Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TWD: Tarte Fine

Today’s oh-so-fine tart was selected by Leslie of Lethally Delicious. She always has gorgeous stuff on her blog, so pay her a visit for the recipe. I wonder if she figured out a way to incorporate chocolate in this recipe… I never leave my TWD baking till the last minute, well almost never, cause I did this week. And, wouldn’t you know it, today was the grimmest, greyest, rainiest day in a series of grim, grey, rainy days. So, I feel I didn’t do justice to this week’s pick, but it was still delicious, and I’ll be making it again and again, maybe even with rhubarb for Valerie's birthday! ;)
In my defence, I did use homemade puff pastry and crab apple jelly. The puff pastry was a bit tired, though, having been hanging around for a while and in a few different freezers through the trials and tribulations of yet another Mary Mary move. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to Saturday, when I can officially stop living out of a suitcase, after 3 months of it. Oh, the tart! Along with old puff pastry, I didn’t read the directions very closely, so I sliced the apple quarters crossways and neglected to leave a border around the edge. I put extra butter and sugar on top but not underneath, skipped the egg wash, blasted the apples with my torch after baking for extra browning and glazed generously with the crab apple jelly. Then I marched it out to the sheltered front step to catch the few rays of light that could penetrate the pelting rain, for a photo. Then the whole thing disappeared. Weird, eh? I think I’ll go have a little lie-down now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers get creative!

This month's challenge was sugar cookies, cut in any shape we wanted, and decorated with royal icing. Sounds easy, doesn't it? The catch was that we had to work in the theme of 'September', and what it meant to us. I thought about maple leaves and back to school, but these were hardly original ideas. So, I thought a bit more. As a supply teacher, I am always looking for ideas that I can use in a lesson, in any subject and any grade. The work of Escher fits in the subjects of art and math. I decided to use his salamanders, which cleverly fit together to cover a surface.
I couldn't find any cookie cutters pre-made, so I found an image online and tried to make my own, following the instructions in the links provided by Renata. Renata is a member of the Daring Kitchen that is always so supportive and has the kindest comments. She also blogs in English and Portuguese, and her creations are beautiful, so head that way if you want to see them, and learn how to make your own cookie cutters from a foil pan. I tried, but failed to make a proper cookie cutter, as I found this design had too many sharp angles. So, I made a template from foil instead and cut around it. These salamanders should fit perfectly together, but the cookies did spread a bit in baking, leaving a few gaps in areas. Oh, and I didn't use them in a lesson, but I did learn that you shouldn't make a meal of sugar cookies and royal icing! And that food colouring stains everything.
This one lost a leg, but it'll grow back, right?
I also made some maple leaves:
And a mitten, cause it was only 6℃ the morning I made these!
Who knows what next month with the Daring Bakers will bring?
Find the challenge PDF here!

Blog-checking lines
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Plum and cardamom sweet bread

Do you have a recipe that you return to every year? This is my September cake. That's when Italian plums are available here and I look forward to this recipe for the other 11 months. I've never tried it with the imported plums that are available all year round, and I don't intend to. This is so good that it's worth the wait. I've made it twice this month already, and may try to make it again before the local plums disappear. When you are putting the thick batter in the pan, it will seem like the heaviest cake ever, but the cake bakes up sweet, with a soft crumb and pockets of tart fruit.
This cake has cardamom, and I think cardamom and plums are the best match ever. I may be biased, though, because my friend Judy says I think cardamom goes with everything. It does. It goes with everything I like, so there! I made a small loaf and a few large cupcakes with the first batch, and a 9" cake with the second batch. As you can see, I didn't get much fruit in the cupcakes, but the loaf had lots.

Okay, there are only 10 days of September left--go make this cake! Here's the recipe:

Plum and Cardamom Sweet Bread
from In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley

Makes one 9”x5” loaf

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
¾ cup full-fat sour cream
2 cups diced Italian/prune plums
1.     Preheat the oven to 350℉, grease the loaf pan and line it with parchment. I have also made this in a smaller loaf pan, with a few extra cupcakes, or in a 9” round pan.  Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.
2.     Reserve 2 tablespoons of the flour and sift the remaining with the baking powder, soda, salt and cardamom. Add this mixture to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in two additions. Toss the plums with the reserved flour and fold them into the batter, mixing only until the plums are evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
3.     Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove it and cool completely. This cake keeps well at room temperature for a few days, but I doubt it’ll last that long.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daring Cooks put things in jars!

This month's Daring challenge was to preserve some of summer's bounty, in jars, or by freezing. What a great idea, as I know lots of Daring Cooks had been eager for just such a challenge. The theme was selected by John of Eat4Fun, who is a longtime member of the Daring Kitchen. I have been canning and preserving things since high school, but I loved this challenge! I made 10 things in a 3-day preserving spree, which coincided with a 33℃, high humidity heat wave. I think I may have contributed to that, with all the boiling pots. Above you can see crabapple jelly, the prettiest of the lot, I think. I had never made this before, and it turned out very sweet, but will be perfect for glazing tarts, or just eating on bread...
This is how many crabapples it took to make 5 x 250ml jars:
Next up was plums, of which I had a veritable windfall. My aunt's neighbour's tree was covered in fruit that nobody knew what to do with. I got about 5 kilograms and made 5 small jars of of plum-cardamom butter and 12 small jars of plum jam. 

The plum jam:
The plum-cardamom butter:
The difference between butter and jam is that a butter has less sugar and is cooked longer, to a thicker consistency and darker colour. I think cardamom and plums are perfect together.
I also made a jar of peaches, spiced with rum, tonka beans, mace, sapote and vanilla. The extra syrup from this was great with yogurt:
On to the savoury things. I helped my mother to make pickled beets (5 kg worth) and chili sauce (25 kg of tomatoes). Next, I saw a recipe for a beet and horseradish relish using roasted tomatoes. I don't usually love relish, but I really wanted to try this recipe. It's from The River Cottage Preserving Handbook, and you'll find it after the jump. I got my orange marmalade and rhubarb jam recipes from the same book. This book does not often recommend processing jars in a boiling water bath, but is reliable, I think. There was a lot of discussion on the forum about processing and it seems to US recommendations are much stricter than in other parts of the world. I usually always finish my jars in a boiling water bath, but I was surprised to learn that my mother and all her relatives do not, even when working with low acid foods. To quote her: 'nobody's died yet'. No, but I still boiled my jars. :)
This stuff is fantastic--sweet and tangy. It called for fresh horseradish, which I found growing in my mother's backyard, but you could use prepared. Here's what the fresh looks like:
Here's a fairly bad picture of everything but the plum jam lined up on the windowsill:

Left to right: chili sauce, rum peaches, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, orange marmalade, beet relish, rhubarb jam, crabapple jelly, plum-cardamom butter, pickled horseradish

The orange marmalade was made this winter, for a Daring Bakers' challenge, and the rhubarb was made this spring.
Blog-checking lines: The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

TWD: Upside-down cake, two ways

This week's selection was one of my favourites. Cake is my favourite thing to bake, and with lots of extra butter and sugar, plus fresh fruit, this was a huge winner. It was so good that I had to make it twice. The first time I used peaches and we ate it up in no time. The cake was light, yet very moist and the buttery, caramel-drenched fruit was a bonus. The only changes I made to this recipe were to omit the cinnamon, as I usually do, and use brown sugar instead of white for the caramel. I also added some grated fresh ginger in the cake, and the sharpness went perfectly with the fruit. Then I went for a walk in my mother's backyard and discovered the rhubarb that I had cut down in the spring had sprouted again, yielding 2 kilograms! I made one more cake, spiced with orange zest, and froze the rest. Now I can enjoy it all winter, though I'll try to resist posting any more rhubarb recipes till spring.
This week's recipe was chosen by Sabrina over at Superfluous. She'll have the recipe on her site, most likely for the original cranberry version. I think you could use lots of different seasonal fruit here, and I know that this is now my go-to upside-down cake.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TWD: Peanut butter and bacon cookies

I don't know what came over me yesterday when I was making these. I had no chopped peanuts or chocolate chips, so I thought about what I could add for extra crunch. I haven't had one since university, but I used to enjoy peanut butter on fluffy white bread with extra crispy bacon. So, there you have it. These were actually really good, though I think the recipe yield is way off. I made half a recipe, skipped the chopped peanuts and the salt and replaced them with 6 slices of crisp crumbled bacon. I used a scoop that holds exactly 1 tablespoon, so should have got 20 cookies, according to the recipe. I got 57! Now, they were a dainty size, but they were crisp and delicious, not soft, even when I reduced the baking time substantially. Oh, and like a good Canadian girl, I rolled them in maple sugar, because bacon and maple syrup are a match made in heaven. Everyone loved them, but couldn't identify the mystery ingredient. That didn't stop them from taking seconds! Good thing, because peanuts are not allowed in most elementary schools, and bacon makes them even more offensive. And today's the first day of school--yay!
This recipe was chosen by Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine. Thanks for an easy to put together pick at a busy time of year. Visit her for the recipe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Roasted marshmallow ice cream sandwiches

Oh my! These were pretty amazing. I've had roasted marshmallow ice cream on my mind for a few years now, as it's one of the more popular flavours at Greg's Ice Cream in Toronto. I don't live in Toronto any more, but I always go to Greg's when I'm in town. Their sweet cream ice cream is my favourite--it's like vanilla without the vanilla. Cardamom is another fave, though both these seemed like they'd be fairly easy to reproduce. The roasted marshmallow, on the other hand, is the subject of much speculation on Toronto food sites. I had to experiment.
When I made the Baked Alaska I noticed the toasted Italian meringue tasted very much like roasted marshmallows. So, I decided to use that, as I was too lazy to make my own marshmallows, and the store-bought ones are a bit scary. The recipe worked out nicely, as the custard used the egg yolks and the meringue the whites. I took the sugar from the custard and used that in the meringue so the ice cream wouldn't be too sweet. Can ice cream be too sweet? The labour intensive part of this recipe was the browning of the meringue 'marshmallows'. I put tablespoon-sized blobs on a baking sheet and used my torch, but next time I might spread the meringue thinly and broil it. The more browned bits, the better. I added the browned meringue to the hot custard and whisked to blend. I decided not to use the blender, as I liked the tiny dark specks. The meringue didn't totally deflate, making this ice cream seem light.

Roasted marshmallow ice cream
Source: me!

2 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
4 eggs, separated
about 1 cup sugar, divided
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rum
¼ cup water

Combine ⅔ cup of sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar dissolves, then heat, without boiling, until the syrup reaches 236-244℉. While you are doing this, heat milk and cream to near boiling. Whisk eggs yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar together till thick and pale. Whisk hot milk/cream mixture in and return to pot. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Keep an eye on the syrup! If you are not comfortable doing all this at once, make the custard first, and cover the pot while you complete the meringue. When the syrup is at about 230℉, start whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar. When they reach soft peaks, add the remaining sugar and whip till stiff peaks form. Still whipping, add the hot syrup in a thin stream and beat till cool. Blob this mixture on a baking sheet, or spread thinly. Broil or use a torch and brown well. Whisk into hot custard, then chill thoroughly. When chilled and ready to churn, whisk again, adding vanilla and rum. The rum is to prevent it from freezing to hard. Churn in an ice cream maker and then transfer to a freezer-safe container to firm up. If you want to make ice cream sandwiches, put ice cream into a parchment lined 9"x13" pan to a depth of 1" or so. Freeze.

For the cookies, I took a gluten-free, coconut oil biscuit from here and put the gluten and butter back in! Here's the version I used, adapted from Tartelette:

8 tablespoons (110gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, the flour, baking powder, and salt. Still with the mixer on low speed, at the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until the dough starts to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
On parchment, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use your preferred cookie cutter to cut out as many pieces as you can, removing extra dough. Slide parchment onto cookie sheet and gather and re-roll the scraps if necessary. Make patterns on cookie with a fork or other tool if desired. Place on lined baking sheet and bake 8 - 10 minutes. Cool completely before sandwiching them with ice cream.
Are you still reading? Try this ice cream! The flavour is mild, but so good. I think these would be amazing with the graham crackers. They are my favourite ice cream sandwich cookies, as they soften up a bit more than these chocolate ones. Maybe chocolate dipped, for a s'morewich?