Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD: French Strawberry Cake

This cake is June on a fork- juicy strawberries promise the bounty of summer to come, the light genoise is a pleasant change from heavy winter chocolate and caramel flavors, and (at least here in the PNW) the weather is still cool enough not to destroy the cloak of whipped cream. I found this recipe more simple and delightful than I had expected. I love whipped cream, but somehow I don't usually care for it as a frosting. I'm also more of a biscuit-style strawberry shortcake kind of girl, but I couldn't help but be charmed by this adorable cake. It is lovely to eat and lovely to look at! The only challenge was slicing the rather thin cake into 3 layers. My middle layer was quite thin and sort of disappeared into the berries and cream.  I found that it kept improving over about 24 hours and than began to break down. This one was a sweet surprise while it lasted!

Find the recipe with our lovely hosts Sophia of Sophia's Sweets and Allison of Sleep, Love,Think, Dine!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TWD:Oasis Nan

I came a bit late to the wonderful world of kitchen gadgets. Growing up, we had a yellow mixing bowl, metal soup spoons, one set each of plastic cup and spoon measures, and a wire whisk shaped like a tornado. My mom whipped up a menagerie of sweets in our sparsely equipped kitchen, and, although neither of us knew it until later, in doing so taught me how to improvise. Culinary school and years in professional kitchens introduced me to new tools- some inspired (micro plane! How I love you!) to downright stupid (egg separator? You have 5 on the end of each hand.) At any rate, I can't help but wonder if one tool I never saw much use for would have salvaged this bland recipe.

Would a baking stone have rescued my nan? It turned out much more like a poorly made pizza crust than any nan I have eaten.  I followed the dough recipe exactly and the shaping instructions as well as possible, though my careful rounds turned to amoebic shapes when transferred to the oven. The only changes I made were with the toppings. I got bored with scallions and tried other herbal combos, even stuffing a couple with raisins, fennel seed, and sugar. They all came out leaden and unappetizing, even when warm. On the other hand, playing nan Frisbee with the leftovers was pretty fun!

Anyone else feeling let down by this recipe?

A big thank you to hosts Maggie of Always Add More Butter and Phyl Of Cabbages and Kings!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TWD: Pecan Sticky Buns

Late to the party again! Darn busy Tuesdays!

A dear friend and I toasted our far-away moms with these delicious treats and some mango/champagne cocktails last Sunday. My approach to the TWD: Baking With Julia project has been to try to stay as true to each original recipe as possible. I would like to see the finished product as the contributing baker intended, and then form opinions of the recipe. This Pecan Sticky Bun recipe from baker extraordinaire Nancy Silverton is a great example of why!
I have made many a batch of sticky buns and found myself itching to make some changes. Fewer pecans, pre-made caramel "stick," etc. I am very, very glad I didn't! This recipe is way better than mine. Who knew I could use egg in the filling? Skip melting the butter and sugar, and let the oven do the work? I also never thought of laminating brioche dough...genius. (ps- now we all have a head start on the method for making puff pastry.)
Anyway, I learned a lot in new technique this week. How about you?

Please visit our hosts Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Nicole of Cookies on Friday for the recipe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD: Hungarian Shortbread

I first came across this recipe years ago, flipping through a copy of Baking With Julia to pass the time until the onslaught of dessert orders came during one of my dreaded plating shifts. The technique was so interesting, and the elements of the recipe SO right up my ally it could have been written just for me. Shortbread? Yes please! Rhubarb? Always!!!! I really have no explanation as to why it took me so long to actually make it. I will say that this is the recipe in the TWD: BWJ edition that I have most been looking forward to. It did not disappoint.

As I may have mentioned, I am completely crazy for rhubarb. For the past two years, I have had my eye on a rhubarb plant in my old neighborhood. It lives in front of a rental home and is GIANT, and my long observation has led me to conclude that no one is caring for or utilizing this plant. Anyway, my Significant Other, having what I will describe as a somewhat mischievous bent, led us on a midnight rhubarb raid. (This blog post will self destruct in 5..4...3...2...)

I made this recipe as directed, jam and all, except for baking the bottom layer alone for 10 minutes as suggested by other bloggers. The powdered sugar melted into a sort of buttery sugar frosting, so I sifted on another layer when the bars were cool. I also lined my baking pan with foil so as to easily lift the bars out to cut. Next time I would like to double up the rhubarb jam recipe and see how that turns out, because I know for sure I will make Hungarian Shortbread many, many times over. Like, maybe next week...

Please visit hosts Lynette of 1smallkitchen and Cher of The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler... for the recipe!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD: Lemon Loaf Cake

Oh man, it feels good to be back in the kitchen! I have been slogging through the rain here in the PNW for the past 4 months, jealous of the East coast and it's early summer weather. The good news is, my personal harbinger of spring has finally arrived! Our farmer's market run this weekend was more or less rain free, and I came home with a few pounds of beautiful, vibrant rhubarb.

This week's lemon loaf cake recipe was simple, fast, yummy. The only change I made to the recipe was rubbing the lemon zest with the sugar before proceeding with the batter. It seemed like a waste of those lovely lemon oils to add the zest at the last minute! I do feel this is one of those recipes I will be glad to have in my arsenal when I need something stress-free to serve unexpected guests. I am currently eating a breakfast portion with jam, but last night I dressed it up with a quick compote of my beloved rhubarb. Lemon, rhubarb,and whipped cream...a perfect welcome to spring!

For the recipes, please check in with hosts Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty of Life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TWD: Rugelach

Cream cheese dough, cinnamon sugar, plump dried fruits, toasted nuts...this recipe sounded decadent, old-fashioned, and delicious! I have used this dough in other recipes and it bakes up flaky, light, and beautifully flavorful. While it is certainly the best part of the cookie, the dough seems to suffer in this somewhat clunky recipe.
I decided to follow this recipe to the letter, making homemade apricot lekvar and using almonds, hazelnuts, dried cherries, apricots, prunes, dark and golden raisins for the filling.

The jelly-roll shape of the cookies made me a little nervous, but I rolled 'em up and chilled them overnight. I tried to pinch a seal on the end of the roll to avoid the cookies opening into snail shapes as they baked. Most of them did anyway. I also found it necessary to cut the baking time down to 20 minutes to avoid burning the filling and sugar/nut coating. All in all, the rugelach recipe seemed much ado about, if not exactly nothing, than not very much. I found myself wishing I had made the adjustments my instincts told me to. These are the best looking examples:

What do you think, TWD folks? Perhaps my lekvar was too runny? My oven too hot? Did I bake them sideways? (I think so.) Check out Jessica's lovely rugelach at My Baking Heart and find the recipe with Margaret at The Urban Hiker, or on pages 235-236 of Baking with Julia.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TWD: Chocolate Truffle Tarts

Thank goodness it's still Tuesday on the West Coast! I have been lost in new-job land and barely made these delicious tarts in time. Short post today, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. The chocolate pate brisee dough was easier than expected to work with and baked up tender enough to give under gentle pressure from a fork.The filling was like a fudgey brownie crossed with a chocolate souffle. The softened cubes of white and milk chocolate and biscotti bits added a wonderful dimension. Here I must admit that a grocery store panic resulted in my using McVities digestive biscuits (ala Will and Kate's wedding cake) and Toblerone White in place of the biscotti and white chocolate. Still, Chocolate Truffle Tarts were a bona fide hit! Find the recipe on pages 382-383 of "Baking With Julia" or check in with one of our wonderful hosts!

Steph at A Whisk and a Spoon
Spike of Spike Bakes
Jamie of Good Eats and Sweet Treats
Jessica of Cookbookhabit