Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake.....

Well here is the last recipe for the year, Tall and Creamy Cheesecake on page 235 from Baking from my home to yours, picked by Anne of Anne Strawberry. This sounded so good, I used the gingersnap crust and the orange filling, very yummy sounding, I love cheesecake and I couldn't wait to make it for Christmas Day dessert at my SIL's. Well, it smelled great cooking and tasted wonderful, but the texture was way too creamy for a cheesecake. Very difficult to cut cleanly unless it was frozen, my picture of the cut piece looks beautiful but it had to be frozen to make a nice cut. Everyone liked the taste just not the texture, no one finished their plate; not what I was expecting for this crowd. After reviewing other cheesecake recipes there seems to not be enough eggs and some recipes add a small amount of flour. Verdict: Not the best cheesecake but great ideas for different flavors. I will be making another cheesecake for a New Year's Eve party using my mom's recipe with Dorie's additions and will post on how this new one comes out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chocolate Crackle Cookies from Martha.....

I was reading Nichi's blog Bakeologie and she welcomed anyone to join and bake some of Martha's cookies, well why not? Cookies are easy for me to give away, I always have takers in the gym. These are some seriously good cookies from Martha Stweart's Cookies book. I have made them before and you really need to refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours like the recipe indicates; overnight would be better. This is a super stickey dough so having it cold helps rolling into balls. Martha's dircetions are very detailed, of course, but you can cut a few steps out. These are soft inside and slightly crisp on the outside. They never last long so I made a double batch this time and put half in the freezer to bake next week.

I am late posting, Christmas shopping got in the way, sorry!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flurry of Baking.....

After reading how many recipes we needed to make this month I decided to have an afternoon of baking and try to make as many I could. Whew, I got four done in one afternoon; it's amazing what you can do with no distractions and have total concentration to the tasks at hand. I made the Real Butterscotch Pudding, Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies, Linzer Sables and the Buttery Jam Cookies. While the sugar and linzer cookie doughs were chilling I made the pudding; while the pudding was chilling, I made the jam cookies (really easy). All in all it took a few hours but certainly not an impossible task.

It does help when DH isn't at home and if MacGregor (the cat) is in his kitty condo.

The Linzer dough came together easily, I had everything on hand including the almond flour because I have been making macarons (tartelette's directions from Desserts Magazine #2). The dough is very easy to roll out between wax paper. I read the comments and most indicated they preferred 1/8" thickness instead of the 1/4" Dorie suggested; I tried both thicknesses and feel the 1/4" was easier to cut out. I have one of those adjustable pastry boards to roll out dough to an exact thickness, I know anal, but my dad was an engineer and, well, if a recipe calls for 1/4", it will be 1/4", LOL. I filled them with raspberry jam and lemon curd, very good with both! I would suggest cutting out the center of the cookie after you have placed the cut out cookie on your sheet, much easier; also the dough warms up very fast and I had to keep putting it back into the freezer to make cutting out easier. Verdict, would I make Linzer cookies again, maybe; they are labor and time intensive, because you need to keep putting the dough back into the refrigerator. Since they freeze well, I would probably make them a month ahead of time and not in the middle of the holiday rush.

The Jam cookies were OK, very easy to put together, no chilling or rolling, just drop and bake. I used raspberry jam and could barely taste it in the final cookie; the ginger came through and that is what you taste first. DH will take what are left to work tomorrow; he loves raspberry anything and he could not tell me what I used in this cookie. Verdict, probably not make again, too many good recipes out there to make this one again. If you are pressed for time and make changes, maybe add some coconut and use pineapple jam, or another interesting combination this might be the recipe for you.

Grandma's Sugar cookies were very good! I would definitely use this again but only as a slice and bake sugar cookie. The dough is VERY soft and wanted to stick to the wax paper, I remedied this with flouring the top and bottom of the dough prior to rolling out. Since this dough puffs and slightly spreads during baking you lose the sharp edge of your cookie cutter, not worth the time to roll out, chill, cut out and bake. I used a fluted round cutter and the edges were not crisp or well defined. So if you had an intricate cookie cutter this dough might not work for you. Verdict, will make again, they are delicious!

The Butterscotch Pudding was very good! My dad loved it, and said he could taste the scotch, which if you don't like scotch is not a good thing! I like scotch and enjoyed this pudding, it had a subtle taste and not at all like the "out of the box" stuff I have had before. This is the real deal, and would be great in a trifle with gingerbread and some blackberries. Verdict, would make again.

A big thank you to Heather for the Buttery Jam Cookies, Ulrike for the Sugar Cookies, Noskos for the Linzer cookies and Donna for the Butterscotch Pudding. It's so nice to have a large portion of my holiday baking done. The cheesecake will be dessert on Christmas Day, so I hope all goes well with that recipe!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Daring Caramel Cake.....

My second DB challenge was a Caramel Cake chosen by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater. This cake is her signature recipe! The recipe can be found at Bay Area Bites , along with many other wonderful sounding recipes. Helping Shuna this month are Alex (Brownie) from Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, and our alternative baking guru, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go .

I read all the tips given by Shuna, in the Bay Area Bites and had no problem with making the cake. I used a Mary Ann pan that creates a cake that has an indention on the top to fill with whatever you choose. From some of the comments it sounded like the frosting was a bit sweet so I thought I would just put frosting on top of the cake. Making the caramel sauce was easy, I have been making Fleur de Sel caramels for the last few months for Christmas presents, but the frosting really didn't have a caramel taste. The cake smelled wonderful baking and came out of the pan with no problems. After cooling I frosted the cake and drizzled the caramel sauce on top, I also added chopped pecans. I gave DH the first piece, he had been waiting patiently all day! The first comment was how sweet the frosting was and that the cake didn't really taste like caramel, but was good, non-the-less. I felt it was too dense and had expected something lighter in texture; perhaps it was the pan I used, not sure. Not a disappointment, but not a knock your socks off cake either. The frosting was tooth achingly sweet for my tastes; maybe a different frosting next time. Be sure to follow the Daring Baker link to see other members results!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Second Time for the 2fer.....

I made the Thanksgiving 2fer pie again with the changes I mentioned in my previous post and it came out perfect! No overdone edges and the filling was fully cooked, my DH's family really liked it, even the one's who don't like pumpkin pie! Very happy I tried it again and gave it a second chance.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie.....

This pie was delicious and I want to thank Vibi from http://lacasserolecarree.blogspot.com/ for picking a great recipe for this time of year! If you love pumpkin or pecan pie, this is the recipe for you. It's a combination of the two and it really works out well, the filling was soooo good! If you are interested in the recipe it's from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking from my home to yours, on page 321.
The fillings came together easily with no problems or confusion, the pie shell was another matter. Dorie indicated to use a 9" pre-baked pie shell, but I feel it should not have been pre-baked. I covered the rim with aluminum foil and a pie guard during the pre-baking and during the final baking; my rim was way too brown, as close to burned as you could get without the burn! The flash on my camera makes the rim look lighter than it really was. I think you should use a deep dish pie shell, that is what I used and it worked out fine, nothing overflowed. As to the temperature and time, again I feel they were not quite correct. Most Pumpkin Pie recipes start with the oven at 450 or 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then the temperature is reduced to 350 or 375 for another 30 to 40 minutes, just depends on the specific recipe. Dorie's recipe indicates to reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes. My pie had knife holes all over it because I kept checking to see if it was done; finally after an additional 18 minutes the knife came out clean. I will be making this pie again for Thanksgiving for my DH's family, I am so glad I tried it out on my family first, now I will make the following changes.

1. 9" deep dish pie shell, UNBAKED
2. Start at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
3. Reduce temperature to 350 for 30 to 35 minutes.
4. Cover the rim to prevent over browning.

I still love the filling and know with the above changes it will be as close to perfect as I can make a pie! I plan on posting again with my new pie after Thanksgiving. I hope all of you and your families have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rice Pudding.....

Well, the box of Arborio rice is as far as I got to making this weeks recipe. I just couldn't bring myself to make something I know I won't eat. And after the comments on this recipe, it seemed there were a few problems with the cooking instructions. This is the first week I have missed since joining, so I'm OK with not making the rice pudding, but I will read as many postings as I can and see how everyone else did with the recipe. I want to thank Isanbelle from Les gourmandises d’Isa for choosing a recipe I almost made; it's not your fault, it goes way bake to my childhood. Looking forward to next weeks recipe, Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, from Dorie Greenspan's book, Cooking from my home to yours, the recipe is on page 321. This year my family is celebrating Thanksgiving on the Saturday before the traditional holiday; so my pie will be put to the test and will be posted next Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I have looked forward to this recipe since I joined TWD and I want to thank Yolanda the All Purpose Girl for not making me wait any longer! I have no problems with using yeast but something went amiss with this recipe. The dough never climbed the hook and the dough was very loose and runny.

It rose as expected and I slapped it down, put it in the refrig and slapped it down three more times as specified in the recipe. OK, so maybe it was yeast abuse, too much slapping or something but after it rose in the kugelhopf pan and was put in the oven it totally sank! I baked the cake anyway, smelled great, DH couldn't wait to try it. When I tried to take it out of the pan only half came out the rest needed to be coaxed with a knife, no big deal, looks aren't everything. We both took bites, chewed, looked at each other and just shook our heads; no real taste, rather plain, not remarkable in anyway. I had read the comments before making and decided to soak the raisins in Grand Marnier and add the zest of an orange to give the cake some flavor. The orange flavor barely came through, I told my DH I would make it again and see what happens, he said "why bother, it has no flavor and is too bland". I threw the cake in the trash, looked through my recipe books and found another recipe for Kugelhopf that did not require all the rising or slapping down; this recipe came together quickly, rose as it should, baked up to perfection and smelled really good! The cake unmolded perfectly, WOW, can't wait for it to cool. Darn, it tasted just like Dorie's, plain, no big deal. This one ended up in the trash with the first cake, they can keep each other company. I wont waste calories eating something I don't like. So I'm thinking Kugelhopf is just not my kind of cake; I will see what others have done with theirs and maybe try again but will not use Dorie's recipe, the other one I used was much easier and faster for the same outcome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rugelach, a pastry for all seasons.....

Our recipe for this week at Tuesday's with Dorie was Rugelach, chosen by Piggys Cooking Journal. These were awesome!!! My DH said they were "very good, and could he have more?". DH is the taster for all the recipes I try, he's very good at critiquing each recipe and occasionally offering some good suggestions. These will defiantly be made again! Maybe for our Christmas brunch since they can be made weeks ahead of time.

I got a new kitchen toy this week, the Escali Pana volume and weight scale. This scale is made for a baker, it will weigh in grams and ounces like most scales but the great feature with this scale is that it can weigh the volume of ingredients. It will convert to cups and tablespoons for liquid and dry, very cool! I used it to measure the jam in this recipe; I needed a 1/3 cup of each of the jams I used, so I put a Pyrex custard cup on the scale, set the code for jam and just added the jam until the 1/3 cup was reached. No measuring cups to wash, I just heated the jam in the dish and was good to go. The scale comes with a sheet that has dozens of common items we use to bake and cook, each one has a code that you input (very easy to do). The codes are for the different densities of ingredients like powdered sugar, granulated sugar, packed brown sugar, grated carrots, cheese, different flours, syrup and many more. I think between the BeaterBlade and this scale I will be much faster in the kitchen, not that baking is a race, just means I can make more in the same amount of time, LOL.
The dough came together easily in the food processor and I refrigerated it for 2 days instead of 1 but didn't notice any adverse affects. After rolling out and brushing on the jam, the dough became a bit soft and made it a little difficult to roll up. I decided to roll the second piece of dough out on parchment paper, spread on the jam and nuts, put it on a baking sheet and then into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. That worked perfectly, dough held together and rolled up much easier.

I made a few changes to the basic filling included with the recipe. I used the raspberry jam and pecans but changed the spice to one-half teaspoon of cardamon and an eighth teaspoon of cinnamon. I made another filling using apricot/pineapple preserves, turbinado sugar, macadamia nuts, ground ginger and coconut. I loved the coconut version but could have put more coconut in the filling. DH loves raspberry anything and liked the cardamon/raspberry combo the best! I only baked six of each kind and froze the rest for next weekend; can't wait for Saturday.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween.....

I love Halloween, really! It's fun to scare kids and decorate the house! Usually we go all out on the outside decorations but this year we have had Santa Anna winds like nobodies business; and when they blow most of the tombstones and cobwebs end up in someone else's yard! So I stayed inside and baked cupcakes for my DH to take to work and for me to take to the gym!

I used my favorite Devils Food recipe from the "Tartine" cookbook and it made about 36 cupcakes. Really good chocolate flavor, I used Dutch process chocolate because this recipe contains buttermilk. I also use low fat buttermilk and it has never been a problem even though the recipe calls for full fat buttermilk. I can't even find full fat buttermilk, anyone heard of that kind of buttermilk? Used the vanilla buttercream frosting from "More from Magnolia" cookbook.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza.....

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was homemade pizza dough! And, to try and toss your dough, sure. This pizza dough was so good!!! I don't think we will order in again, and that is saying something because we really like our local pizzeria, Oggi's! My DH said the dough was the best he has had, OK, we don't live in Chicago or New York, we're in SoCal so maybe we aren't pizza aficionados! But we do know what we like and don't like.

This was very easy to make! I made the dough with olive oil and didn't change anything in the recipe. True, you don't see any pics of me attempting to throw the dough in the air; good reason, my first attempt resulted in a big hole in the dough and me almost wearing it, LOL. Not sure what happened but my dough seemed realty elastic and did not want to be twirled, tossed or tweaked.

However, using my rolling pin worked great and we enjoyed a wonderful thin crust pizza. My favorite pizza has no sauce, just olive oil and garlic. Then add mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and fresh basil. Yes, my favorite pizza is a Margarita Pizza and this really filled the bill.=

We ate two pizzas on Friday and have enough for two more for this weekend, can't wait! I should mention that three months ago, before I got into the world of food blogs, I cleaned out my kitchen of all unnecessary items, things I hadn't used in years. The two items that went to the donation station were my pizza stone and peel, go figure! DH just smiled and ordered another stone (sometimes they know when not to say anything) and I bought another peel at the restaurant supply. Who knew......

Well I had a great time with this recipe, thank you to Rosa's Yummy Yums this was fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2X Chocolate Cupcakes.....

This post will be short and very sweet! My cousin is visiting from Germany with her daughter and I have a limited amount of time to see them before they travel to Northern California. These cupcakes came out with no problems and I followed the recipe as stated. I used my own buttercream frosting because it's what DH loves; he took most of them to work and the comments were that the cupcakes were "intense"; not sure what that ment, maybe too chocolatie. I felt they were a bit crumbly (dry), but all in all a good flavor. Next time maybe some applesauce or sour cream to make them more moist. Or, just use my favorite devils food recipe.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dorie's Pumpkin Muffins.....

Our TWD group got to make Pumpkin Muffins this week, choosen by Kelly from Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! and they were so good!!! The only substitute I made was craisins for the raisins; I'm just not that fond of raisins in baked goods. I made two additions to the recipe, I added chopped crystallized ginger, about two tablespoons and maybe 1/8 tsp. of cardamon.

These muffins were just right on the spices and would be excellent for breakfast, a morning snack or brunch; not too sweet! This recipe made 12 regular muffins and 4 jumbo muffins! I was very happy for the extra muffins!

What I really enjoy about making these recipes each week is the versatility of the ingredients, you can usually use what you have on hand or use what you and your family enjoy.

I will be making these again this week and use up the extra pumpkin; wouldn't want it to go to waste (waist)!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Our treat this week was Lenox Almond Biscotti chosen by Gretchen of Canela & Comino. I usually get biscotti in those holiday baskets and they always seem a bit cement like (probably because they have been in that basket for months) and the one time I tried to make them, well, they were just not great. I know there are wonderful biscotti out there, I just don't want to buy a jar full when all I want is something with my tea. I was curious about the cornmeal in these and after reading the reviews was happy to see my cornmeal was on the fine side. I really liked Dorie's recipe for biscotti, they were not hard and had a nice crunch from the cornmeal.

I used this recipe to try out my new BeaterBlade for my K/A. I saw this blade in the latest Chefs catalog and just HAD to try it out. The blade is an after market paddle attachment that has flexible wipers on the edges; so no more scraping down the sides of the bowl. Did it work? YES, I didn't have to scrape down the bowl at all with this recipe. My only concern is that it is made from a high impact plastic not metal and I am not sure how durable (comes with a 1 year guarantee) it will be, but it does save a lot of time. I am puzzled why K/A has not come out with a wiper paddle like this! You can also purchase it at Amazon , it got great reviews!

I had no problems with this recipe the dough was sticky but not hard to form into the rectangle; I did draw an outline on the parchment to be sure it was 12 x 1.5.

I wanted to make 2 different flavors from this recipe so I cut the dough in half before adding the flavoring. I made a Lemon Biscotti by using lemon extract, the zest of one lemon and added Macadamia nuts. For my Pumpkin Pie Biscotti I used 1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice, orange extract and pecans. I dipped the ends of a few biscotti from each batch in white chocolate, because it just sounded good. I liked both versions equally and will make Dorie's recipe again!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vanilla Anyone?

Since I joined TWD I have been baking like a mad woman! I feel as if I should bake everyday, OK, so what is wrong with that? Well, nothing! But the amounts of vanilla extract I have been going through is amazing and I won't buy artificial flavorings, yuck! Call me a snob, but no way. I started to wonder about making my own vanilla and maybe, never run out again. Off to the Internet I went and I found this recipe for homemade vanilla at The Traveler's Lunchbox , wow, how easy was this? Melissa's recipe is very easy, so easy you will wonder why you haven't been making your own extract before. We had some partial bottles of vodka and what the hell, I'll try anything once, just to see.

Melissa mentions several sites to purchase vanilla beans for a reasonable price, I checked them out and felt this one, Vanilla Products USA , was a good one, they are also on ebay. I think their store on ebay is much better than the actual web site. I placed my order on Monday and my beans are here, two days later, on Wednesday! Beans are as described and smell sooooo good!. I bought 1/2 pound of beans for making vanilla and 1/4 pound of gourmet beans for baking; their prices are unbelievably low, considering what you pay in the markets for 3 wizened up beans. I now have a bizillion vanilla beans all wrapped up, they will last a very long time if kept properly. These beans are plump, fat and full of good vanilla stuff.

So, here is my ginormous bottle of vanilla, ready to be stored in my pantry, all I have to do is wait several weeks, use what I need and top off with more vodka; then add a few vanilla bean pods when I use the seeds for baking.
The spent pods can also be used to make vanilla sugar and salt (?). Who new? Well maybe you have been making your own vanilla but for me this is really cool.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake.....

Thank you to Tammy at Wee Treats by Tammy for picking this weeks recipe! I have been looking fondly at this cake since I bought the book; finally we got to make it! Maybe the kitchen gremlins were around or my kitchen chi was way off, but the cake just didn't do it for me. I did cut the recipe in half, so we didn't have so much to consume...but, it was a bit dry and I didn't care for the chocolate flavor.
I used a 6" springform pan; I like the size for the two of us, gives us dessert for a couple of days, then it is ALL gone. I think it may have cooked too fast because my pan is dark. I will use my cake pan strips and wrap the pan next time I use it. The strips should slow down the cooking on the sides.

My cake did not fall in the middle and looked really nice. Had I known it was a bit dry I would have moistened it with some chocolate liquor or perhaps some amaretto. Although I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I didn't care for the peanuts on this cake; maybe pecans, hazelnuts or cashews next time. All in all a fun recipe to play with and I am very happy I bought the smaller springform pan and actually used it, LOL.

I used the extra caramel sauce when I served the cake.