Monday, November 26, 2007

In the nick of time

I made it, but just barely! For some reason I thought I had a few more days until the Daring Bakers deadline for this month. Fortunately I saw a post on Eva's blog this afternoon and, after a few choice words, ran to the kitchen and began baking. Luckily for me this challenge was a bread challenge. I feel pretty comfortable with making most breads. I had not however, ever made bread using potatoes in the dough. Our challenge, brought to us by "bread head" Tanna of "my kitchen in half cups" fame, was to make Tender Potato Bread. No big deal, or so I thought before I actually began to make the bread. I must admit working with the potato dough was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. First of all I wasn't really sure if I was using too much/not enough of the potatoes. The recipe said to use 4 medium potatoes, or 8 oz of mashed potatoes. I put my potatoes through a ricer and they came out very fluffy. I measured out 8 oz (and then added a bit more) and added it to the water. My dough was very sticky when I turned it out to knead. I think I should have mixed in more flour before beginning the kneading. The dough rose nicely. Mine was doubled in size in just over an hour. Then the recipe said to knead the dough for a few more minutes and then make your loaves or rolls. This is where I had some trouble. My dough was still very sticky and I found it difficult to get a nice loaf shape. It took a little patience but I did get the dough into a pretty good loaf. With the rest of the dough I made rolls. I topped half with rosemary and left the other half plain.

The only other problem I had was caused by my dirty oven. I used the bottom oven because I was using the top oven as a proof box. The recipe called for the oven to be set at 450. I guess the last time I used that oven I made some sort of fruit dessert that cooked out all over the bottom. All of a sudden my kitchen was filled with smoke and a burning smell. Thankfully the fire alarm didn't go off. After carefully scraping out the bottom of the oven with a spatula, I was ready to bake some bread! I took Tanna's advice and turned the oven down after 10 minutes. I left it at 425 and my bread cooked much quicker than the time stated in the recipe. The finished product was a delicious light flavored, soft bread. I think if I make it again I'd put Asiago or Guyere cheese on top of the loaf.
Woohoo I made it! Just under the wire, baked and posted in record time! Thanks Tanna for a delicious savory DB challenge and for helping me get my oven clean:) Next month I"ll try not procrastinate!

**UPDATE I used my rosemary rolls to make a sandwich for lunch today and OMG it was one of the best sandwiches ever! I used turkey and baby swiss with peach chutney... Wow... The rosemary roll was so good with the turkey and chutney. Now I wish I'd made all my rolls with rosemary instead of half plain:( Oh well I guess it's an excuse to make more!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My first City Swap

I read about the International City Swap event on Shelley's blog At Home in Rome. It sounded like such a fun idea. Basically Shelley paired up people from all over the world to send a box of something that they thought best represented their city. I was to receive a box from Allie in San Francisco and send a box Cinzia in Rome. How fun!! I was so excited when my box arrived! Look what I got. San Francisco sourdough bread, in my opinion one of the best breads in the world. She also sent my an artichoke from the Farmer's Market. Thanks Allie:) I had a great time participating this swap. I hope Cinzia enjoys what I've sent to her!

Friday, November 16, 2007

fall cupcakes

I was recently asked by a friend to make a Chocolate Khalua cake for 50 for a birthday party. Because there would be alot of children at the party as well as adults, she asked if I make cupcakes. This party was right before Halloween. A little late posting, I know, but life... Anyway, she didn't want it to feel like a halloween party so we decided to do the cupcakes in fall colors. What fun!! I couldn't wait to get started! She also asked that they be vanilla since the cakes I was making were very rich chocolate. So here's what I came up with, these are just a basic white cupcake with buttercreme frosting.
The sunflowers were time consuming but so fun to make. I heard later that the adults at the party like they cupcakes as much as the children:)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Just one more... for now

Okay it's not really pie it's a tart. Tart tatin to be exact. Something I've always wanted to make but have always been to intimidated to try. No scared of would probably be more accurate. Making caramel, caramelizing the apples, pate brisee, flipping it all out onto a plate, there's a high chance of failure with this one! I have read many recipes and thought; maybe someday... I came across a recipe in Fine Cooking magazine in 2003, that gave step by step instructions with pictures. Yes that's how long I've thought about making this recipe. Oh and I kept the magazine as well... What does that say about me? I thought maybe I could make this ...someday.
Anyway, it was to be Hubs last meal before deploying to Iraq and I asked what he'd like for dessert. (the rest of dinner had already been decided on.) Well he said pecan pie as he was walking through the kitchen to pack. No sweat I can make that in my sleep. Anyway dinner was under wraps, I thought. Then several minutes later he walks back through the kitchen and throws out "How about Tart Tatin?" What can I say?? "okay" (weakly without conviction) "Oh, you don't have to, pecan pie is fine" he says sensing my hesitation. "No I'll make it. I've been intimidated long enough! I can make tart tatin! I will make it!! If you want Tart Tatin for the last home cooked dessert you'll have in a year, then that's what you'll get!!" Well actually, I just said "I'll make the tart tatin!" This time with a little more confidence.
As I reread through the recipe(the one I've kept from Nov 2003), I realized there are only 4 ingredients in the tart. Apples, butter, sugar, salt. Wow. It's amazing what can be done with so few ingredients. Here is the recipe I used from Fine Cooking. All the pictures with the step-by-step instructions are included on the website.
So I've done it! I'm no longer afraid of Tart Tatin! It's not an easy dessert to make but not as bad as I'd feared. Give yourself plenty of time to make this. It takes 30 minutes, at least, to caramelize the apples. There's no quick way around that!

Making the caramel was the most worrisome part for me. The recipe stated it needed to be a rich mahogany color and not to under cook the caramel. I think I cooked my caramel a bit too long, but it still tasted great. My Pate Brisee making skills are not what they need to be but the crust tasty.

I'll make this again...someday...but I won't be afraid:)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall pies continued...

I know I waxed eloquent in my last post about pumpkin pie and its fall significance and all around pumpkin perfection. All of which I stand by wholeheartedly, however, there is another pie which also evokes much of the same feelings for me. Many of my childhood memories of fall revolve around pecans. Growing up on a farm with 60-80 pecan trees, picking up pecans became a central part of fall. It's how we kids earned money for Christmas shopping and things like summer camp. I'm not saying we were always happy about it, there was plenty of grumbling, whining etc... But looking back there was a lot of laughing and good times as well. Needless to say we ate LOTS of pecans. Many in the form of pecan pie.
After marrying and moving away I really missed those fresh, organic pecans that were so plentiful on our farm. Buying pecans from the grocery store was always a disappointment. They can be anywhere from a year to two years old before you buy them. Those dried out nuts are nothing like the plump nuts we picked up, cracked out, and ate.
Hubs and I moved back near my family a couple years ago and since that time the pecan crop has been nearly non-existent. No nuts at all, so unfair! This year however things have amazingly turned around. In spite of a terrible drought though out whole southeastern US, this years pecan crop has been unbelievable. So many nuts in fact that many of the pecan trees have lost large limbs from the weight of the nuts. All the nuts on the farm are organically grown, picked up and hand shelled on the premises. For more info or to order pecans check out the farm blog
Hubs is not much a dessert person, he could take it or leave it. Unbelievable, I know! However pecan pie is one of the few desserts he doesn't ever pass up. Especially Bourbon Pecan Pie, a family recipe I've been making for years.

Southern Bourbon Pecan Pie

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cup pecans

1 cup sugar* see note

1 cup Karo Syrup (light corn syrup)

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

2 TBL Bourbon (I use Jim Beam)

One 9" unbaked pie shell


Preheat oven to 350

Melt butter in large skillet. I skim away any foam from the cream in the butter that rises to the top. Then toss the nuts into the butter and cook 1-2 minutes until nuts are coated with the butter and warmed. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, syrup, and salt. Whisk in eggs one at a time and stir in vanilla and bourbon. Stir in the butter/pecan mixture and pour into prepared unbaked pie shell and bake for 35-45 minutes until the center of the pie is set .

*You can use 1/2 a cup of brown sugar and 1/2 a cup of regular sugar for a more dense, rich pie
** Also great with cinnamon whipped cream from the last post:)