Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TWD: Cocoa Nana Bread

I haven't been baking that much lately. And ya know what? I miss it. Hopefully I can sneak a few more goodies in a little more often.

So, this recipe is the latest Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. And it's a bread with loads of chocolate and bananas thrown in. Ya know... so you can eat it for breakfast or call it "kinda" healthy. Neither of which accurately pertain to this recipe.

I halved the recipe and made it in a disposable loaf pan. The cook time didn't really work for me, though. First of all... the bread oozed out of the top of the middle of the pan. And I never really felt like the center got cooked enough.

In the end I ended up with ends that were too dry and a center that was slightly over-cooked, but edible. The bread was definitely delicious though, and I think if maybe I cooked it in a regular loaf pan it would have cooked more evenly. Because of the dry crumb, I found myself digging the chocolate chips out of the bread and just eating them. The banana flavor was very subtle. I kept thinking that it would be delicious with a smear of peanut butter. Ya know... just to make it even "healthier."

Click HERE for the recipe, thank's to Steph of Obsessed with Baking's for choosing this week's recipe. I've had my eye on it for awhile and was happy to finally make it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gourmet No Bake Cookies

Ina Garten. Who doesn't love her? I mean, for chrissakes she goes by the nickname: Barefoot Contessa. How cool and classy is that? She's one of the few people on the Food Network that I can assure you, I'd eat whatever she cooked. She cooks delicious-looking, simple food that I always find myself saying... if I ever have a classy dinner party... I'm serving THAT.

The truth of the matter is that I have made quite a few of her baking recipes: cakes, brownies, etc and they've turned out wonderful. Off the top of my head, I know her spinach gratin dish is to die for and I remember a corn chowder recipe and the chicken with 40 cloves of garlic recipe being awesome, also.

She makes throwing a dinner party look so easy, effortless, and fun.

Lately on her show... she's been doing something called "Back to Basics" where she tweaks an old recipe with something new and amps up the flavor. It seems ridiculously boring and dumb, but I'm continually amazed how often I say... ohhhh shit. I never thought of that. I tip my hat to you, Ina.

The of idea of  "Back to Basics" is how I came up with the idea for a "Gourmet" No Bake Cookie. I mean, honestly folks.. how much more basic can you get than a No Bake cookie?

I knew I wanted to make my best friend, Stephanie a plate full of No Bake Cookies (aka Grandma Cookies) when she was visiting over Thanksgiving, but instead of just whipping up a batch... I went Ina Garten all over this recipe and tweaked it a bit.

Now, it's nothing crazy or out of the ordinary... I just added chocolate chips to the recipe (melted into the recipe), I used Dark Cocoa Powder instead of regular cocoa powder and used whole milk. And they turned out delicious. Definitely more chocolatey and decadent than your average No Bake Cookie. I made sure to pull them from the stove a little early because I like mine thin and tender (or even gooey, if I get lucky) instead of thick and chunky, but that's entirely up to you...

This is definitely how I'll be making them from now on... And Ina (Barefoot Contessa) you have my permission (the Barefoot Hillbilly) to use this recipe in your next show or book if you ever decide to go redneck and low-brow on us.

Gourmet No Bake Cookies (or, as I'll call them.. Fancy Dancy Grandma Cookies)
Recipe: written in one of my Aunt's 12 year old handwriting. Adapted by me.

The consistency of the no bake cookie that I enjoy is more like that of a praline. To achieve this texture, I gamble and just try to pull the pan from the stove before the full 2 minute boil. I'm sure if I were to use a candy thermometer I could get a much more accurate product everytime. But... I grew up with them turning out different every time, anyway. So... I'm used to that.

In my opinion, these are definitely superior to the original No Bake Cookie Recipe. So much richer and more satisfying. And dare I say? Classy enough for a dinner party?

1 stick of Butter
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup whole milk (or cream would work, too)
3 tbsp Hershey's Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa
2/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Pinch of Salt
2 1/2 cups of Old Fashioned or Rolled Oats
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
2 tsps Vanilla

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add sugar, milk, cocoa, chocolate chips, and salt. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and immediately add oats, peanut butter, and vanilla.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a piece of aluminum foil, parchment paper, or wax paper.

Let cool and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TWD: Mrs. Vogel's Scherben

aka... fried dough shards with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar.

I've never been a fan of the "fried dough" foods. Never really liked doughnuts (although I will eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts sometimes), can't stand funnel cakes or elephant ears. It's just personal preference. I prefer my sweet baked goods to be more sweet and less doughy.

But, I gotta admit... the picture of these in Dorie's Book, Baking: from My Home to Yours looked interesting to me. They looked less "doughy" and more fried and crispy. I've been waiting for someone to choose these and finally, Teanna of Spork or Foon did just that (and please check out her blog, she's hilarious and one helluva cook and baker!).

But, the timing, Teanna... ohhh the timing. The timing just happens to be whilst I'm in the middle of a furious diet/exercise regime where I'm trying to get down to my ultimate weight (still have like 20 pounds to go and less than 3 weeks to make it. Oy vey) before my 30th birthday rolls around on February 1.  So while the actual ingredients are very reasonable (1 tablespoon of butter? thats it!), the actual frying of the dough is where the diet train stops and rears it's no fun head. Wah Wah.

Luckily, Caitlin (who recently got engaged! Congrats!) had the brilliant idea to try and bake these shards of dough. So... bake them is what I did!

Unfortunately... my diet-mindedness crept even further into the recipe by coming up with the not-so-brilliant idea of using half white whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour.

What I ended up with... were essentially Wheat Thins heavily dusted with powdered sugar. Seriously, the texture and the flavor of the baked dough was exactly that of Wheat Thins! Which.. honestly, I was kind of stoked about... I mean.. normally when I try to healthify a recipe and it doesn't turn out right, it just turns into absolute rubbish! But this is actually something I might could tinker with and make my own Wheat Thins! Just add some savory herbs and spices and bam!

I do think that these would be really tasty if you made them per the recipe and fried them in a vat of oil. So, if you're into the fried dough, you should give them a try, because they were surprisingly easy!

Mrs. Vogel's Scherben
recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So, yeah, I tinkered. A little too much. I used half white whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour. Then... instead of brushing with oil before baking (like Caitlin suggested), I just spritzed with cooking spray. Honestly.. the texture (though not the intentional texture for the actual recipe) turned out really well and would make a GREAT cracker. Luckily, I only baked up half the dough, and am freezing the rest to make my own savory cracker out of it sometime soon!

Check out Teanna's Blog for the recipe.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

TWD: Tarte Tatin

This recipe was one of two chosen for the Tuesdays with Dorie's 2nd Anniversary Posting. And you know with my current leaning to all things fruit, I eagerly chose this one over the chocolate cake option (I know, who have I become?).

This is basically an apple tart with caramelized cooked apples and a crunchy butter crust of puff pasty. I mean, seriously... what could be better, right? Those French. God bless them and their desserts.

I made this for Christmas Dinner Dessert and since it's such a simple recipe and I was making it for my family on Christmas, I was determined to take Dorie's advice in the book and seek out an all butter puff pastry. Which basically means... Pepperidge Farm brand was out.

Now, finding an all butter puff pastry in a town like Nashville around the holidays in the area I live in, is not an easy feat. Why? Because it means I have to go somewhere other than my beloved Harris Teeter and venture into the traffic jammed, christmas shopper infested suburb of Green Hills. F#*@!

First stop? Trader Joes. I waltzed in expecting to find some holiday version of an all butter puff pastry tucked away in the frozen foods section for a reasonable price. What I found... were pie crusts. I left and ventured into the strip-malled location of my local Whole Foods. Surely... whole foods would have an all butter puff pastry.

To my glee, there it was! Dufour's Puff Pastry. Tucked neatly on the bottom shelf. The only offering of puff pastry that Whole Foods had. I picked it up and then I saw the price.. $11.99. F#*@!

Initially, I just said... fine. It's Christmas. It's for Family Dinner. There's not a lot of other ingredients... it's worth it. I walked over to another part of the store to pick something else up and then I started thinking... It might be Christmas and it might be my family, but maybe that's all the more reason to buy Pepperidge Farm. I mean... it's Christmas, so there will be OTHER desserts. And it's my family and I can guarantee you that they wouldn't know the difference between Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry and Dufour's. So, in the end, I returned the Dufours back to the frozen foods section and drove directly to Harris Teeter to pick up the Pepperidge Farm. And I never regretted the decision.

My tarte tatin isn't shiny and golden (with all those apples in there, how in the world can you see if your sugar and butter are getting golden? I just guessed and as you can see, I guessed wrong), to doesn't look like something you'd get from a fancy dancy French Pastry chef, but hot damn if it isn't absolutely delicious! And I even liked it better the next day!

Butter, sugar, apples and puff pastry. Who knew that that's all it took for such a divine tasting dessert? Sweet, soft, slightly crispy, full of apple flavor. It might have looked like a drab plate of grey blobs, but it was so much more.

Tarte Tatin
recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So, I used a big iron skillet for this recipe and it was dark in the kitchen and I had so many apples in the skillet, I couldn't really tell when the sugar and butter got to the right consistently. Otherwise, this would have looked better. So, I definitely should have cooked all that longer.

Despite that, the apples were still entirely cooked all the way through and were nice and soft. I'd like to get some mini iron skillets and try individual sizes of these tarts. I think it would be way easier to make and manage this way.

Recipe here (and pictures of what it's supposed to look like!)

**Special thanks to all those who make Tuesdays with Dorie happen, particularly Laurie! And a huge thank you to Dorie Greenspan herself for inspiring so many of us bakers every week!