Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peanuttiest Blondies

For this week's soup night, I made the Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding, the Honey Wheat Cookies AND the Peanuttiest Blondies. Because so much was going on in my kitchen, I had placed the bowl for my stand mixer on its plate and had put in the peanut butter and butter. I didn't start mixing until some of the other baking was under control--I'm not a short order cook and I've learned that I can't juggle too many things at once or something goes awry.

Something went awry. I switched on the mixer and immediately realized that I had not locked the bowl in place. This was obvious because the beater shoved the bowl askew and LOUD, AWFUL noises came from the mixer. My screeches added to the awful noise until I found the off button. But the damage was done, and now my mixer does not go all the way down. This means that the beater does not go all the way down into the bowl. This means that the mixer needs to be repaired. This is a problem as I am trying to bake through all of Dorie Greenspan's Baking book.

The good news is that the Cuisinart is still under warranty. The bad news is that it has to be shipped back to the company and they say it will be 4-6 weeks until it is returned!

The good news is that I have my old Sunbeam stand mixer. The bad news is that it has neither a paddle beater nor whisk attachments.


Back to the Peanuttiest Blondies. They were fairly easy to make, but I had to modify my mixing technique since the mixer was wonky. The blondies themselves came out well. Rich especially likes their chewiness. And they were nearly all consumed by our Monday night guests even though they also had Honey Wheat Cookies and Chocolate Bread Pudding available.

Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

Once I had my brioche loaf, I cubed it and "staled" it in the oven for 10 minutes. I added dried cherries. Then made the custard, which is basically milk, cream, a lot of eggs, even more egg yolks, and chocolate. Poured this over the bread and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, giving it the "back of the spoon" treatment a couple of times to make sure the bread was absorbing the custard.

This is baked in a hot water bath and looked and smelled great. Then cooled to room temperature and kept cold overnight.

I really liked this, but I actually think I prefer the apple bread pudding.

Since I used only half of the brioche recipe for the bread pudding, I made the Pecan Honey Sticky Buns, too. Actually, the buns are rolled up in the freezer, waiting to be bathed in butter and pecans on the weekend.

Golden Brioche Loaf

In happy anticipation of making the Four-star Chocolate Bread Pudding, I made a batch of brioche dough. This was quite fun--and quite an extensive project. Mixing the flour with the yeast/water, Dorie says you end up with a "fairly dry, shaggy mess." It's true! Adding the eggs turns it into batter, and adding 3 cubes of softened butter a bit at a time transforms the batter to a happy, shiny dough. This has to rise, then sit overnight in the refrigerator. You take it out and form 4 little logs that fit perfectly into the loaf pan.

You're supposed to put it in a warm place in your kitchen and let it rise in the pan. This is winter in Rochester and there is no warm place in my kitchen (unless it's the oven!). After two hours on the counter with very little change, I heated up the oven just a bit and let my loaf rise in there. I baked it and it was beautiful!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Classic Banana Bundt Cake

This cake was entirely fun to make. My bananas weren't all that ripe so I decided to mash them with the pestle in the mortar (or is it the other way around?!)

While baking, the lovely aroma permeated the kitchen and spread through the whole house! No kidding, this blog should have a special banana-cake-emitting scent in order to convey how lovely this cake smells. I didn't even need to eat lunch--all I had to do was inhale the luscious aroma from the cake!

Dorie says that this cake is better the next day so I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and this morning I drizzled on the lemon glaze. I took the lovely cake to a Raging Grannies brunch and it was much enjoyed! The texture is lovely and the lemon glaze was just right.

Honey Wheat Cookies

I wasn't too keen on making these cookies because they contain 1/2 cup of wheat germ and my previous experience with wheat germ calls to mind gritty, chopped cardboard. But this recipe is the recipe of the week for the Tuesdays with Dorie crowd so I bought the wheat germ and made the dough. After chilling overnight, I rolled out the little balls of dough, rolled them around in more wheat germ, placed them on the cookie sheet, flattened them a bit and baked them.

I think they are cute and I can definitely see how they would be good with tea. The honey flavor comes through so I can also see how the taste would vary depending on the kind of honey used. My verdict is that these are tasty . . . .but I still prefer chocolate in my cookies!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie

Well, okay, this isn't a recipe out of Dorie Greenspan's book. But it's a pie that my mom used to make to celebrate her birthday and ever since she died, I've made the pie on (or about) her birthday. Today she would have been 89 years old!

This pie always looked so elegant and tasted so good; I was completely amazed because I never saw my mom consulting a recipe to put this together. Shortly before I left for college, I asked her to make the pie and I watched as she made it, pausing to measure what she "threw" in. A "hunk of butter" is a little over a tablespoon, a capful of vanilla is about 1/2 tsp.

I always think that my pie doesn't live up to hers and it may just be a memory trick or it may be that she used organic, farm fresh eggs. Who knows? No matter, really. I always smile and think of her when I bake this lovely pie.

Betty Terlau's Coconut Cream Pie
Bake a pie crust and set aside to cool.

Scald two cups of milk. In another saucepan combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour and some salt. Gradually pour in the scalded milk, stirring constantly. After a bit, separate three eggs. Break up the yolks in a small bowl, then pour a little of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, then pour the eggs back into the milk mixture. Continue to heat and stir till thick and plumpy. Remove from the heat. Stir in a handful of shredded sweetened coconut, a hunk of butter, a capful of vanilla. Allow to cool while you make the meringue. With a mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed, adding gradually 6 teaspoons of sugar and a drop of vanilla. When stiff peaks form (or you can turn the bowl upside down), spoon the meringue on top of the pie and swirl with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle on some coconut. Bake in a 350 oven until the meringue begins to brown and some of the coconut turns a little brown. Cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


These are happy, round butter cookies that apparently can be varied many ways. I chose to make the dough ahead of time and freeze it since we were going to be away for the weekend. You barely mix the dough, then roll it into two logs and wrap in plastic wrap. To bake, I thawed a bit in the refrigerator, painted on an egg yolk "glue" and then rolled the logs in red sugar (for Valentine's Day!). I cut them in 1/3 inch slices and baked. They turned out well and were interesting to look at. The red sugar almost looked like a rind on gouda cheese! I intended to take a picture, but these cookies were entirely consumed by the Soup Night guests before I got my camera out!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal Drops

We'll be at the Dance Flurry this weekend and expect to return home late Sunday night, tired and happy. On Monday, we're expecting about 20 people for dinner of soup, bread and desserts! To get a head start, I baked these intensely chocolate cookies today and froze them. They really are seriously chocolatey!

Corniest Corn Muffins

I went to my weekly brunch with Dr. Tom Bannister and friends. I usually bring scones or muffins and today was a muffin day. I baked these corn muffins, even though I'm not much of a fan of cornbread. These muffins were light in texture and corny in taste. Quite good, as a matter of fact.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Florida Pie

I made my own graham crackers to make this lovely crust and then filled it with a coconut CREAM base followed by a lime filling. That's baked for 12 minutes, then frozen and then the meringue is added. Once the meringue is lovely brown under the broiler, the pie goes back into the freezer for a couple of hours.

I took a picture of it in the freezer and had a delightful little slice at soup night. When I went to take a picture of the pie, it had been completely consumed! Refreshingly yummy!

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

These lovely little brownies have a layer of brownie, a layer of cheesecake (that's been given a flavor boost with a little espresso) and a lovely sour cream topping. The cream cheese layer is supposed to have some swirls of brownie, but mine were more like clumps. No matter--they were lovely and delicious.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins

I baked three things yesterday! I made pumpkin muffins to take to Tom's for brunch. I had just the right amount of pumpkin left over from the Twofer Pie and felt quite virtuous in using it up. The muffins were very tasty, not overly-pumpkin-y, and very pretty. The sprinkling of sunflower seeds on top made them look extra special.

I used walnuts in these muffins but I think that pecans would be even better. Definitely worth repeating.

Lots-of-ways Banana Cake

Dorie says that this cake was created to be very flexible--you can use sour cream, buttermilk or coconut milk, for example and you can add toasted coconut or any manner of dried fruit. The cake can be frosted, left plain, drenched with rum or drizzled with chocolate. Since I was making it for Rich's choir rehearsal and the folks would be using their fingers, I chose to make it plain, cut it in squares and sprinkle on powdered sugar.
Baking from Dorie's book is usually fun and the fun part of this recipe was to toast the coconut and then stir it into the batter. What made that fun was that the batter crackled as I stirred in the coconut! And this cake is really yummy! It's definitely a banana cake, not banana bread, and I can easily see dressing these two rounds up by stacking them up and frosting them with a delicious frosting. A wonderful cake!

Salt and Pepper Cocoa Shortbread Cookies

Not being a fan of pepper, I was not overly enthusiastic about making these cookies. The perfect opportunity presented itself yesterday, however, since Rich volunteered to bring snack to choir rehearsal. The dough was easy to make, I refrigerated it overnight, and it baked up easily. To me, these cookies are fine shortbread cookies but I prefer my cookies softer, chunkier, and more chocolatey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Twofer Thanksgiving Pie

I was excited about making this pie, even though I'm not a fan of pumpkin, because I had high hopes that the layer of pecan pie filling on top of a layer of pumpkin pie filling would be a winning combination. I started out making one of Dorie's good-for-almost-everything single pie crust. I have a tendency to roll my pie crusts very thin so I actually made two crusts out of her recipe for one. The trouble began when I pre-baked it. My super-thin pie crust turned tooooo brown. So I dumped it and made another recipe of pie the pie crust and used all of the dough to make a single crust. Much better results.

Next, I made the pumpkin pie filling and held it in the cuisinarte. Then prepared the pecan pie filling and held it in a bowl. I poured the pumpkin pie filling into the crust and it nearly filled the crust! Next I sprinkled on the pecans and they just floated along on the pumpkin filling. Fun! Finally, I poured on the pecan filling and then, as directed, poked the pecans down so that they were beneath the filling. I slipped it into the 450 oven for 10 minutes, then reduced the heat to 300 for 35. When I checked the pie, however, it was obviously still way to gooshy. I kept checking for at least another 30 minutes until finally, I thought it would be ok. I had covered the rim of the crust with foil in an effort to keep it from over browning. I was not overly pleased with how the pie looked, but the verdict of the soup-night consumers is that the pie is fabulous!

Chocolate Chunkers

The batter for these cookies is pretty simple; it's like a brownie batter. The fun comes when you add all the chocolate chunks (semi-sweet, milk and white), the salted peanuts and the raisins. I don't normally want to spoil chocolate by adding raisins, but these cookies are all about the yummy chunks held together with a minimum of batter and even the raisins worked! The batter was really pretty and the cookies very filling and quite scrumptious.