Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

I am currently gallavanting through Northern California's Wine Country, but please enjoy this post I prepared before I went on vacation. The recipe link at the end of the post will be updated once I get back to show the exact link for the recipe, instead of just the blog that the recipe is listed on. I realize the post is rather boring, but don't take that out on the cookie... it's delicious, I'm just in a rush. Thanks.

One of my favorite things to eat are chewy oatmeal cookies. They are like comfort food in a portable form. And you'd be surprised how hard it is to find oatmeal cookies that turn out chewy and moist instead of dry and brittle.

This recipe was chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet. And as I read through the recipe the first time, I immediately thought... Oh no, Dorie... dried fruit and chocolate in the same recipe... careful, now, careful. And then... then I saw molasses in the recipe, too! What the????

But, I started thinking about what combination of fruits, nuts, and chocolate I wanted to use that would all complement each other to my own picky palate (that hates chocolate and dried fruit) and go with the molasses as well. And I came up with the perfect combo: dried apricots, dried cranberries, pecans, and white chocolate.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

These cookies were DELICIOUS. I made them one morning before my mom came over to do some shopping. I made a full recipe, stocked the cookie dough in the freezer for easy baking later and baked up 4 immediately to photograph and take with us for a little snack while shopping. They were awesome!!!! All the flavors really blended well together!

Chockablock Cookies
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So easy to make. As I said before, I used white chocolate, dried apricots and dried cranberries and pecans. Wonderful combination.

I've found that I dont like cookie dough that has molasses in it, but I do love the flavor that the molasses imparts once the cookie is baked.

Homey and delicious. A real winner.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

I know. Biscuits again, right? But this time... there's no buttermilk involved. Not only that, there's also no lard or even butter! Bring out the smelling salts... someone's Aunt Sue Ellen from Montgomery, Alabama just fainted or rolled over in her grave or whatever. Can't call it a biscuit if it doesn't have all of those things or !gasp! none of them! That's just not right. Or not southern, at least.

Well, screw it. These biscuits were the easiest biscuits I've ever made AND they tasted great AND had a great texture. Bring on the cream biscuits!

Now, it's kinda fitting that I'd be making these biscuits. You see, Nashville's own Biscuit Lady, Carol Fay Ellison passed away a couple of weeks ago. Her biscuits were the best biscuits I'd ever had outside of a southern lady's kitchen. They were light and tasty without being too tangy and they were rich without feeling heavy. They were delicious and luckily the recipe lives on at Loveless Cafe. But, I did eat there about a month ago and even though I was on a diet, I couldn't say no to having one biscuit with some honey drizzled on it. YUM.

I'm pretty sure that these sweet cream biscuits will now become my go-to biscuit recipe. Just because they are easy, they require few ingredients and they have a very mild flavor and a fluffy texture that fits perfect with jams, honey, or meats.

The night before I made these biscuits, I cut up some strawberries with some sugar and let it sit in the fridge over night to juice up. Having biscuits with strawberries is a childhood memory from my maternal grandmother. She always served her biscuits piping hot with strawberries that had been picked and stored in the freezer with a little sugar (okay, a LOT of sugar). Delicious.

Of course... when I tasted these biscuits and realized how delicious they were, I had to try them with a little bit of honey drizzled over, as well (my favorite way to eat a biscuit).
These may not seem like traditional biscuits to you when you read the ingredient list... but they sure taste like it.

Sweet Cream Biscuits
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So, I always use White Lily flour. It's readily available in every store here and I find it to be the best flour. I love the soft, light texture of the flour. According to Dorie, it's so soft that you should add 2 tbsps for every 1 cup of all purpose that you use White Lily for.

I also did something different this time. I used a ton of flour when I rolled out the dough. I'd always been scared of using too much flour ("lightly dusting" it a relative phrase, I think). But, after watching an episode of Throwdown in which Carol Fay makes her famously delicious biscuits I noticed she used a ton of flour to roll her dough out... And let me tell you... it makes the process SO MUCH EASIER. (Incidentally, she lost on her episode of throwdown, which reminds me... I need to make Bobby's recipe to see how they compare!).

I also still don't have a biscuit cutter, so I just rolled into a square, cut the biscuits into squares with a sharp knife and placed them in a square baking pan that housed all the biscuits to where they were just barely touching each other.

They turned out perfect. Thanks to Melissa of Love at First Bite for choosing this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. It was a real winner, in my book!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

Well, it's finally happened.

After years of working on my baking, trying new recipes, having massive disappointments and failures, mingled in with some mediocrity and a few really great recipes sprinkled in, it's finally time to pack away the apron.

It's been fun. I love mixing and measuring, nothing soothes me more after a long day than getting lost in a recipe. And even though things don't always turn out utterly yummy... sometimes they do and even when they dont, my friends and family still gush and coo as only friends and family can do.

But this weekend, all that changed.

It all started with Nancy of The Dogs Eat The Crumbs (who, by the way, I just LOVE. She always posts all the crazy 1/4 recipe, 1/2 recipe , 8 inch pan, 10 inch pan, etc measurements (metric, even!!!) that keep math-idiots like myself from pulling my hair out when I don't want to bake an entire recipe to take a bite of and throw away. Stupid diets). She chose a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie that I have been DYING to try.

The name is simple: Swedish Visiting Cake. And there is a picture accompanying the recipe... that shows a very dry looking cake baked in a skillet with sliced almonds on top. Now, honestly... the picture doesn't make the recipe look all that appealing. But the story that goes along with the recipe, about how it's so quick and easy that it's said you could whip it up in no time for unexpected guests who show up on your doorstep intrigued me. Not that I ever have guests like that... (but I might now).

 So, I was very excited to be finally attempting this recipe. The fact that the timing of the recipe coincides with my busiest time of year (tax season) and also my trying to eat healthy (marathon training season) did not bode well. But I was determined to make this recipe.

Saturday, I did it. And of course... it started off bad. I was halving the recipe, and making it in two mini loaf pans. I managed to halve the recipe easily, except... I totally forget to only use HALF the zest of a lemon (I actually used an orange) and I used the whole thing. I feared a citrus overload, but I kept on plugging. Initially, when I realized my mistake, I considered just making a whole recipe... but decided that that much orange can't be a bad thing.

The moment I took the mini loaves out of the oven, I realized it. I could already tell, just by looking at the cakes that I was done with baking. For years I've been searching for the one thing.. the one baked good that knocks my socks off and with the crunchy, yet moist crust settling on the counter as they cooled, I started to think... could this be the one? This could be the one!!! It could really, finally be the one!!

I waited for them to cool for 5 minutes and then cut into one of them.


Seriously. This is/was hands down the absolute best thing I've ever put into my mouth. It was sweet and slightly gummy and chewy and lightly crispy on top. The texture was amazing. The flavor was amazing. And the effort was amazingly easy.

Hands down, bar none, the best thing I've ever baked. And I honestly can't imagine ever making anything else so satisfying. It's comfort dessert at it's best. It's like the macaroni and cheese of desserts. It's the one, I tell you!!!! THE FREAKING ONE.

I had fantasies that night of adjusting the recipe... maybe adding cocoa for some of the flour to make a chocolate cake. Maybe throwing in some chocolate chips. The opportunities are endless and I feel like there's no reason to bake any more. I've found my baking soul-mate.

Other recipes need not apply.

Swedish Visiting Cake
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

The easiest cake you'll ever make. I don't even know what else to say except I know that this is a recipe I'll know by heart very soon. I see myself making this many, many times throughout the year. It's simply delicious. The flavor profile is very basic... just sugary (and citrus-y if you added a shit ton of orange zest like I did), but it's the texture of the cake that sets it a part. It's light, but rich. It's moist, but chewy.

I didn't sprinkle the top with almonds, because I didn't have any, but I did use all almond extract in the recipe (simply because I'm out of vanilla extract). It seems like the type of recipe you can easily sub things in and out and still wind up with a delicious treat.
It's amazing.

Find the Recipe here on Nancy's blog, The Dogs Eat The Crumbs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TWD: Coconut Tea Cake

The older I get, the more I appreciate spring. I never really thought much about spring as a kid. My focus was always on getting to summer and more importantly, summer break. But, now that I don't have a summer break, I realize what a beautiful time of year spring really is.

After a cold, wet winter, we're finally getting warm, bright days and the trees and flowers are starting to bud out. The landscape is changing from brown to green and you can almost feel the excitement in everyone around you that it's finally spring. We deserve it. It's been a long winter.

This weekend, I spent all of Saturday and Sunday outdoors for the first time all season. And it was spectacular. A Saturday full of running and hiking and a Sunday with running and golf. It doesn't get any better than that.

Well, actually... it does... it gets better when you know you have a Coconut Tea Cake waiting for you at home to be sliced up and devoured. And there is something spring-like about a Coconut Tea Cake, as well. The light fruitiness of the coconut, the tenderness of the crumb. A perfectly dainty, but decadent (especially if you douse your cake in a coconut glaze like I did) cake to serve on a perfect, spring-time day.

Coconut Tea Cake
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Carmen of Carmen Cooks

I halved the recipe and cooked it in a regular sized bundt pan. This would have worked out fine, I think, except I let the cake cook just a tad too long, so it was a bit on the dry side, even with dousing with a coconut syrup and the powdered sugar glaze. Great flavor though. I was out of vanilla extract so I used almond extract and a touch of coconut extract. The coconut extract really enhanced the coconut scent of the cake, but I'm not sure if it enhanced the flavor.