Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Daring Bakers Bake Alaska

No, this is not a post about global warming, but it probably should be. Have you always wanted to make Baked Alaska but thought it was too difficult? Too many components? Too much like something your parents' generation would have served at a dinner party? It is, but it's pretty tasty anyway.
When I was a teenager, I really wanted to make Baked Alaska and had an ice cream maker and my dad's  torch, but I never got around to it. Then, who knows what happened, but I kind of forgot about it. Now, all these years later and I got the perfect opportunity to make one. This month's challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. She's 18 now and takes amazing photos of her culinary creations.
The brown butter pound cake had the most delicious batter, but the baked cake didn't really work here. It was dense and became dry and unpleasantly hard in the freezer. If I do this again I'll make a genoise, as I think the texture will be better frozen. The other components were great, though--I made a honey-peach ice cream to fill this random act of piping, and covered it in Italian meringue, before getting a bit torch-happy. Well-browned Italian meringue tastes just like roasted marshmallows, doesn't it? More on that in my next post...

Blog-checking lines: The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

Link to full challenge PDF here.

Honey-Peach Ice Cream (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)
4 large ripe peaches
1/4 cup honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon rum
1. Chop the peaches into 1/2 inch chunks and place them in a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the peaches are soft (about 10 minutes). Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Cover and chill.
2. Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar together until blended in a heatproof bowl. Drizzle in a bit of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs, whisking. Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture. Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan and heat ove medium-low, stirring until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and chill. When all components are thoroughly chilled, stir in the vanilla, rum and peach puree.
3. Scrape into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the ice cream is ready, pack into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours until it is firm enough to scoop.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crunchy and custardy peach tart (TWD)

This week's pick was selected by Rachel over at Sweet Tarte, and it was a good one. I love peaches, but have not been having much luck with them this summer. They look perfect in the market and then start to spontaneously decompose the instant I get them home. So, this tart came just in the nick of time. I used a rectangular tart pan and a different crust, one that didn't need eggs, as I only had one. 
We loved this, as it was custardy and the crust was crisp. The streusel topping didn't really crisp up, but I think that was a result of the shorter baking time needed in the rectangular pan. It certainly didn't stop us from eating it, and I know I'll make it again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peach and mascarpone cupcakes (Bake-N-Blog)

Just try to tell me that's not the happiest looking cupcake you've ever seen! A few weeks ago, my friend Anne-Marie of 10 Rooms sent me a link to a Bake-N-Blog event hosted by Staci, over at Staci Edwards Design. It seems that Staci had fallen in love with Ming Makes Cupcakes and wanted to make all of the cupcakes on her site, but thought that 33 batches might be too many. So, she enlisted blogland to choose a cupcake and post about it today. I had a hard time deciding which one to make, and couldn't choose between the chocolate beet and the parsnip one. I thought folks might ignore the humble root vegetables in favour of the more glamourous ones. And then I saw this one, slathered in mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. Sorry, root vegetables. 
Of course, being mesmerized by the possibility of putting an entire tub of mascarpone on cupcakes made me overlook the fact that these cupcakes had 2 ingredients I don't even like that much: apricots and sour cream. Sour cream baked in cakes is fantastic but I hate the smell and having to touch it! I used thick yogurt instead, and replaced the apricot jam with homemade peach preserve (just peaches and sugar, cooked). I put a heaping tablespoonful in each cupcake, but the cupcakes ate it, so they don't look a lot like Ming's. They are smiling, though, so that was a bonus.
I took a half dozen of these over to my friend P's house for dinner, where I had the most delicious risotto. The teenager in the house refused to try them, on the basis of the peaches, and the 3 year old licked up the icing only. My 2-year-old nephew demolished one in seconds flat after I picked the almonds off. I ate a couple myself, and I thought they were very tasty. 

Peach and mascarpone cupcakes (cupcake 18)
Adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup full-fat, thick yogurt or sour cream
peach, apricot, or any thick preserves. I think rhubarb would be wonderful, but I'm a rhubarb addict, and saving the last of my jam, so I won't know till next spring.

Preheat oven to 350℉. Line a cupcake tin with 12 paper liners. Sift flour, salt and soda together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar and then beat in egg and extracts. Add the yogurt. Batter will look curdled, but don't worry--it'll come together when you add the flour. Add dry ingredients and mix gently. Fill liners ⅓ full, then top with a tablespoon or so of preserves. Top with remaining batter. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine did not have a domed top, and neither did the originals, so don't worry if they look a bit fallen. More room for mascarpone! Cool, then top with:

8 ounces mascarpone
½ cup whipping cream
½ cup icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat all frosting ingredients together until soft peaks form. Dollop on cupcakes and top with toasted sliced almonds. Keep refrigerated.

These were fantastic--enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oatmeal breakfast bread

Yup, that's the best I could do this week. I was not having a very good baking day the day I made this (and a number of other things that didn't quite work). This recipe, chosen by Natalie of Oven Love certainly looked simple enough. I used figs for the dried fruit and replaced all the spices with cardamom. It mixed up quickly, and I put it into a loaf pan I knew was too tall, too narrow and too small and hoped for the best. With topping, it was only 1 cm below the top of the pan. Luckily it didn't overflow, but it did rise enough that most of the almonds and brown sugar were pushed off the top of the loaf and onto the floor of the oven. 
It smelled fantastic as it was baking, and tested done at only 50 minutes, but I left it for a few more minutes and tested again. Still done. So, I cooled it on a rack for a few minutes, as directed, and then attempted to turn it out of the loaf pan. It seemed to be going okay, until this happened:
Yes, that is a gaping hole full of uncooked batter. Apparently the baking gods don't like it when I try to replace butter with applesauce and oil. Point taken. There wasn't much I could do to salvage it, as it was too hot and fragile to get back in the pan. So, I let it cool and trimmed off the cooked bits and gave the rest to the birds. I must say that the edges were quite tasty, if a bit stodgy, but that's my fault. I wish I had made it into muffins like Valerie and Jill. Thanks for the pick, Natalie, and check out the TWD blogroll for more aesthetically pleasing results.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Daring Cooks explore the world of pierogi!

This month's challenge was to make pierogi dough and fillings from scratch, using local ingredients when possible. I made 2 savoury varieties and  1 sweet one, though I didn't get any pictures of the sweet one. All in all, I made 72 pierogies, and it took a long time, rolling and cutting, filling and sealing each one by hand. I would much rather fuss over something sweet, though these were delicious.
This picture shows the rolled out dough with its filling of mashed potatoes, cheese curds, sauteed onion, butter, salt and pepper. You can see the cheese curds in the bottom left corner of the first picture. They are bits of fresh cheddar, before pressing, and are fresh, mild, salty and squeaky. When I was a child, they were the ubiquitous road trip snack, and it is all too easy to eat about a pound of them. Look out for them if you have a cheese factory in your area. I garnished the boiled pierogies with lardons of my uncle's smoked bacon and more sauteed onions. The dough I chose, from the Gourmet cookbook (the yellow one), was easy to work with, but the pierogies needed to be boiled for 15 minutes and they were still a bit chewy. 
This is the second savoury filling: ground pork sauteed with onions and mixed with an equal amount of fresh sauerkraut, seasoned with fresh thyme and pepper. There is a local store that makes wonderful barrel sauerkraut, which is so much better than the stuff from a can or jar. After boiling, I turned these in a pan with browned butter and fresh dill.
As a reward for making 71 of these, I made myself a treat: one large pierogi filled with German plum butter (from a can, found at the sauerkraut store) and cardamom. I love plums and cardamom together. After boiling I fried it with some butter and sugar and ate it with a big blob of mascarpone on top. Can you understand why I didn't get any pictures? Here's a gratuitous flower picture from the backyard instead.
This was a fun challenge, and while I have eaten many pierogies, I had only made them once before. It was a lot of work, but these were so much better than the ones you can buy frozen at the supermarket. Head over to The Daring Kitchen to check out the slideshow of all the other takes on this challenge. 
Oh, and even though I don't love potatoes, they were my favourite, well, after the cardamom-plum one. Maybe wrapping them in dough is the trick. After making the pierogies, I made a kind of shepherd's pie with the leftover fillings. It was delicious!
Blog-checking lines:
The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

PDF of challenge and recipes after the jump!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beautiful blogger award

This award was presented to me by the lovely Anne-Marie, over at 10 Rooms, a design blog, where you can see Anne-Marie's beautiful home, as well as gorgeous photos she finds on other sites. It has taken me a long time to think of 10 things you may not know about me, and as a warning, none of them are very exciting! Here goes:
1. I am always late. I don't know why, as I don't particularly like being late. Okay, maybe I do know why. I am very optimistic about things like travel times, and tend to calculate them based on traveling at warp speed. The lateness is often compounded by the fact that I don't like to rush. Funny that, because I end up racing most places. I also don't like to wait, and when you're early, you have to wait. Best to arrive right on time. If only it ever happened that way.
2. I have moved an uncountable number of times. I grew up in the house my father grew up in, but once I left for university I started moving every year, sometimes more. I lived out of my suitcase for about three years when I was working as a teacher trainer in countries all over the world. Right now my things are in storage again, as I look for another place.
3. I have a nephew and a niece that I am crazy about. They are 2 years old, and one month old respectively. I visit as often as I can to hang out and play.
4. I am a spelling and grammar maniac. I can spot a misplaced apostrophe from a thousand paces. The incorrect use of 'it's' is my biggest pet peeve. Only when it's short for 'it is', people!
5. I love to ride my bicycle, and am happy to be back in Ottawa, which has great bicycle paths. That said, my bike is in another town at the moment. I also like yoga, but don't practise regularly. I do kettlebells with Ang as often as I can.
6. I love cats, but am not very fond of dogs. I used to have a pair of cats, Pip and Peep, but had to give them away when I moved out of my apartment and started traveling so much. My brother has a large white boxer that likes to sit on my lap when I visit.
7. I attended Le Cordon Bleu after high school and before I decided to go to university, where I got a much more practical degree in Physical Anthropology and Zoology. No, I'm not joking. Yes, I became an ESL teacher shortly after graduation.
8. I am hopelessly non-musical. Singing and dancing are painful for me, and for those forced to watch and listen. No, drinking does not help.
9. I am a supply teacher for kindergarten to grade 8, and I never know which school and which grade I am going to end up in. If it's with the little ones, I sometimes have to sing. Oh, the pain.
10. I've always been a bookworm. As a child I would stay up very late reading, as I couldn't put my book down. Some things never change...

I'd like to pass this award on to a couple of people who I think are new to blogging, or at least new to me!
1.  Laurie at Simply Scratch, because she takes the great process photos I always forget about, and especially because I love fried egg sandwiches too!
2. Carly at Fork Ewe, because she's trying to make 500 different dinners rather than the same thing again and again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spicy, chilly tomato soup

This is the best cold soup I have ever tasted! I am not a fan of gazpacho, as it just seems a bit blah. This however is spicy and completely addictive. I first saw mention of it here, on The Wednesday Chef, where it had been adapted from this recipe, in the New York Times. I adapted it a bit more, by eliminating the vinegar (yuck), and adding ancho chile powder, making this quite a spicy soup.

about 2.5 pounds/1 kilogram of the ripest tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
half an onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (I just ground up a whole dried chile)
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
2.5 teaspoons sweet paprika (I think mine was hot, adding to the spice factor)
pinch of cayenne (this really wasn't necessary with the ancho)
juice of 1-2 limes
scant cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste, about a teaspoon should do

Briefly puree the tomatoes in a blender or with an immersion blender. Leave them a bit chunky, as you do not want a smooth puree. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the onion and the spices, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Add to the tomatoes, and stir in the salt and cilantro. Eat immediately or chill.
I ate this all up, and will be making it again as soon as I get more tomatoes from the market. I think it's perfect with crusty bread, but may also try it with some cold poached shrimp or even a shot of vodka to make a Mary Mary Bloody Mary.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It's that time of the year again, when people start giving you lots of zucchini. When that happens, I start making cake with it because I can't say that I love the stuff. It's okay grilled or roasted, but there's really not that much flavour, which is why it's good in cake. Oh, and it was a great excuse to use my new cake plate, which I got in an antique (junk) shop. It's pale pink with lilacs, though you can't see them here. This cake, from Chocolate & Zucchini (of course), is very moist, rich and chocolaty. It's got lots of cocoa, coffee and dark chocolate chips. Even my brother commented on the chocolatiness and it was all I could do not to tell him about the zucchini, because he does not eat vegetables and wouldn't be amused. First I put carrots in ice cream, and now zucchini in my cake. What's next? I have no idea! You'll just have to tune in next time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gingered carrot cookie dough in cream cheese ice cream

This week's recipe was chosen by Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farini. She's got the recipe--go say hello! I had never noticed the recipe in the book, but it sounded intriguing. Even more intriguing, because I was away on a business trip and had to wait awhile before I got home to look at the recipe. I love carrots and coconut in any form, so I knew I was going to love these. I don't like raisins, though, so I left those out, and replaced the pecans with cashews. The only thing I was worried about was the possible homeliness of these cookies. There was no picture, and they didn't sound pretty. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I don't like an ugly cookie. I just have to doctor it up somehow, as I did with the Dulce de leche duos from last year. I thought about a cream cheese filling, but word on the TWD discussion board said they were a bit lumpy for that. So, I thought about making a cream cheese ice cream and putting the crumbled cookies in that. Then I tasted the cookie dough...
Do you ever eat the raw cookie dough? Do you ever like it even more than the baked cookies? Yes and yes for me. I always try everything I bake before I cook it, and I usually prefer it to the baked version. Or maybe it's that I feel slightly nauseous by the time things come out of the oven. I've always been like this, and I can remember eating huge gobs of whatever my mother was making while her back was turned. I don't just mean desserts: bread dough and raw ground beef were things I couldn't keep my grubby little fingers off. I also ate raw potatoes and turnips and bacon out of the package if nobody was looking. Despite my mother's dire warnings, I never got sick. I know some who won't eat batter because of the raw eggs, but salmonella is rarely if ever in the news here. Is it possible to build up a tolerance to it? Living in Japan was fabulous for the abundance of raw food. Sushi, of course, but raw beef dipped in raw egg yolk? I'm there. Chicken sashimi? It was pretty good too. Now that I've grossed you all out, let's talk about these delicious cookies, shall we?

I made this cream cheese ice cream from Epicurious, adding some vanilla. It basically tastes like frozen cream cheese icing, which is a very good thing, I think. I put small blobs of the cookie dough in after I had churned it, meaning after 4 searches of my storage area, and a very long wait till the canister was sufficiently frozen. Then I had to wait again for it to firm up. This is a yummy and easy ice cream, and I think you could taste the carrot and spices, along with the coconut more in the dough than in the baked cookies. YUM!

I did bake some of the dough, and these were very yummy cookies, especially hot out of the oven. I wonder what they'd be like with zucchini, since I am drowning in the stuff. More on that in my next post.