Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Burning down the House for the sake of Daring Bakers

I'm a klutz. I have a tendency to cut myself, bruise myself, and burn myself. It happens cooking and it happens just walking.
When I began this month's recipe, the pastry dough came together perfectly and I let it rest overnight. The next day I brought it out, rock solid. So I had to defrost it, which was no easy task because it was going to take a couple of hours and I really needed to start on the tart. So I put it in the oven and every few minutes took the defrosted pastry off. This took about 15 mins.
Of course at the same times, I was boiling potatoes for my party. So I was making 2 recipes at once.
This turned out to be a very bad idea because some how they were ready at the same time, making cuss words fly out of my mouth.
At the same time the potatoes were about to be done, I started making the caramel. Let me just recap, I've never made caramel until yesterday, so I was confused by the dry method. The first time I did it and added the cream, the caramel came immediately to a hard boil, splattering hot boiling cream over my entire outfit. That is when the cuss words began to fly.
I breathed and then washed out the pot and began again. This time watching very closely to see what was happening. It started to turn the amber color and I began the milk. This time it didn't come to a hard boil as quickly, but it did began to clump up.
My solution was to add the butter and the cream, then boil the mixture. This cause little sugar chunks, but I just dished those out and threw them away. I then dealt with my potato salad, allowing the caramel mixture to cool. When I added the eggs, I was worried that they would scramble and I would have to do it all over again. Which I might say wasn't going to happen because time was coming to a close.
But it came together. It wowed my friends. We all enjoyed it. I especially loved the chocolate mousse.
And what have I learned. Do the Daring Bakers recipe at a different time than a dinner party or do it the day ahead and you won't almost cut of your foot or boil you skin.
Happy Baking Ladies!

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour


* ½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe above)
* 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
* 1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
* ¼ cup (50 g) butter
* 2 whole eggs
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
* 1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
* ½ lb (250 g) milk chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C).

2. Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.

3. In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.

5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.

6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

7. Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.

8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Alternate Caramel Method:

If you have problems with the dry method, you may use this method.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Set mixture in a pot over medium-high heat and stir slowly. When the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and leave it alone. Wait till desired color is attained .

Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Caramel Fragments:

Melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
Note: The Chocolate Shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells. So, if you want to cut that recipe into thirds then do so but Veron and Patricia are not promising it will scale down properly.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration: overnight
To make 3 tart shells: 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square
or 10 inches (26 cm round)


* 1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
* ½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
* 2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
* 2 eggs
* 4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
* 2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
* 1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

A day ahead
1. In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.

2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together

3. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly

4. Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.

5. Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Taking on the Brownie

What does it take to be a Brownie Babe?
Does it take brains?
Does it take bronze?
Does it take skill?
Or does it take heart?
Does it take passion?
Does it take friendship?
I believe it takes the last three. Baking takes love, compassion, and everything in between. You place your soul into something for just the sight of watching someone eat it. I never take the first bite of something I make if I have a friend over. I wait for them to take it, watching, awaiting their response. And I've never gotten a bad one. Why? Well either its always good or people just say is good. Now I did have one bad mishap and that was with stuffed squash blossoms that weren't fried and I can't live it down. But everything I bake has never missed the spot. I love baking. I love the steps, the messes, the looks of joy when they get a neat little bundle. I do it because it brings happiness. It's my random act of kindness about once a week. Myriam, I wish I could send my brownie to you, but I don't think customs would send it. However, I can post the recipe. I hope you find joy and love in them like I have.

Tropical Brownie Pie
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet morsels or 8 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch pie pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is glossy and smooth.Whisk together remaining ingredients, then stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in nuts and white chocolate. Spread batter in pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes.
*Currently out of town so can't post pictures. Will as soon as I'm home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

HHDD#14 gives me an excuse for Gnocchi experimentation

My first experience of gnocchi was at Buenos Aires Cafe in downtown Austin. The Le Cordon Blue Chef made 3 different kinds of potato dumplings- a chive, paprika, and traditional. It was in a cream sauce and spectacular. I fell in love with every bite. I promised to make it, but I put it off. I placed it on my summer cooking list, during my time off. It started coming down to my last 3 weeks of freedom before school. As much as I love cooking, summer causes me to want quick meals. Plus, its already hot outside, no reason to heat the apartment, too. But then Hay, Hay It's Donna Day, said it was gnocchi month. There came my excuse. But what kind of gnocchi? Ironstef did a hot pink beet gnocchi, but the thought of eating beets for the first time through gnocchi, didn't seem appealing. There's always traditional potato gnocchi, but I'm not one for tradition. Then I remembered Heidi Swanson's recipe. Gnocchi alla Romano. Friday night I read over the recipe. Doing so caused me to reread it. Heidi called for semolina flour not potato. I became confused. I thought gnocchi was always potato, then I found the beet recipe, then Heidi's. What? So I made Heidi's recipe, of course, taking it into my own hands. My friend came over and enjoyed his first taste of gnocchi. He was impressed, especially after I told him what I had to do. It destroyed my kitchen a lot of worse than pizza or pasta. But that's the fun in it, of course until you have to clean it. So here's my take on Heidi's recipe. And if you like good tasty vegetarian food, then check out Heidi's- Super Natural Cooking.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

End of a Season

"Today's the last Saturday market," he said.
I was astonished, the last. The End. Fin.
No more peaches for the summer. Its not even mid August and no more?
I was upset to say the least. I've been eating peaches daily, counting up to 4-5 sweet treats within 24 hours. There have been pies, muffins, salsa, and no more. I'm sorry for the repetition, but when you become so dependent on a food, it is hard to know the season is ending.
As you know, I believe in farmers markets. I support my farmers because well I hope someone would have the same compassion for the farmer, tending my dad's land. I know that farming isn't really a profitable business, but it is rewarding. A farmer sees his progress each day and in the eyes of customers. What I view as the payoff is the farmer watching someone enjoying and experiencing the freshest produce possible.
To start this peach season, I decided to PYO- pick your own. So I googled and found farms that allow it. My friends and I drove out to Fredericksburg to pick peaches. It was the first weekend of opening. It was a comfortable day, partly sun, cool. My friends and I went to Psencik Farms outside of the town.
The farm was on a backroad, where you crossed a low bridge to get across, this beautiful stone house stood where we would pick. Ms. Psencik greeted us warmly, asking whether we wanted to pick blackberries and peaches. Our answer was both.
My two friends and I picked our boxes, went to the field, and picked. I picked a large box. A pie was what I intended. I would need a lot, plus more for eating. I ate 5 that day, I believe. Juicy running down my chin, no napkin, no paper towel, just the way you should eat a Fredericksburg peach with a BIG BITE!

We then scrambled to pick blackberries that were nice, black, and tart. The vines had been plucked over. However, I insisted on blackberries. My best friend complained of the thorns, but I got what I wanted and more. Enough to last me a week and keep my lips puckered.
I traveled a second time to pick peaches. The second time, I couldn't pick because of flooding. However, I still bought enough peaches to survive on and of course another pie. I branched out to B's peaches, which were just as good as Psenciks. And this time I was even able to buy Texas plums, which were delicious.
Psenciks even sold peaches at my farmers market until mid-July, so I didn't even have to go to Fredericksburg. I always chatted up the owner, talking about how all the rained had helped and hindered the crop. It was nice to have a daily farmer to visit.
So what do I do now that peaches are over? I don't know. Asian pears are in season, but don't quench my palate like peaches. Maybe I'll move to Washington. There I would have berries, cherries, and currants. Anybody need a baker and chef?
Alas, I must say so long to what some are calling the best peach crop ever. I hope next year is just as good and that I get to savor it, again!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Celebrating Birthdays

A chocolate cake with white icing and a ninja turtle on top. A chocolate cake with a blue whale. Chocolate Coke Cake. Carrot Cake. And every year in between.
These are the cakes I remember. Not necessarily memorable birthdays. I don't have many of those. None really stick out in my mind. Of course there are pictures and smiles, but no details stick out.
I think this lack of memorability is why I like making big deals of others' birthdays. I want them to experience something special, unique and memorable. I guess making up for what I lack.

This week was no different. Danielle is an amazing woman with a big heart. She has only experienced a few cultural foods. I plan on changing that and I already begun.
So for her birthday, I decided to celebrate her birthday and Julia Child's. I checked out Julia's baking book from the library and began flipping through it. It was jaw-dropping how many different recipes I wanted to try. All seemed to leave me salivating.
However, milk in my fridge limited my scope. So I found Julia's Vanilla Pound Cake. It sounded delicious. I exchanged one major ingredient for another. However, the cake was still moist and scrumptious. It even made 2 cakes, when Julia said it would make one.
Danielle enjoyed it and she had her first taste of fig, which I think accompanies it nicely. Justneeds a little whipped cream, but thats just a suggestion.
So Danielle, Happy Birthday! I hope we can experience more new foods together!

Vanilla Pound Cake adapted from Baking with Julia
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salk
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large egss, at room temperature, beaten together
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Begin beating butter with mixer. After creaming butter, beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Occasionally scrapping down bowl. Begin beating eggs into batter at medium speed, after incorporting alternate milk and dry ingredients together. Propperly combined ingredients will be white and fluffy. Scrap vanilla bean and at to mixture, slowly beating in. It makes 2 loaves or at least thats what I found. Cook for between 55 to 65 minutes. Stick in a toothpick to make sure middle is down. Let cool 10 minutes before turning out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Raspberry Twist

Saturday or Sunday mornings during my childhood were always a sweet breakfast- muffins, pancakes, or cinnamon rolls. More often than not it was muffins or cinnamon rolls. I don't remember what started this, but it was an exciting way to start the weekend.
Now I must admit that these treats usually came out of a box or container. My favorite was Duncan Hines Blueberry Streusel Muffins or the Cinnamon Crumble. At least once a month I was making a batch and eating them before a soccer game.

So when I saw the recipe for Blueberry Muffins in Food and Wine this year, I was automatically intrigue. Like my Duncan Hines box it had sweet topping of sugar. Where could you go wrong?
However, I didn't make the recipe for months. It always lingered in the back of my head. Of course, the craving for muffins hit me and I knew where I would go. Blueberry Muffins.
Then a bright idea popped into my head, raspberry/lime muffins. Sweet and Tart. A combination that I love dearly.

The batch I made wasn't perfect. It wasn't tart enough for me, but I know what to fix next time. More lime zest.

Raspberry Twist


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries split on half
  • lime zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners or spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. MAKE THE CRUMB TOPPING: In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter, then pinch the mixture until it forms pea-size clumps.
  3. MAKE THE MUFFINS: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and canola oil and beat with a handheld electric mixer at low speed until combined. Beat in the whole milk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and beat at low speed until the batter is smooth. Stir in the blueberries.
  4. Spoon the batter into 18 of the cups, filling them about three-quarters full. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of each one and bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the blueberry muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.
Can be frozen.