Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables...How Could I Not?





Yet again, it's been a while, but when I saw it was sables, really: how could I not? First off: simple. Second off: My. Favorite. Cookie. Ever.

I truly had to say to myself: Okay, I'll go write about these after just one more.

These are melt in my mouth (haven't decided to share them yet, so maybe they will be melt in someone else's mouth) good. I didn't just follow Dorie's directions, I studied them and when I added the flour, I sang to myself: sandy, sandy, sandy (as instructed by Dorie). They rested about 4 hours before I cut and baked...and? They are just superb.





(Did I miss something, though? The egg yolk to wash the logs with before you sugar them? I don't see that on the ingredient list, it just appears...I briefly worried I added one too many yolks to the batter, but she does say: add yolks, plural...)

I don't think these can be improved upon, although I am so going to try the chocolate pepper shortbreads a page or two ahead of these...

So. Do I give them away? Or eat them all up? I know what I SHOULD do...I just don't want to.


(some got red sugah)

Visit all the other blogs (check out the Blog Roll at Tuesdays With Dorie and see the recipe at Bungalow Barbara's

Monday, December 7, 2009

Soup's On


I liked this photo. I took it for a post at FloridaTable.com, but thought I'd share the image here, too.

Speaking of images, do you love the flowers at the top? Those graced the Thanksgiving table...Loved them.

Happy December, all--baking Sables for TWD today...WILL POST.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Godiva'd

Today, Godiva showed up at my door. Unasked. Announced only by a knock I wasn't expecting and a bark from the dog.

I'm a food writer. I get things like this all the time. Over the summer I got an incredible basket of booze. (Glad my college boys weren't home to receive THAT unannounced gift.) I've gotten incredible cakes delivered. Delicious breads. Fine wines. Spreads, dips, chips and more.

I don't ask for these things. My contact information is relatively easy to find and picnic basket loads of PR people have it. Sometimes I write about the samples. Sometimes I don't. But I always, ALWAYS try them. Mostly always enjoy them.

Yeah, sure. Some wackadoo might be sending me poison pills, but...nah. I continue to open packages that appear on my doorstep.

So today, Godiva showed up at my door, and frankly? Lady Godiva showed up on a good day, because it was one of those days. Two potential gigs fell through. Emails went unanswered. My future is slightly uncertain.

I ripped into the box (I knew it was Godiva. It said so on the packaging). I opened the cellophane and picked the prettiest tidbit in the box, the white chocolate star filled with raspberry ganache (or something. I ate it too fast)...and while the sweetness was making me happy, I dug through the papers to find the card. Which PR company found me today? Who do I have to thank for this treat?

"We thank you for your business over the past year and look forward to your business in the years to come." Or something like that.

But wait. I don't do business with this company. This is a financial company. I write about food.

Oh, maybe because I just joined the Chamber of Commerce. They love me because I joined.

No. No mention of the Chamber.

I look at the label. There, in black and white is my address...with my neighbor's name. A sense of mortification engulfs me. What do I do now? I announce my gaffe on Facebook, of course, and make a joke of it. Then another writer friend, Leah, she who writes about all things etiquette, pointedly (but politely, of course) notes (on Facebook, for all to see): Guess you need to buy your neighbor some chocolates.

Really? I mean. She doesn't know she was supposed to get the chocolates, right? So she won't miss them. I don't even know her. It was an honest mistake, right? No harm, no foul. But Leah has me. I am a good girl. A good girl who ATE SOMEONE ELSE'S GODIVA. She's right. I need to buy someone some chocolates.

After thinking I have to buy a whole new box, I come up with a new idea. Buy the smallest amount of Godiva I can. Replace the piece I ate. Knock on her door, admit that I opened the box...but I'm stopping there. I will not, cannot, confess that I actually ate one of the chocolates.

In the end, it was much less dramatic than I thought it would be. I didn't even touch the chocolate I put back in the box ($4.50 for two chocolates! That's crazy. But while I was in the store, I signed up for the Godiva club: I got ANOTHER free chocolate today, and I'll get one free chocolate every month. Who needs mystery packages showing up at the door? Oh, AND I got a half truffle sample of the flavor of the month. Holiday spice, or something. But that's just between you and me, okay?), I tipped it into the box. Replaced the lid. Replaced the elastic band and the printed card thanking me (er, you, Janet) for the business over the past year. Knocked on the door, and introduced myself. To Janet's daughter.

I hope Janet's daughter, being the teenager she is, forgot about me the minute she closed the door. Devoured two or three fancy chocolates and left the box and the note for her mother to find.

Think I'll be reading labels a bit more carefully in the future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ahh. Finally...Catch up time is happening.



We are all busy. I get it. But making sweets when I'm also trying not to get TOO fat while I'm trying to learn to bake thanks to Dorie? All too often, TWD is the item I cross off the list.

So it's been since those apple turnovers that I baked. I haven't been idle in the kitchen--mucho testing for Florida Table's spring issue has been in the works. Plans for the FLX CRUISE where I will talk about food writing is in the works. I am hoping to squeeze a photo shoot (or two) into the next seven days..and another one between now and the end of November. Whew. Life is busy. Oh, and in the middle of it all? I'll make a second home in North Carolina (Charlotte, to be exact. If you know anyone who needs to hire a brilliant, funny, hard-working writer/editor/recipe developer/cooking teacher/photographer/web writer/videographer...ETCETERA? Let me know. And write me a recco while you're at it._

I digress. How very shocking.

Okay. So. Around 5 p.m., I was determined: determined to bake off whatever TWD had to toss out. And lucky for me, it's the delicious allspice muffins. What a treat. Everything is in the cupboard (umm, I had a nervous moment when I saw only whole allspice and was eyeing the coffee grinder/spice grinder...then my fingers lit on the ground allspice bottle). And streusel topping. Mmm.

The flavor of allspice is a treat. That combination of warm spices I love so much without anything just jumping out (who else thinks Americans have a heavy hand with cinnamon?)...the perfect blend without being a blend at all. Some supreme being knew what she was about when she created allspice.

The treat is also in the streusel. MmmMMMMMMM...I love me some streusel. The ratio is often 1: 1:1 (1 part flour, 1 part butter, 1 part sugar), but Dorie cuts down ever so slightly on the butter and adds 1/2 teaspoon allspice. Mmm. Did I say that already?

I scooped maybe too big of muffins (only got 10...said the chef to my hips) and I think I pressed the topping into the muffin a titch too much. I've baked before where the topping falls off...but I pressed a bit too much and, as you can see by the photo, the topping become too much one with the muffin.

Of course, that had no effect whatsoever on the taste. And that taste would be fabulous. Go check out the recipe at Grandma's Kitchen Table, a fearless TWD-er if ever there was one. Thanks for the pick, Kayte! Then check out the Blog roll at Tuesdays with Dorie and read about all the other bakers.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Scenes from Recent Meals

Writing about food is a lot of fun. No, really.  Food people are happy. I get to eat, drink and talk about why it's important to take time over a meal.

I've been wrapped up in a lot of "other stuff" lately and last week got hit with the classic summer cold (yeah, I hear ya, but in Florida? Temperature is still hitting the stinking hot mark every day) and lost the week. Caught up over this week and finally am testing recipes today for a job...but I haven't gotten to cook for ME lately. So this weekend I'll do some TWD catching up...and for now I want to share some beauty shots.

First one is compliments of House of Caviar in Fort Lauderdale (appearing in Florida Table pages right now under Word of Mouth). I had to conduct a taste test. Results? I liked them all.




The second one is Dean and Deluca's version of bruschetta. I enjoyed this at the Charlotte location this past August. Dean and Deluca is on of my happy places.
 
The last one is just the lovely interior of Solea in South Beach a beautiful restaurant under the guidance of Michael Gilligan with plenty of additions from Arthur Artiles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If it's Tuesday, it Must Be Flaky Apple Turnovers

I love a good apple pie, and this certainly qualifies--why buy a goop-filled fried hunk-o-dough from some unnamed fast food joint (you guys all know which place I'm talking about) when a few minutes of work can yield these treats?

I'll tell you why: the dough (although I'll tell you why NOT again in a minute). I feel like I had just mastered Dorie's perfect pastry crust on page 442 or 443 of the book (so much so that I keep frozen butter and shortening in the freezer at all times now). Then I get thrown a curve ball with this dough. It's got sour cream in it. Dorie's warns us that it's soft, but I didn't have too much trouble until actual filling time.

The filling is simple: chopped apples, a touch of flour and sugar and butter...But I worked assembly line style and rolled and cut both halves then filled, by which time the dough was so soft, it fell apart a bit when I folded it over. I also overfilled and had to take about half the filling OFF each dough round (bec. I like a lot of filling)...With hindsight, I should have rolled, filled and started baking one sheet of turnovers, leaving the second half in the fridge until I was ready to roll and fill quickly.

It was a mess.

Fortunately, they taste fabulous and made me look good at a Sunday afternoon football party, so that is always a good thing. I egg-washed them and sprinkled them with raw/turbinado sugar, which gives them a great glaze and nice crunch.

Notes on this recipe?
  • Work with only half the dough at a time. 
  • For a 4 1/2-inch round, use one tablespoon filling (I used a very heaping tablespoon and had to take about half off)...
  • and for efficiency's sake, make these rectangles or triangles instead of circles: no wasted dough.

The other note? (And why not to make the dough?) I live in South Florida where you can buy flaky empanada rounds in the freezer (and I think if you look for them, you can probably find these in most places)--they are marked "hojaldrada."
I have made apple turnovers in a jiffy in the past by chopping some apples, filling a few of these empanada rounds, brushing them with egg wash and sprinkling with sugar...No, not homemade, but for the effort and the result? More my speed.

Check out all the other blogs on the blog roll at Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe was picked and is listed over at Someone's in the Kitchen with Jules Someone.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Inspiration Spread: Dumpling Party!

So. Throwdown inspired me inspired Origami Mommy to have a make-your-own-gyoza party with her kids.

What a great idea.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Inspiration? Throwdown with Bobby Flay


That title is totally true. One of my daughter's favorite shows is Throwdown on Food Network. (They SO should have picked me to at least BE on their Next Food Network Star. But I digress...)

Did you know I cooked with Bobby once? Oh, that's right, I am SO going to name drop here. I also cooked at Union Square Cafe in NYC, worked for Danny Meyer, who is still the best boss I ever had. At one point the entire lunchtime kitchen was female and we rocked it out. I was an expediter extraordinaire. That was AFTER I worked my way through every single station in the kitchen. I could COOK. Hmm. Where was I going with this?

Ah. Then I moved to Philadelphia. I actually called Danny to ask him what he heard around town about where to cook in Philly. One place was Jack's Firehouse run by fiery-tempered Jack McDavid, with whom I ultimately became friends...in fact if he ever yelled at me...Oh, no..THAT is where I was going with this, because he totally yelled at me the night Bobby Flay came to cook at Jack's Firehouse to introduce his first cookbook, a beautiful book called Bold American Food. (Nice styling.) We were banging out a menu based on recipes from the book. I was carefully picking cilantro, when Bobby came over and said, No, just Grab it and go! Then we were lining up plates to serve some other dish and Jack scah-REAMED at me for being too slow (we were FINE. Bobby was fine...) I think earlier Bobby had asked if I ever missed NYC...I said diplomatic things about no, I had kids now, Philly was easier...(truth was I missed NYC desperately)...blah blah blah...but when Jack decided to yell, I just muttered under my breath: I miss New York NOW. Made Bobby laugh, made Jack even madder at me...but like I said, we parted friends. And I still get to say I cooked with Bobby Flay.

ANYWAY. So the other night, Bobby has a throwdown with Shohui Kim of The Good Fork in Red Hook, NY, doing Chinese dumplings. I LOVE dumplings. LOVE them. When I asked Bryn what she wanted to eat the next night? Dumplings just like they made on Throwdown.

I pulled out Blue Ginger by Ming Tsai, a book full of recipes that have never steered me wrong.

I'd made dumplings at my first restaurant job, Stringfellow's in NYC with Peter Hoffman (who has that video? Remember the song: Peter Hoffman, Peter Hoffman, there's a telephone call for you...Or in the video, Roger in the walk-in? Socks-with-Sandals Roger...heh..) but that was...(coff coff) decades ago. (I made shumai more than these....but still)

It looked simple..even the dough. I altered it some...chopped chicken instead of pork, savoy cabbage (no need to soak it)--my tweaks. The recipe made 50 (that's right, FIFTY) dumplings...for a cost of about $4 or $5...A plate of these costs $6 around here. You make them, saute them, add water to steam them, then let that water evaporate...They. Are. Perfect.



 My Chinese Dumplings adapted from Ming Tsai's.

dough:
2 cups water
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Filling:
3/4 pound ground chicken
2 eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablepoons sesame oil
4 cups finely chopped cabbage (savoy)
5 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

To saute and steam:
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

1. Make the dough. Bring water to boil. While it heats, place flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, whisk together. Add about 1/4 cup of boiling water to flour, mix in slowly. Drizzle water in with mixer on lowest speed. When all water is added, increase speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

2. While dough rests, mix filling ingredients--all of them--together in bowl.

3. Divide dough in two. Flour board or counter lightly. Roll one piece of dough into long "snake" about 1-inch in diameter. Slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Roll each round out into approx. 3-inch circle. You should get about 25 circles. Place bout 1/2 tablespoon filling in center of each dough circle. Fold dough in half and tightly pinch and pleat edges together. Press each one down slightly to get flattened bottom.

4. Heat oil in large, cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add dumplings to skillet (I crowded mine and it worked...) and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes (be careful not to burn). Add water all at once and cover skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, keeping it simmering. Cook without disturbing for another 7 to 8 minutes. Dough will swell and cook. Uncover and cook until all water is evaporated. Serve hot.


Dipping sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha (more if you really like heat; this was just enough for me)
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Souffle


Organized me decided to make this Saturday for dessert just for us..just because I could--and also because I actually had everything on hand.

Souffles are deceptively simple. A few ingredients handled just so yield this magic. Of course that magic is pretty ephemeral, eh? Puffy souffle to fallen souffle cake in minutes. It doesn't dilute the deliciousness of it all, though.

All by way of saying that by the time my souffle made it to the table, it had fallen--but we loved it just the same.

I don't have the right dish at all, so I divided it into two--I have two pretty, nearly straight-sided bowls from Ikea. I followed Dori's intstructions to be generous when buttering and sugaring. I filled them about 2/3 full each, and that just didn't get them to puff beautifully above the rims, but never mind..we were still eating dinner when they came out of the oven, so I quickly snapped a photo...then another when we actually dished some out..fallen heaven, if you ask me, and that is just fine.

The chocolate flavor is strong, there is no eggy flavor I can detect and I love that the sugar on the bowl comes off and gives each bite just a tiny bit of sugary, crunchy texture. I did not make creme anglaise, although I do love it: that just seemed like gilding the lily a bit in this instance. Powdered sugar suits this just fine.

Dorie says leftovers taste great...and she's right.

Head over to She's Becoming Doughmesstic for the recipe (and a read...she's working her way through Julia--good read..)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What I'm Reading: Rick Bayless


If you know me a bit you know I am a HUGE fan of Top Chef. I even text back and forth with my buddy Kumiko (who left and moved to NYC, which is okay, since now I have another person to visit when I go) about the highs and the lows of the show as it happens

I recently really really enjoyed the Top Chef Masters show and (SPOILER ALERT) loved loved LOVED it when Rick Bayless won. (Honestly, I could have gone with Hubert Keller, too, he was also a great chef with a giving personality. I couldn't get on board with Michael C. Sorry, Michael. You lost me with the "What is my name?" episode--but I have a funny feeling you know that already.)

ANYway. Back to Rick Bayless, who I also started following on Twitter after that (follow me at BarbFreda. Follow Rick at Rick_Bayless)--it was fun to see his Top Chef nerves play out on Twitter through his tweets.

I've been a Bayless fan for years. I bought the first edition of Authentic Mexican but was so sure--and so disappointed in my lack of foresight--that I'd donated it when I moved house four years ago. But there it was on my shelf when I went to double check. I also bought his Mexican Kitchen last year when I worked on some Mexican recipes for Boca Raton Magazine. (And can I say I walked through the snow (in April in Chicago) at the IACP conference to get to Frontera Grill, where they asked if I were there for the conference and was presented a little bite in honor of IACP--I had a killer margarita, a great lunch and another walk back to the hotel (snow had stopped by then, no worries...)

His win, the four dishes they had to make, with each course reflecting something about their lives, really was spectacular. And now I've become obsessed with the Black Mole (for you non-Mexican food folks: say mo-lay. It's a sauce.). I think the recipe in the first book, Authentic Mexican, the one for Turkey with Dark and Spicy Mole, is the black mole he mentions. So one day soon, I'm going to assemble that long long long list of ingredients and make it. It may please no one but me in this house (I'll do homemade tortillas, too, which I blogged about here when I was working on those recipes for BRM)..but that's okay. I think I need that black mole.

Rick, thanks for that great win, done with with such class and such great food--and a great cause--on Top Chef Masters. Well done.

Pick up the books. Learn about Authentic Mexican.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hooray for Tuesday with Dorie! Hooray for Espresso Cheesecake Brownies.

I open with a Cheesecake Brownie Abstract.

And hooray for hitting the gym, but that is so not what this post is about.

You know, my good friend Rachel moved away (you know who you are, Rachel). I blame her. Because when Rachel moved, her whole family moved with her (umm, of course). At least I knew Mike and Michael (husband, son) would eat my Tuesdays with Dorie goods. But now? Guess I'd better call Brady (my one "young" friend). He's been known to enjoy a dessert or two at my hands.

It's tough, you know? I could eat the entire pan. No, really, I am SO not joking.

But I won't. Eat every last brownie, that is. One, sure. Two? Probably a bad idea.

ANYWAY.

It has been way too hot to cook this summer and I've been running around a bit, but the truth is? I really miss cooking when I find myself too busy to do it. I've finally dug my heels and and refused to eat out. It's mediocre. REALLY. So...let's take the time to do something fun. Tonight I did two somethings fun:
1. Tuesdays With Dorie
2. Ming Tsai's Dumplings from Blue Ginger cookbook (more about that in another blog post).

These brownie's were oh-such-a-nice-way to return to baking. Brownies are reasonably easy for someone as baking challenged as I am and these are incredible (okay, truth be told, I haven't actually eaten one yet, because they are cooling for 2 hours in the fridge before I top them with even. more. sour. cream. But the coffee flavored cheesecake batter went really nicely with a dollop of the brownie batter! Love me some raw eggs...)
When I DID finally get around to assembly? Oh, heaven. The coffee flavor is there and the consistency of the cheesecake part is silky and smoth. Cut these into very small square because they are RICH. Enjoy with un cortado. And savor every crumb. Then share with as many people as possible: you will make them very happy.

(Final aside. I think I'd stop before the sour cream next time. It had an almost fake taste to it--so much so that I double checked and made sure I used full fat, good stuff...but hey, thems the breaks, right? If I make this again, I'm thinking a drizzle of chocolate over all. This is the kind of cheesecake they cut up, dip in chocolate and freeze on a stick. Decadence.)

(Really the final aside--after this sat overnight and the sour cream firmed up it lost that odd taste that made if fakey. I love it super chilled and firmer. That said, I still think I might forego it in the future, if for not other reason than the espresso cheesecake part of this is so fabulous.)

Recipe is up at Melissa's Life in a Peanut Shell. And check out TWD for the blog roll and all the other bakers.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pizza and Onions and Fresh Herbs...



The other night, I got a text from Bryn: she had a hankering for pizza, but the last time I went to my favorite pizza place, the bill with tip? $100 for four of us. Sure, we got some wine, a salad and some wings, but I just can't do the $100 pizza nights any longer.

So I opened the fridge. Sauce? Check. Cheese? Check. Onions (my own personal requirement)? Check. Fresh Herbs? Check (front "garden" yields basil AND rosemary).

So I quick put together pizza dough from Carol Field's Italian Baker. Bryn was babysitting and I knew I had at least an hour before she was heading home.

I had great gouda, smoked gouda and parmesan. I brushed the pizza dough with my own secret ingredient, which I share with you now: Anchovy pasted diluted with extra-virgin olive oil then brushed all over before topping. The sauce I had was actually just top-quality tomato paste (the kind in the tube; I love that). I added the cheese and the onions, baked the first pizza and then sprinkled fresh basil on it when it was done.

A word about the onions. Since I had to have Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon after seeing Julie/Julia, I also had some of the slowly braised pearl onions she has you add to the stew (page 483 of MtAoFC): saute pearl onions in butter and oil. Top with beef stock or red wine (or water), some salt, parsley, thyme and bay leaf, and cook slowly until liquid evaporates, shaking pan now and then. Mmm. Like candy, I kid you not.

Anyway, so we had the pizza (Bryn loved loved LOVED the onions and the fact that the basil went on after baking), and then I did a little focaccia (that's it in the first photo)--no sauce, the olive oil/anchovy mix, a touch of fresh rosemary (chopped), the onions, a bit of parmesan, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

And the verdict is? Yes, you CAN live by bread alone, especially if it's this focaccia.

Barb's Onion Rosemary Focaccia

Dough for 1 pizza crust
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Caramelized onions (Julia Child's Brown Braised pearl onions work well)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Roll dough out. Brush with olive oil. Top with onions, rosemary, salt, pepper and cheese. Bake until golden brown. Eat warm (or cold for breakfast the next day. That works, too).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where I Gush About Welder's Gloves


It's been all the rage for a few years now. Silicone this and that for grabbing pots, for baking, silpats (Silpats (tm)) for lining baking sheets..but those hot pads? Never really won me over. They were bulky even though they were relatively thin. I cannot tell you how many cookies I ruined when I grabbed a tray from the oven--and because there's no real "feel" to be had when using them, I didn't realize I was mushing a cookie in the process.

I complained about this once at WineLover's Kitchen Forum run by my friend Robin Garr. Celia on the forum mentioned she discovered welder's gloves: soft, thin-enough-to-feel-through gloves that make it easy to grab just about everything. Brilliant! says me...and the next thing I knew, Celia had wrapped up a pair of gloves and popped them in the mail to ME. No mean feat when she lives ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. No, seriously. Celia, foodie friend (though we've never met), sent gloves to the states with friends who then posted them to me... (and anyone who would do that would be a GOOD GOOD friend!)-- Either way: Impressive and touching.

So imagine my delight when I see the color...orangey-red AND the tags: Celia's own : Fig Jam and Lime Codial. Such a neat little personalized touch.

And even better than all? They work. Fabulously well. These are just about all I will ever need. Ever. The photo isn't the best one of the gloves, but I wanted the tag in the picture! (That's me making Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon, which I HAD to have post Julie/Julia.)

Thanks, Celia. And for anyone reading? Go follow Celia's own foodie adventures at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. (For the post where she talks about discovering said gloves, go here.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Scene from recent eats...

It's summer. It's still too hot to cook too much in my kitchen, although I do have designs on some great ice creams and sorbets, and ryn is asking after the saffron rosewater ice cream I made (and blogged about here) oh-so-long-ago....But in the meantime, how about an image or two...




Above and below--some treats from BLT Steak in Miami. What a fun, fabulous and delicious evening it was. I thought I made great popovers. BLT's? Well. I don't know what they do, but I have a new goal to aspire to. A bit of butter and salt made them beyond compare.



The salad below? Baby arugula, grilled ricotta salata and icy cold chunks of watermelon from Tryst in Delray Beach. What a great lunch, especially when enjoyed with a great glass of cool white wine and the company of a friend, which is exactly how I enjoyed this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Too Hot for Brioche...

Let's face it. I was tempted to turn the oven on and make my own brioche...but I couldn't bring myself to do it. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Brioche Plum Tart.

But I live in South Florida. In July.

It's hot.

It's way too hot to be making bread of any sort.

So please read about my brioche making experience (at least it's Dorie's) Here, here and here.
Should it not be too hot where YOU live, get the recipe and read all about it at Chez Us by Denise, who picked the recipe (and a nice job she did, too).

And my definition of brioche, after all that baking and eating (I posted this in April, 2008):

Brioche, noun. (bree-osh) Butter held together by bits of flour, yeast and egg.

When I toasted a slice this morning, it sizzled all on its own.

That's all. Just an observation

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tribute to Katherine Hepburn Brownies: It's Tuesday with Dorie


Hmm.. Who doesn't love a good brownie? But the Tribute to Katherine Hepburn Brownie isn't something I'd make again...I definitely like the proportions--I knew this would be fudgy--look at how LITTLE flour goes into the recipe. Very good start.

I got out my square pan--it measures just over 8 inches on the bottom, but 9 at the top. So, which is it? I hereby do solemnly swear I will never EVER buy a pan with sloping sides--sides to square and rectangular pans SHOULD BE STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN. Or you've got no hope and your brownies will be too flat. Like mine.

Okay. My work on behalf of bakers done, I will continue. I like brownies, but I think I'm a brownie purist. I already knew I wouldn't be adding nuts to this recipe, but after tasting, I wish I'd left out the cinnamon, too. I think I'd have kept the coffee. The cinnamon kept giving me a bit of a chemically taste. It was optional, and I love cinnamon, so I went ahead with it. I'll be interested to see how many of the other TWD bakers did without.

If you want the recipe, go read Lisa of Surviving Oz, winner of the Design a New TWD Logo Contest. Then work your way down the other blogs listed over at TWD to see how others fared.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perfect Party Cake: Tuesdays with Dorie


This week's TWD pick is the Perfect Party Cake, which was chosen by Carol of Mix, Mix..Stir, Stir. Glad Carol picked this, because it was a challenge I probably never would have chosen myself.

I divided the work into two days--day one, bake cake. That was the easy part...I cooled them, wrapped them and let them sit on the counter over night. When I unwrapped them, that sticky outer layer came off--that's one thing I learned to do anyway in cooking school. Taking that sticky part off, leaves the nice white cake all by itself. This cake, in particular, has a beautiful tight crumb. Besides that, the jam will soak more easily into the cake without that outside. Day two was for the meringue and assembly.

I heated the whites and sugar, then whipped them with the stand mixer, really pumping up the volume. Meringue is beautiful, isn't it?I've said it here before, I'll say it again. these things often are so much easier than they seem...My biggest problem is getting the layers even (that top layer looks a bit ...thinnish, doesn't it?)...I'll work on it. So? To make it again? Work on those layers. I have to go lighter on the jam on that first layer. But besides that? This cake is great. The bit of lemon flavor in the buttercream is so light, so nice...

I loved the idea of adding the fresh raspberries...The playing around ideas look REALLY good, too. Whipped cream instead of the buttercream (I'd probably like the flavor better, but I like the idea of doing the recipe as written first...I'll play next time...). Candied lemons between the layers? Okay. I'm all for that...

As always, check out the recipe at Mix Mix, Stir Stir (if it's not up yet, give Carol time; it'll get there.) And head over to TWD to check out all the other blogs.

Now go have a perfect party.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Make-Up Session: Honey-Peach Ice Cream from Dorie


It's not a Tuesday, but I recently had a chance--and a good reason--to make Dorie's Honey Peach Ice Cream (you can find the recipe on Brown Interior, since it was Tommi's TWD pick recently). It is prime PRIME peach season right now, and I happen to still have lots of premium Tupelo honey still from my Apalach trip, so Peaches and Tupelo Honey Ice Cream it was.

I've kept my ice cream freezer ready and waiting in the freezer, so it was no big deal. Peaches get peeled and chopped then briefly cooked with the honey, bringing out tons of flavor. Blend it up (with my handy Kitchenaid stick blender. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Best. Kitchen. Tool. Ever.)...cool. Make a quick custard of egg yolks, sugar, cream and milk. Mix with peaches. Chill all then pour it into the freezer.

The peach flavor in this is just incredible, and the honey comes through, too...what complementary flavors those two are...

As for the photo? I couldn't snap quickly enough. This is what was left when I finally managed to break out the camera.

This is a keeper of a recipe.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fried Heaven at Cafe Momi, The Gibson Inn, Apalachicola


Sure, we've all given it up, but every now and again, there is nothing, NOTHING, as good as a fish fry. Here's Fried Heaven from Cafe Momi in Apalach (at The Gibson Inn), a starter of fried oysters, fried soft-shell crab and fried shrimp. The chef does an especially nice job, and it was truly a decadent way to start the evening.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For your viewing pleasure...


I've had one hectic month. I think I'm gone this Tuesday and next, then home for a good long time, I hope. I've been globe hopping (okay. U.S. hopping...) and only home for a few days in between a trip to Apalachicola, FL and St. George's Island (if you have never been there, make plans to see this very unspoiled, spectacularly beautiful piece of coastal Florida where Apalachicola oysters come from. See me down more than my fair share of Apalachicola Oysters at the Florida Seafood Festival here on a VISITFLORIDA.com video), a trip to KY, a trip to NC with a 24-hour whirlwind to and from trip to CT (still to come)...THEN a 10-hour drive home to Florida, where I'll get to spend some down time with my sister and her family...but at least I'll be staying put for a while..and hopefully cooking and baking again.

In the meantime, I'll be posting a few images from my trip to Apalach (that's what the locals call it. That "-icola" being so tiresome and all) and, if I can find a camera cable (drat, I hate when I travel without it), from various and sundry other stops along the way.

Today's image? That was dinner. Wish I could say "we" caught it, but I was just on the boat that took a few of us out into the Gulf of Mexico, where one of us (hi, Jim!) caught two keeper groupers. Capt. Kamen (on the Pressure Drop out of Carrabelle, FL) fileted it, and we took it to Pirates Restaurant that night, where they fried it up (perfectly, I might add), and we enjoyed a few grouper fingers as appetizers. I don't think I've ever tasted better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie! I'm Back: Chipster-Topped Brownies





I kind of took last week off from Tuesdays (although I DID make fresh mango bread finally this week; I'd gotten the mangos, after all...) But I had a party to go to, a reason to make brownies and a will to make brownies, too...

So we did Chipster-Topped Brownies this week: decadent (as in decadent-you-don't-wnat-to-know-how-much-butter-is-in-these decadent) brownie base with really tasty chocolate chip cookie baked on top. Here's the spreading of the chocolate chip topping...drop it on, gently spread:


I loved how this looked, the two-tone bar cookie...ANd I loved how it tasted. But if you can believe it, it was almost too rich. No, it WAS too rich...I cut one-inch squares to start ....then I slice those into two and three pieces..that was all I could manage (I know my hips will thank me for that later! They thank me for it now.)


I omitted the nuts because I am, as I call it, a brownie purist. I don't like nuts, frosting, anything on/in my brownies. Add chocolate chip cookie dough to the list. Because although the flavor is fabulous, I want to ask why? I love good brownies. I love good chocolate chip cookies...I suppose this is the ultimate combo for some...but I should have guessed I might not love it even if I love both components: I never liked chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream either.

So love it or hate it, it IS beautiful and gets a lot of rave reviews from people...Now go read everyone's blog (see TWD for the blog list) about it, especially Supplicious by Beth, who chose this week's recipe.

And since I kept baking and made the mango bread, too, here's a photo. I really like the bread--I think Dorie says it tastes better the next day, and I agree. This would make great muffins...Mmm. with coconut topping..Mm. I had a minor "loaf explosion," as you can see from the photo, but that sure didn't affect the flavor. Check out Kelly from Baking with the Boys for her pick and the recipe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sweet Somethings



I am sad I missed making Tuesdays with Dorie's Fresh Mango bread, but I still have designs to making it. In the meantime, have a look at my newest obsession, tupelo honey. I'm so in love I now want to keep some bees of my own...I love the honey on the left--that really shows the very typical greenish cast that the purest tupelo honey has...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TWD: Tartest Lemon Tart. That's Right: Something NOT Chocolate



I love the chocolate, but even I was a wee bit tired of all that chocolate over the last few Tuesdays With Dorie...so what do I do? Find the entirely opposite end of the palate spectrum and pick this tart.

And frankly, My TWD friends? I loved it. (I even changed the header picture to celebrate the lemony side of life.)

That is not to say I did this without a bit of problem...No, because then it wouldn't be me baking, right? I am the imperfect baker, as I keep insisting. Trouble is...baking is an exact science.

Case in point: Because this is "my" recipe (my turn), I thought I should really be methodical and early...Get the tart done SATURDAY. Blog Sunday. File and wait for it to post Tuesday. Hmm. Yes, but ...well, I don't know where I went wrong, but I couldn't have fouled up tart #1 more...first I grabbed the 1/3 cup measure, not the 1/4 cup measure. How? I don't know. No one but an idiot would confuse that diminutive 1/4 cup measure with the monstrous 1/3 cup measure. As a result, my dough had 1/3 cup nuts. 1 1/3 cup flour. (Oh, forgot to mention: the only thing in the cupboard was bread flour. Sigh.)...2/3 cup powdered sugar. Need I say that one yolk wasn't enough to hold it together? How did I detect this? Oh, maybe when the whole food processor full of everything still looked like ...powder? Not a clump in sight. I added a bit of water, decided to try to go ahead...and promptly forgot Dorie's admonition to NOT PACK THIS INTO THE TART RING. Oh, it was SO packed. Forge ahead STILL. Bake it. Forgot to set timer. Overbaked. Forge ahead. Make filling: What? No cream you say? Add vanilla yogurt and ? That's right, FORGE AHEAD. I had to bake this tart so LONG for it to set up. It is very ...um..."golden." And tasty, really it is, but ...well, frankly, it's tough. But tasty. Here's a photo...it's "darkish." A new word for...well, a new word for almost burnt.


Who shouted "No surprise!" at their screen?

So. Shopped. Got regular flour. Got cream. Paid attention. Actually remembered to gently push crumbly shortbread crust into fluted edges instead of packing it into the tart ring like spackle. Set all timers.

And I love this. Lives up to every expectation. The comments did mention bitterness, so I did trim the pith a bit. I picked this because I love a Shaker Lemon Pie that uses whole slices of lemon. This is better, Dorie. So much better.

I really wish I'd had time to do a bruleed top, ...next time. This went too fast to even think about that step....

This one is another winner for me, right after last week's tiramisu cake. Hope you all really enjoy it.

Now go have a look at the blog roll on Tuesdays With Dorie and see how everyone else fared.
Want this recipe and ALL our TWD Recipes? Better get yourself Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

I think we have permission, as the picker of the week, to post the recipe, so here it is. I'm kind of a stickler with permissions, so if I hear differently, I'll take this down (I know other pickers have posted...)

Dorie Greenspan's Tartest Lemon Tart
1 1/2 lemons, scrubbed and dried
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 lare egg yolks, room temp
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 9-inch tart shell made with Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (p. 444 of Baking from My Home to Yours), partially baked and cooled

Whipped cream, creme fraiche or confectioners' sugar for garnish

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place tart pan on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone mat.

Slice whole lemon in half and pull out seeds from it and the half. Then cut lemons into small pieces.

Filling is best made in a blender, but you can use a food processor. Take care to work ingredients until they are smooth and to scrape down sides of bowl often. Put lemons and sugar in blender or processor and pulse, blend and scrape down sides until you have smooth mix. Add remaining filling ingredients and pulse and blend until filling is homogeneous. Rap bowl on counter several times to de-bubble filling as much as possible, and pour it into partially baked crust.

Very carefully--tart shell will be full--transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake 20 minutes, then increase oven temp to 350 degrees F and bake tart for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. (total time is 45 to 50 minutes). Don't be alarmed when filling starts to bubble up. (It might even bubble over edge of tart--that's okay.) When tart is properly baked, it shuld be set, although perhaps still shaky in center, and most of top will have formed a light sugary crust.

Transfer tart pan to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Chill, if you'd like, before serving with cream or dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Tiramisu Cake

Dear Dorie,

Thank you for ruining my resolve. All those laps I've put in at the pool? Gone. I thought I didn't like cake. You've proved me wrong yet again.


Sincerely yours,
Babette


Okay. Maybe not. But...well, what is not to like here? My heart fell a bit, because I am, if nothing else, a lazy baker and this had step after step after step..but not really. Not if you really read the thing (and hey, I've made Dorie's brioche. If I can stick with it through all that, surely I can make a little cake, right?)....The steps are simple ones. The cake bakes up lovely (even without the vanilla. Trust me on that one. A little thing I forget all too often.)...The frosting is a really nice combo of mascarpone and whipped cream..I love how you soak the layers (I used rum...Love me some rum.)...And then build the cake.

This is a killer cake. A cake to take to parties. People will really think you worked all night on this.

Head over to TWD to check out the other blogs, and special thanks to Megan of My Baking Adventures for picking this cake, which I would have avoided (thinking it too complicated) otherwise.

Look: The mark of a well-loved book:
(or a sloppy cook!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Cream Tart


Wow. Just Wow. I am not a pudding fan, and I tasted this right when it was done. I was...eh. Then I chilled it. I LOVE it. In fact, you had better get it OUT of my house NOW or I will undo all the good healthy eating work I've done up until now...four weeks. I will not let this tart be my undoing.

But if it were, it would be so WORTH it.

I love shortbread, I love chocolate, so what's not to like about a chocolate shortbread tart shell. I actually read the recipe ahead and made the crust early enough so it would be cool when I made the filling.

Again, a custard filling and I've learned my lesson: 4 yolks. Cornstarch. A generous amount of cooking time.

I cooled this quickly, filled the tart and topped it with the touch of whipped cream called for. As I noted, I love this cold better than room temp (I am one of those who likes cold chocolate chip cookies better than warm. Let this be a lesson to me...)

Like other chocolate I have had while writing this post, this goes very nicely with my daily dose of red wine. Drink up. ...I mean EAT UP. You're all invited to my house to finish this before I devour it. PLEASE.

Recipe at Scrumtious Photography

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Bread Pudding


I did it again. I made bread pudding for someone who "never liked bread pudding before" and guess what? Now she likes it. Or she likes Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Bread Pudding, at least--this week's entry in the Tuesdays with Dorie saga.

Here's the beauty of this dessert: It's extremely easy. There's not too much bread, so you get some custard separate and apart from the bread. AND you bake it in a water bath, which keeps the custard from becoming a tough pudding--it's silky smooth.

I made this as dessert for the Greek Easter Dinner I went to (see the blog post on Greek Easter Bread below)-okay, so it was a bread heavy contribution I brought, but all is fair in war and Tuesday with Dorie baking.

It is so delicious. I baked in a glass dish as suggested...I would have loved something smaller but deeper so I'd get even more custard to bread ratio in the finished product...I also wish I'd made some vanilla custard sauce to serve with this...it was plenty tasty just as it is, but bread pudding just deserves custard sauce, right?

Happy eating, all. Visit everyone else's TWD Chocolate Bread Pudding blogs for more sweet fun.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Greek Easter: Christo Anesti!


I had the privilege of being invited to my great friends' Rachel and Mike's to celebrate Greek Easter with them. Rachel grew up in a Greek household, and her holidays are all linked to Greek tradition--this week, today, in fact, was Greek Easter. She asked (or did I volunteer? Can't remember, because I wanted to do this) me to bring Greek Easter bread.

I looked up several recipes and settled on a Greek Easter Bread recipe credited to Saveur. The consistent ingredient that I was/am missing? Well, to start with, something called makhlépi. Best I can tell it's the seeds of the Mediterranean wild cherry. I was to steep the seeds then use that tea to scent the bread. A lot of recipes also use mastic. Guess I need to get myself to the Greek market and ask for these things. I made it without the steeped cherry water and without mastic and added anise extract instead. I think that was my Italian coming out.

It was fabulous. First of all, it was beautiful. Beautiful. Rachel was impressed I used a red egg (red-ish. Dyes are wimpy, aren't they? Best I could get was a dark pink), but of course, when I do something, I want it done right. I wanted most of all to live up to Rachel's memories.

The crumb is lovley, too, so even and regular and small--Rachel thought it was a bit sweet, but my recipe used half a cup LESS sugar than the recipe in the book she had on her shelf--perhaps that anise addition gave that hint of sweetness. All in all? Great bread. She's taking some to her mom out in California. Frankly, that says it all: I couldn't be prouder!

BTW, Gary won the little crack-the-red-egg game. We could use the good luck. That egg is staying with me. Christos Anesti, all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TWD on Wednesday: Best Cake Ever, The 15-minute Amaretti Torte



Okay, it would be the best cake ever if it were easier to buy amaretti anywhere within 10 miles of home. In the end I made them, which was easy, too (lesson 1, learned the 300th time: it's so simple, we should all do more of this more often)..And now I know from other TWDers that Starbuck's and World Market/Cost Plus carry amaretti.

Anyway. I made amaretti using some marcona almonds I'd gotten as Costco--decadent? Perhaps. Worth it? Definitely.

Then you make the cake ALL IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR. In go the almonds and amaretti (2.75 ounces to be precise). Whir til finely ground, dump out. Add eggs, sugar and butter to processor. Process til glossy. Add back almonds/amaretti and melted choc. Scrape into pan. Bake. (Dorie specifies 8 by 2-inch pan. Nope. I have three 9-inchers, but ...that'll have to do. It's thinner, but still wonderful.)


Ahh. The landscape of a chocolate cake:

Once out, glaze it (oh, before that, lick the bowl clean. No, I mean it. That was lunch!) and treat yourself to slivers. Do not share...Oh, did I say that? Invite friends for coffee and serve slivers of this cake...taken from half the cake because you hid the other half for enjoying the rest of the week.

Happy Tuesday on Wednesday, folks. Now head out and check out what everyone else did.