Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

This week the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers baked the very lovely Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake from her book Baking Chez Moi.   Dorie says it's the kind of cake that sits out on the counter, inviting you to have a little nibble as you pass by.  I'm not sure this cake will last the whole weekend in our house!

It's an easy cake to bake with three fun elements:

  1. browning the butter
  2. working vanilla bean seeds into the sugar with your fingers
  3. adding rum!
I love browning butter--seeing those little brown bits appear is fascinating chemistry magic.
Bubbling butter

Just about right
I don't usually have vanilla beans in the house because they are sooooooo pricey.  But I ordered three from Penzey's and used one for this delightfully nibble-able cake.  I forgot how much fun it is to work the vanilla seeds into sugar!  Such a lovely tactile baking experience!  

The vanilla bean!

Vanilla seeds in the sugar

And the rum--well, I don't drink alcohol except for a very occasional half-a-glass of wine, but I must say that adding rum to this cake is inspired.  When I first started baking through Baking from My Home to Yours I used to leave out the alcohol if Dorie said it was optional.  I've become a convert, however.   In Dorie's recipes, it's never too much (my big fear).  That little bit of alcohol imparts just the right amount of flavor and amps up the butter and the vanilla flavors in the cake. 

Nibbling away at the cake!  Will it last the whole weekend?
We have been nibbling all weekend--think I'll go check to see if there is a little sliver left for me!

Have a look at what the other Tuesdays with Dorie Bakers think of this lovely little cake.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Granola Energy Bars

I was eager to try these granola bars because I've tried two other recipes in the past and neither was successful.  Dorie never disappoints!

As I do a lot of baking and have made my own granola for years, I had all of the ingredients on my shelves -- save one:  rice syrup.  Frankly, I had never heard of rice syrup.  But living in Rochester, NY, the home of Wegmans grocery stores, it was easy to find.

I assembled all the ingredients and then started. The first big problem was that I couldn't open the jar of rice syrup!  It was brand new, but sticky.  I tried all my jar opening tricks:  whacking the lid to break the seal, prying up an edge of the lid, using a round rubber grippy thing, and finally putting a rubber band around the lid and then using the grippy thing.  Success!

Ironic TAMPER SEAL label.  No one could easily get into this jar!

I mixed everything up, no problem.  I loved Dorie's encouragement to try different things and so I decided to use 1/2 cup dried cherries and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.

The technique in making these is to heat up the rice syrup with 2 Tbsp. butter, then pour it over the toasted granola mixture and mix it all up before putting it in a pan.  I saved the chocolate chips for last, but it was still too warm for them and they melted away as I stirred them in!

They aren't overdone.  The mini chips melted and made everything chocolate-y.

The technique that Dorie used to press the mixture down into the pan right after they came out of the oven was brilliant!  My other attempts at making granola bars have always resulted in a falling-apart mess.  These are winners because they hold together and taste good. 

Ready to be taken to lunch.

I took these to a lunch with my teacher friends.  When these women get together, there is always an abundance of food.  My contribution was perfect--they could take one home to eat at another time!