Tuesdays With Dorie: Madeleines

There’s not a whole lot I can say about these cookies. I’ve never had a Madeleine before, and I may never again. They were not difficult to bake, and thankfully I didn’t have to buy a pan special for this. My friend Charlene had one I borrowed. It produced tiny Madelines. About the size of my thumb. So they were cute. But extremely dry. The only change I made to the recipe was to brown the butter. Because, really, who doesn’t like brown butter?
I ate a few and sent them to school with the kids. The boys didn’t eat them, and Dorothy enjoyed them for a few days, but I felt that they went stale very quickly.

Probably, there are lots of beautiful examples in the leave your link post at Tuesdays with Dorie, and at the host’s blog: counter dog

Hopefully I like the next recipe more!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rustic Potato Bread

So, I made this bread a few days late. The post was ‘due’ on the last day of passover. So, I made it yesterday.

For such a beautiful loaf of bread, it was incredibly simple to bake. I wish I had read the instructions completely before getting started, because then I would have known that the dough starts out crumbly….like a pie crust….and then miracously comes together like a bread dough. I added a few tablespoons of water while it was still crumbly, and then ended up having to add extra flour while I was kneading it. No big deal. I don’t think it affected the flavor one bit. I halved the recipe and did the whole thing by hand. My mixer is much too big to bother with for only one loaf of bread. I didn’t mind, kneading it was my arm workout for the day–I couldn’t get to the gym since I was home with a sick child.

After two short rises, I ended up with this beautiful loaf of bread.
It was delicious plain, and with butter.
I’ll definitely be making this again. it was easy, delicious and impressive looking!

Check out the other loaves of potato bread that were produced this week at our Leave Your Link post. The recipe can be found at Dawn’s blog, Simply Sweet. While you’re there, make sure to look at the picture of the “high heeled shoe cupcakes” that she made. They’re stunning. She has the recipe for the bread, or you can find it on page 138 of Baking with Julia.

Passover Baking….a delicious cake!

We were invited to our neighbors home for an Easter Dinner, which fell at the end of Passover this year. We said we’d be there, and I told Isabelle that I’d bring something for dessert. I knew that it had to be delicious, and I didn’t want to go with my old standby–flourless chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is fine, but I’m a little tired of it.

The week before passover I saw that Smitten Kitchen had put up a recipe for a Hazelnut-Chocolate Torte. I knew that was what I’d bake. I’ve never had a recipe from Deb turn out badly, and this one was no different. Though I admit that I questioned her when it was time to melt the chocolate and coffee together. I was afraid it would seize and be gross and disgusting. I was wrong, and it turned out beautifully. I should have known….just trust the Smitten Kitchen.


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At a first glance, it might look like a complicated recipe. There’s whipping egg whites and folding in the chopped nuts. But it is not complicated. Or time consuming. Do you believe me? Would I lie to you? Would Deb, of Smitten Kitchen?

I think not
Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

I think this served at least 12 people, with very small slices

Oil or butter for greasing parchment rounds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 12 ounces or 340 grams), toasted, then skinned as much as possible*
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract**

Chocolate filling
6 ounces (170 grams or the equivalent of 1 cup chips) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

Whipped frosting and filling
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Frangelico or another hazelnut liqueur or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract**

A semi- or bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving (optional)

Make macaroons: Position oven racks in the top and lower thirds of oven and heat oven to 325°F. Outline four 8-inch circles on individual pieces of parchment paper. Turn each sheet of parchment over so your ink or pencil lines don’t seep into the macaroon, place each piece of parchment paper on large baking sheets, and very lightly coat each piece of parchment with oil or butter. (I sprayed mine with a cooking oil and wiped all but a sheer coating away with a paper towel.)

Place hazelnuts, 1 cup sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large, dry bowl with clean beaters (or a whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract, then slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 1/3 increments (i.e. a little at a time so it doesn’t overtake the fluffy egg whites). Spread 1/4 of macaroon batter evenly within each circle, filling completely.

Bake macaroon layers until golden and dry to the touch — this takes 20 to 23 minutes in my oven. Cool macaroons on their sheets on a cooling rack. You can speed this along by placing them for five minutes each in your freezer.

Make chocolate filling: While meringues cool, heat half of chocolate, water, and coffee (if using) in a small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until smooth. Off the heat, stir in second half of chocolate chunks until melted, which should also cool the mixture to lukewarm. Spread chocolate evenly over tops of meringue rounds; it will be just a thin slick on each. Cool until chocolate is set, a process that could take a few hours at room temperature or, again, could be hastened along by resting each disc in your freezer for five minutes, or until firm.

Make whipped frosting and filling:: Beat cream with sugar and liqueur or vanilla in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it holds stiff peaks.

Assemble torte: Gently peel the parchment off the back of each macaroon round. Arrange your first disc on your cake serving plate. If you like to follow proper cake-decorating protocol, you will insert some small strips of waxed paper under the edge to protect the cake plate while you decorate. If you don’t, hey, I too embrace cake imperfections. Spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over it. Repeat with second and third macaroon rounds, then top with final round. Frost top and side of torte with whipped cream. I did this in two parts, a thin “crumb” coat (after which I put the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes to “set” it, although whipped cream doesn’t really set) a thicker final one, with the remaining cream, which led to a neater final result.

If desired, use a vegetable peeler to scrape away curls from a chocolate bar for decoration. Remove waxed paper strips if you used them, and serve immediately or up to a day or two layer. Store in fridge.

Do ahead: Whipped cream confections are generally best on the first day, but we found ours to hold up just fine in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Macaroons alone, or macaroons with chocolate coating, can be baked in advance. Simply keep them separated with waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Humidity is the enemy of macaroons, so if you live in a humid environment, you’ll want to store them as little time as possible lest they become sticky.

**** in the end, we did not use whipped cream to frost this cake. My husband is lactose intolerant, and he wanted me to use something that he could eat too. I used this recipe for a 7 minute marshmallow frosting. It has corn syrup in it, so its not strictly kosher for passover. But it was worth it.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Croissants

I was so excited….SO excited to make this recipe, and am so dissapointed with how it turned out.

Last week wasn’t too warm here and I had finally found some fresh yeast from our local italian market, and so I got to work. I made the dough and encorporated the butter by rolling and folding, rolling and folding. Finally, FINALLY, it was time to shape and bake the pastries.

I cut them out and shaped them. Not very well I might add, and then I put them in the oven to rise. As instructed, I also included a pot of steaming water. And when I opened the door to the oven, I found this:
a lot of the butter had seeped out of the dough from the heat of the steaming water.

I pried three croissants out of the pool of butter and put them on a fresh pan and baked them. Fresh out of the oven, they tasted great, but as they sat they became heavier and more bread-like.
This was my first real culinary disaster….ever. I guess that’s lucky because I cook a lot, and most of it is more than edible.

I still had the other half of the dough sitting in the fridge and waiting for me. I ended up putting it in the freezer, thinking I would try again over the weekend. Guess what? I didn’t. and I tossed the rest of the dough yesterday. It was actually sort of freeing to toss it. Even if I avoided the puddle of butter again, I knew that the results were not going to live up to the ‘croissant in my head.’ and I decided that it was okay to quit.

Should you decide that you want to try to make croissants on your own (best of luck to you) the recipe can be found on page 185-186 of the book. You can also see how our host did at Girl + food + love, and the rest of the bakers links can be found here. I’m sure that many of them had a better time than I did!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Boca Negra

Boca Negra. A black mouth. This recipe for chocolate cake promised to be deep, dark and delicious. The recipe, found on page 253 in the book, is from pastry chef, Lora Brody.
My friend Mendy celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this month. We spent the weekend at the Vinoy Hotel in Downtown St. Petersburg. We ate dinner at the Parkshore Grill and I called earlier in the week to ask if it would be okay if I brought a birthday cake for us. I don’t know if it was because I spoke to a friend there, or that they had so many large parties all at one time, or if they normally allow it…but I was pleasantly surprised when they said I could.
On Thursday I baked this fantastic cake. First I made the white chocolate-bourbon cream. I only made half of it, which was more than enough. I chopped the white chocolate in the food processor and then poured in the hot cream. I poured that mixture into a container and gently stirred in the bourbon. When I put it into the fridge it was thin and soupy, and I was seriously concerned. By that evening it thickened into something seriously delicious, with a heavy hit of bourbon.
Then I made the cake. Chopped dark chocolate was combined with a bourbon-sugar syrup. I should have been a little more careful while making the syrup on my gas stove. I accidentally flambéd it. Whoops. That was a scary kitchen moment
There was enough heat in the syrup to melt the chocolate, but not enough to melt the butter. No big deal–I set up a double boiler and stirred the butter in that way. Two sticks of butter was A LOT of butter. I might cut out a few tablespoons the next time I make it. I incorporated the eggs and a tiny amount of flour.20130213-181625.jpg
I poured the cake batter into a prepared pan and it went into the oven. It wasn’t quite done after 30 minutes, but after another 5 minutes it was perfectly cooked.
Of course, the most stressful part of this whole operation was getting it out of the pan. It worked out perfectly!
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I delivered the cake to Parkshore in the afternoon, so all I had to do was pack myself up for a fun weekend with some great friends

Mendy was surprised that she wasn’t given the opportunity to order dessert when this plate was placed in front of her, but when she realized that I made it, she was pretty excited. Parkshore plated the cake with the white chocolate cream, some raspberries and mint. They made it look beautiful!
Mendy's cake
Our waitress even asked if I had made the cake, I told her that she should have some, and she couldn’t believe that it was homemade.
I’ve eaten, and produced more than a few flourless chocolate cakes in my time, but this particular cake was definitely the best. I plan on making it again for my mom’s birthday tonight (2/19). I know that she and my dad will love it, along with Dorothy. And Reid will be in heaven!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Foccacia

This week’s assignment was to make Foccacia, a delicious Italian flat-ish bread. It was relatively easy, but required lots of time–but very little attention.
The dough was easy to put together, water, yeast, salt, olive oil and flour kneaded together for about 10 minutes to make a beautiful dough. Then an hour and a half rise. Then it was folded up on itself to deflate it, and then another short rise. Then the dough was divided into three lumps, placed into an oiled ziplock bag, and stashed in the fridge for a 24-36 hour rest.
The long cold rise produced lots of tiny bubbles and a tangy flavor. Of course I forgot to take a picture of the dough after it came out of the fridge. It had risen again, and you could see the matrix of bubbles in the dough.

When I was ready to bake it the next evening I pressed it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. The recipe called for chopped fresh herbs, which I didn’t have–so I used sea-salt on two of them and magic salt on the other.
Magic salt is a delicious combination of kosher salt, garlic, rosemary and sage. It all goes into the food processor to chop up the garlic and herbs with the salt and then it’s poured onto a rimmed baking sheet to dry (either by leaving it out or in a low oven–I had to use the oven for mine because it was extremely humid when I made it). The salt can be used to flavor roasted vegetables, meat, and apparently Foccacia. It was the clear winner for me over the one that just had olive oil and sea salt.
The bread didn’t have the loose bubbly texture I expected–the bubbles were small and evenly distributed– but I’m not sure it mattered. It was light and heavily flavored with olive oil, salt and herbs. I would definitely make it again, and I wonder how it would work as a pizza dough. Perhaps as a loosely made pan/Sicilian pizza.

I served the bread with dinner one night last week. Leftover lasagne, the foccacia and collard greens with garlic.
Check out the host’s post on this recipe at Sharmini’s blog, Wandering Through. The recipe can be found there, as well as on page 143 of the book.
And take a look at the Leave Your Link link (LYL) at Tuesdays with Dorie. If you’ve got a hankering for good bread, and an excuse to make this (and a little bit of time) you should.

The next Tuesdays With Dorie will feature Boca Negra. All I can say about that is wow. Stay tuned for that one!

What’s With Dinner? Collard Greens

A few years ago I belonged to a CSA, and in the winter the bitter greens started coming. Week after week, I steamed or lightly sauteed and held my nose and ate them. I just didn’t get it. People loved eating their greens. I was obviously doing something wrong. David said it was like eating spinach on steroids. Eventually I opened up the cookbook that would change my greens eating forever. How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. When I found his recipe for collard greens with double garlic, I knew that was the recipe for me. It called for a TON of garlic and to cook the greens significantly longer than I had been previously. I gathered my ingredients and started cooking.

I killed some time yesterday during Dorothy’s gymnastics practice at our local hydroponic farm: First Fruits Hydroponics. They’ve got beautiful strawberries and tons of other vegetables. Yesterday I picked up some berries and these greens. I’d never picked-my-own greens before, but I’ll definitely be doing it again. These were the youngest and least bitter collard greens that I’ve ever eaten.

some red pepper, vegetable stock, and salt (if you want)

cut the central vein out of the leaves, I find it to be tough, so I just remove them
tonight’s dinner: leftover lasagne, homemade foccacia (a baking with julia project….post will be next week) and these greens. Yum. Reid asked to taste them and he enjoyed the small amount that he ate.
Collard Greens with Garlic
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

1 lb collard greens, washed, central vein removed and chopped
1/4 cup garlic, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
dash of red chili flakes
1/2 cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water (I typically use vegetable stock)
salt, optional

saute the garlic in the oil over medium heat with the chili flakes and salt if you’re adding it…don’t let it get brown
add the greens and stock, cover and let cook for about 5 minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender
remove the lid and cook a little more until some of the stock evaporates.

Can I just show you this cool picture? Is it weird that I think water on collards is a cool picture? You tell me: