Saturday, December 26, 2009

brown sugar shortbread from "Cooks"

You can find the recipe in "Cooks Illustrated Holiday Baking" (Holiday 2009) magazine page 35

I enjoy this magazine, and the recipes are reliable.  The magazine is a little like AB - the articles explain how and why the recipe works, and what doesn't work.

These do get somewhat hard, so be sure to cut them soon out of the oven.

just mixed:

press into the pan, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and score deeply:

just out of the oven (I didn't score deep enough):

cut; recipe states 12 slices; I cut into 16:

aren't the points pretty!!!

Gesine's stars

starry starry nights

Starry Starry Nights cookies. They are chocolate rolled in granulated sugar; thus, black and white starry, starry nights.

The grocery closest to home did not have really good chocolate, so I'm making the 'first' batch of these with 60% cacao Ghiradelli chocolate.

Chamboard (a black raspberry flavored liqueur imported from France) and Amaretto (almond liqueur) should pair well with this cookie. I added 1/2 t. to about 3T of batter each, just to test a couple of cookies. The Chamboard is much stronger than the Amaretto in the raw batter.

The cookie dough is now making it's first rest through cooling in the refrigerator. In an hour or so, when the dough is more firm, I'll use the #100 scoop to make little cookies balls, rolling each in granulated sugar (this makes them a Starry Nights). Then, off to the cooler again - freezer this trip - until they are hard as rocks.

Once they are frozen, another roll though the granulated sugar (now they are Starry Starry Nights!) and they are ready for baking.

a couple of days later - -
These are baked from a recipe in "Confections of a Closet Master Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado.  This is the cookie version of a chocolate truffle.

We Americans, who use soft wheat flour for baking, may find the almond meal/flour to lend a strange texture to these cookies.  I've been baking with almond meal/flour for a few months, and I like the added texture it gives cookies and cakes.

I mixed the batter, and refrigerated for a couple of days.  Then, with my #100 scoop, I formed the balls, rolled in sugar, and froze for a few days. They baked beautifully, and are delicious!

I stored the cookies in a tin for a couple of weeks.  They remained fresh and flavorful.  Bake a few of these for your 'chocolate lover' friends, and keep a few for your own cookie jar.

Here's the link to a video demo of these cookies.  Gesine makes 'starry starry nights,' and the video is posted on her blog.


Friday, December 25, 2009

caramel with golden syrup

addictive - addictive - addictive

It's like a drug.  You want one, then two, then all the pieces!  The rich, buttery, golden, creamy, sweet, vanilla bean flavor of this caramel is the best I've ever tasted.

I probably should have cooked this a few degrees longer; you can see in the above photo that the ends are curling.  The cut caramels hold their shape in the refrigerator, but soon become soft after removed from the refrigerator.

You can find the recipe here.

Since this begins with the addition of golden syrup, watching for the correct golden color is a bit challenging.  Err on the side of darker.

changing consistency:

Though I didn't scrape the side of the pan when I originally poured the caramels, I did scrape the pan onto a saucer.  I didn't want to leave any of this goodness in the pan. Notice all the vanilla bean specks in this caramel!

Someone had to taste......

d e l i c i o u s ! ! ! ! ! !

"praise God from whom all blessings flow..."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

family of gingerbread people

What a nice looking trio!  And, they are standing outside Niece Ashley's gingerbread house.

I found my inspiration for the gingerbread men here; although, I forgot to add the sugar buttons before I baked the cookies - maybe I'll remember next year.

As long as the dough remained very cold, the cookies cut easily.  I kept the dough as cool as possible, and refrigerated the cut cookies before baking.

This recipe does create a cookie that puffs somewhat (and bakes into a soft cookie).  Niece Ashley thought the first little men we baked looked like ghosts...

The flavor compensates for any undesirable puffiness.  This recipe yields a sharp gingerbread, with a bit of hot bite - exactly what I wanted for my gingerbread men.

Packaged and ready to be delivered - - -

orange - sugar coated - pecans

Valerie's Orange Sugar-Coated Pecans

We were baking little almond pound cakes, and she casually mentioned these pecans.  They are wonderful.  The ingredient list contains no spices to distract your senses - just orange, pure orange.

The recipe is simple.

finely grated zest from one orange (original recipe states 1 T)
1/4 c orange juice (I used fresh juice, strained)
1 c sugar
4 c pecan halves

Combine zest, juice and sugar in heavy sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil.

Stir in the pecans, and continue to cook until all the liquid/syrup has coated the pecans (this took about 5 minutes)

Pour coated pecans onto parchment to dry.  Separate the nuts, as they tend to clump.  They begin to dry quickly.  Let these sit in a tightly covered tin for a couple of days; the orange flavor intensifies.

The syrup does coat the pecans, and eventually your pan should look like this:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

cranberry bliss bars

My Starbucks connoisseur, Friend Karen, says these are prefect. I think she ate 2+ before she left my house with her box of Christmas goodies. That's quite the recommendation for this recipe, coming from one who is such a Starbucks fan.

The bars are good, consisting of a cookie base flavored with holiday spices, and topped with a cream cheese icing. Add a few cranberries for Christmas color, and you have a very festive, flavorful holiday treat.

You can find the recipe here.

Santa looks as if he is ready to jump into the middle of this 'bliss.'
The recipe makes a large 9x13 pan of bars. Cut the bars into squares, and then cut in half diagonally to form triangle shaped bars.

Herb de Provence + orange = 1 great cookie!

These were my favorite from the 2009 holiday baking session, which lasted 3 weeks. The freshly grated orange zest was a Christmas gift to the senses, as well as the addition of Herb de
Provence to the cookie and the glaze.

I included these in a few Christmas cookie gift bags. The positive reviews were overwhelming. They really are that good!

Recipe can be found here.

All packaged for Christmas and ready to travel...

Cappuccino Brownies

Niece Ashley chose these from the (huge) stack of magazines and books on the coffee table. She chose well!!!!!

While I tried to feed her festive, holiday dried fruit bars, and gingerbread, and orange cookies....she just wanted chocolate...

This recipe is from a "Land O Lakes Recipe Collection" magazine dated 2004.

I make this comment often while I'm baking, but 'who needs potpourri' when you have Cappuccino Brownies in the oven?

1 T instant expresso powder
2 t hot water
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

1 t instant espresso powder
2 - 3 T milk or cream
2 c powdered sugar
1/4 c butter, softened

1/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 t shortening

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 T expresso powder and hot water in bowl; stir to dissolve.

Melt 1 c chocolate chips and 1/2 c butter in saucepan over low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in espresso mixture, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well mixed.

Spread mixture into well greased 8" square baking pan. Bake for 33 to 38 minutes, or until brownies just begin to pull away from sides of pan. Don't over bake; cool completely.

Combine 1 t espresso powder and 2 T milk in small bowl; stir to dissolve. Add powdered sugar and 1/4 c butter. Beat at low speed, adding enough milk for desired spreading consistency. Frost cooled brownies.

Melt 1/3 c chocolate chips and shortening in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over frosting; swirl with knife for marbled effect.

A few of my notes:
The brownie base is very soft; I lined the pan with parchment to aid in removing the brownie from pan.

These cut like cheesecake - that means, clean the knife between every slice for a pretty, smooth cut.

The brownies are best on day 2, after the flavors blend. Freshly baked, there may seem to contain too much espresso or chocolate, but just step back and wait a few hours.

I'm not a coffee drinker, but these are DELICIOUS!!!!!!!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

my clementines - not the song

The recipe uses the entire clementine, including the peel. I had never tasted a clementine, and baking with the entire fruit sounded interesting.

As I read in one of the foodie blogs, "the clementine is this cake." It's true. From the aroma to the texture to the taste - it's all clementine.

The cake is made with almond meal. This meal has a course texture, much unlike our wheat flour. I like the added texture the almond meal provides in this cake.

As the recipe states, let this cake sit for a couple of days. I have tasted the cake directly from the oven and also a couple of days later. It is much better after it rests for a couple of days.

Nigella's receipe can be found here.

pecan domed rum cake

Real bakers don't use cake mixes - - silly me for thinking such.

As I reached for the cake mix box on the grocer's shelf, all I could think about was, 'what preservatives and words that I cannot pronounce are ingredients in this box?'

I followed the old, traditional Bacardi Rum Cake recipe, which can be found numerous places on the internet. I must confess that, even though this recipe includes a cake mix, the cake is really good. I chose spiced rum, because 'spiced' is what fall baking is all about.

I would like to try a different recipe that does not use a cake mix, but I'm baking another rum cake next week, and I've already purchased the box mix. It works...what can I say?

These cakes were baked in the William's Sonoma cranberry molds. They made cute little bundts. A word of caution - don't overfill the pan. I know this from experience!

peanut butter fudge

No candy thermometer required!

Just mix, boil for 3 minutes, mix and pour.
This fudge tastes wonderful, is creamy, cuts easily, and freezes beautifully. There are no stray sugar crystals lingering to destroy the smooth texture of this fudge.

I'm trying this next with Nutella!

You can find the recipe here.

Pottery from Peter's Pottery.

Thanksgiving memories

Brother's hands carving turkey

Niece mixing southern cornbread and biscuit dressing.

Milky Way Madness... in, this has been driving me crazy for years! No one can make the cake like Mama did, and she can no longer offer instructions.

Once again, Nephew only asked for one thing - a Milky Way cake like "Granny's." (I can't make it like Granny did!!! Aunt Gale replies)

This year was about the 4th year to try this beast of a cake. Monday night, I baked the cake in a bundt pan, I think to exert my power. (I'll show you, you thin, moist cake layers of Granny's past.) The cake was very firm, actually hard, on the outside. I tasted a pinch of the cake; it tasted like cardboard. It contains a cup of crisco; what can taste good with that much crisco?

I deviated from Mom's icing recipe slightly, and was pleased with the result. I had great icing on a bundt that I had sliced into three very uneven layers. As an aside, carefully mark the layers if you slice a bundt. Otherwise, the wheel of a bundt becomes a puzzle; needless to say, I didn't put the puzzle back together correctly.

It's now Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Nephew is expecting Milky Way cake (like Granny's %*$&%#). I have an uneven mound of dark chocolate mass that looks like it has a cyst on the top (thank you, Brother, for pointing that out). Cardboard with good icing in an ugly shape...headed home for Thanksgiving.

Nephew looks at the cake and asks, "What is that?"

By some Miracle!, the warm, moist icing soaked into the cardboard cake layers, and resulted in a heavy, dense, moist Milky Way cake with good (soft on the inside, hard on the outside) icing.

A (freeking) Mazing!!!!
Niece and Nephew think "This is it!"
Brother gave me a 96%; would have given 100% he said, had the cake not had a cyst on the top.

So, after years of trying - - success.

Definitely let the cake sit for a couple of days before cutting. The icing moistens the dull cake layers. (The cake was even better on Friday.)

Even though the (my) cake is not very pretty, it is really delicious. A small piece goes a long way, for it is very rich. Chocolate lovers should try this recipe.

Here's Mom's recipe for the cake:

6 Milky Way candy bars
1 stick oleo
Melt and let cool slightly

1 c. Crisco
2 c. sugar
4 whole eggs
Beat well

2 1/2 c. plain flour
pinch salt
1 1/2 c. buttermilk with 1/2 t. soda added

Beat all; add Milky Way mixture
Bake in layers at 350 degrees

Here's the recipe I used for the icing; it's Mom's recipe, with the addition of extra milk and sugar:

2½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 cup marshmallow cream

6 oz chocolate chips

Combine sugar and evaporated milk; cook to soft ball stage. Remove from heat; add butter, marshmallow cream, and chocolate chips. Frost cake.

Work quickly; this icing sets up very fast.

The result will be a Dense, Moist, Rich, Chocolate cake. ...and a memory.....

Hugs to Mom...
love Gale

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a sweet touch

There's no question here...
Even though the raw sugar does **sparkle** sitting atop the pumpkin cookies, the white sugar is far superior in eye appeal. We do eat with our eyes first, don't we.

Recipe adapted from here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

my name 'up in lights' ....

...well not exactly - more like on page 216, in the back of the book, in the middle of all the acknowledgments. However, it's there, and it's fun to see it there.

I, along with many, many others, tested recipes for cookbook author / Johnson & Wales University instructor, Peter Reinhart's new book, "artisan breads every day." He always responded to emails and offered encouragement and/or modifications when a recipe underproduced. I'm still flattered that this book author would take the time to reply to my emails and comment on my food photography.

Of the breads I tested, Chocolate Cinnamon Babka was my favorite (page 153). And, my largest mess was created while testing Best Biscuits Ever on page 175. The test recipe required butter in the size of dimes. I'm glad to see the final recipe requires grating frozen butter. Believe me, butter the size of dimes will melt out of the dough and all over the parchment.

I watched this book's creation from test recipe #1, through release day on October 27, 2009 via Mr. Reinhart's blog and emails. This is a great book for bread bakers. Here's the link; add this one to your library!

* * * * * * * * * *

(Reposting below old blog entries, photos, and emails during the testing process.)

testing recipes for a new book
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

another new adventure...

that’s what life is made of...

I love the adventures!

I’ve been reading Peter Reinhart’s book, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” for the past few months. It’s a great book, especially if you are interested in learning baker’s math.


October 6...a post on the “Wild Yeast” blog:

Peter Reinhart, author of several wonderful books including The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads, is looking for recipe testers for his new book. If you’re interested, see Peter’s blog for more information.


October email from Mr. Reinhart:

Happy to have you aboard. Please forgive this impersonal note, as I am now up to 295 testers and need to write to all with this note. From now on, please check the blog every few days for updates. I will send out the first recipe next week and will then let folks what recipes are available for testing via the blog and you can request whichever one you want when you send back the previous response form. Please keep the attached file to use as your response form each time. ... Many thanks in advance for all your help and support.




It looks like I’m going to be testing recipes for his new book...

Stay tuned....


What fun! I tested a few of the recipes for his new book. I would submit my reply form, along with pictures-of course-and Mr. Reinhart would reply to my emails! How exciting to hear directly from the cookbook author. What a wonderful experience. I anxiously await the release of his new book later this year.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

fall morning

My baking list is extensive today....

But, for a few moments, I'll sit and admire God's handiwork in the pink streaks across the early morning sky...

...and enjoy a few cups of hot tea.

Pottery tea pot is from Peter's Pottery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. I purchased this teapot last fall; however, Val and I made the trip to Peter's Pottery yesterday. Watch for future blog posts displaying my baked goodies on new pieces of Peter's Pottery.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FALL red & green

Not Christmas red and green. However, as I removed these cranberry pumpkin cakes from the oven and the tops of the cakes burst with red cranberries, green pepita seeds, and glistening raw sugar, I did think - - - Christmas. And, I'm not one to skip Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law makes the best southern style dressing, and her sister makes candied sweet potatoes. So, I'm not skipping any of those treats, but these cakes just have that "Christmas" look. Dress them up with a celophane bag and some ribbon, and you will have created merry, merry, merriment for some lucky people.

The recipe is in a book by Lou Seibert Pappas, "A Harvest of Pump
kins and Squash." I did handle the batter gently, and the cakes baked with perfect rounded domes and no cracks. Perfecton! They are tender and moist and delicious.

The recipe lists white or yellow cornmeal as one of the ingredients. I chose a medium grind to add a little extra crunch. I also used the puree from well drained pulp of a pink banana squash.
This squash baked to a smooth pulp with bright orange color.

For the details:
9 oz of batter in each of 4 - 3" x 6" pans
I didn't calculate calories...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

gingerbread biscotti

easy, easy recipe -- ginger 'bite' lingers after you consume the biscotti -- perfect for fall

"Soft Gingerbread Biscotti," that is. I don't like the 'hard as a brick' type found in some trendy stores, but freshly baked biscotti is another matter. Even biscotti skeptics would probably enjoy this treat made without preservatives, etc, etc, etc.

My niece and nephew still remember the gingerbread house I made when they were but toddlers (20+ years ago), and I still search for gingerbread recipes to this day. I love the hot bite of the ginger, blended with cinnamon and other spices. I've searched for the perfect gingerbread, and finally found one I like (see this post.) However, this book by J. McGlinn holds additional promise of great ginger things to come. I hope to bake from several pages of this book.

This biscotti was a huge hit at work yesterday. The dough mixes easily, although you do have to get your hands into this one. I will omit the additional sprinkling of sugar during the second and third bake; but, otherwise, the recipe is perfect. The baking fragrance is everything fall. Today, on day 2, the biscotti is slightly crunchy on the edge and slightly soft inside - perfect with my morning Tazo 'Earl Grey.'

I highly recommend the book and the biscotti recipe on page 62.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

tunnel of fudge

A warm, dark, delicious tunnel anyone (who loves chocolate) would want to indulge in. This is Ashely's new apartment cake. I was concerned there was too much chocolate in the cake...what was I thinking?!

Look at the picture. You can see the tunnel of fudge, and that's just what it is. Dense, chocolate, moist, better than a brownie, tunnel of fudge. Surrounded with chocolate cake, and topped with ganache.

Calories? I have no idea, and I don't want to know.

The recipe is in "Cook's Country - Best Country Recipes" It's on sale in the bookstores now.

This cake is delicious. I knew I had found a 'keeper' recipe when I tasted the raw cake batter; it was the absolute best cake batter I have ever tasted. Good quality chocolate really makes a difference.

There is no chemical leavening in this cake, yet it rose and baked to chocolate goodness. A small piece goes a long way, so, share with your family and friends.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

roasted tomatoes become pizza sauce

I pureed 6 roasted roma tomato halves (here's the link to the roasted tomato blog post) and I had instant pizza sauce.
The pureed roasted tomatoes / pizza sauce needs no ingredient additions to achieve great flavor. Everything was added during the roasting stage.
Add a little browned sausage and some shredded cheese. Transfer from bread peel to a very hot, hot baking stone in a very hot oven. The semolina in the image above helps the pizza slide off the peel and onto the stone, and it adds a little crunch to the bottom of the pizza.