, adding a few minutes to their time in the oven)

Brush the tops of the turnovers with a little of the egg wash and sprinkle each one with a pinch of sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes. When done, the turnovers will be puffed, firm to the touch, and golden. Gently transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart

Allow me to introduce you to few new things going on in my life these days.

For one, I've become incredibly busy at work. Busier than I ever have been. Which is great! But, also a little wearing. I'm not the type that stresses out easily and I can definitely leave my work at work when I go home in the afternoons, but for the 8 hours that I'm there: I'm swamped.

Two, I've started taking some classes. Yes, I have my bachelors degree, but it's time to start working toward the classes I need to sit for the CPA exam. That means, this semester, I'm taking 3 classes. 2 economics classes online and a pre-calculus class every Tuesday night for 3 hours (yes, I said pre-calculus for 3 hours. and yes, it's just as awful as you're imagining).

Three, I'm the captain for a relay team for the Bourbon Chase. Initially, you think... oh, how much trouble can being a captain be? And then you get into the thick of it and you realize: holy shit. I'm crafting an average of 3-4 emails a week on this. There is a lot of organizing and logisitics to figure out. And then you've got roster changes from injuries and people dropping out. It's just been a lot to deal with. It's fun and I'm happy to do it, but it gets a little frustrating when other people want things done on their time schedule.

It's good though. In general, I enjoy being busy. It makes me feel more alive. I am still trying to squeeze some baking in here and there, though. Which brings us to this recipe. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey . It came together fairly easily and uses Dorie's Tart dough recipe (which I adore). My caramel turned into toffee, which isn't a bad thing, but I actually think it made it richer than just the caramel would have been. The combination of the flaky, shortbread-y crust with the crunchy, buttery toffee and the sharp, thick, gooey chocolate layer on top is almost too much. Almost.

This isn't the type of recipe that I'd make for myself again, but I can see myself making it for a group. Plus, I'd like to give the caramel another try. I guess I just cooked it too long.

Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart -- Click the title for the recipe.

The recipe is fairly easily. I subbed pecans for the peanuts, just because that's what I had on hand. It is a super rich, decadent recipe though, and I think my layer of chocolate ganache was a little too thick. Next time I'd just smear a thin layer on top.