Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD: Palets de Dames,Lille style

Hello, is this thing on? My last post to this page was nearly 4 years ago, but I have the best reason for dusting off this bad boy, and that is the release of Dorie Greenspan's new book, Baking Chez Moi. Dorie's last baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, was a serious game-changer for me. I had been a full-fledged adult for years when Baking was published, cooking and baking for first myself, and then myself and my husband, and then eventually myself, my husband, and my kids, for years -- always from recipes I found in cookbooks or magazines (I'm not a kitchen improviser). But I had NO idea what a truly great cookbook really looked like until Baking came along.

Lots of cookbooks have good recipes. But Baking: FMHTY was so much more than lists of ingredients followed by lists of instructions. To bake from Baking was to feel like Dorie was actually in the kitchen with you. Telling you not to freak out, because it's supposed to look curdled at this point. Explaining what the dough should feel like. Teaching about what sounds to listen for when mixing up a pie crust in the food processor. The "serving" and "storing" suggestions in Baking became so indispensable to me, and I can't for the life of me understand why more cookbooks don't include this information. If I'm baking some Christmas goodies to mail from Alabama to Connecticut, I know I can count on Baking to tell me whether something is best eaten the same day, or whether it will stay fresh for 5 days, and choose accordingly. There are so many little details like that in Baking that (along with the quality recipes and Dorie's kind, fun, reassuring voice) add up to the extraordinary cookbook that it is. I became a better, more confident, more skilled baker thanks to Dorie.

In addition to the cookbook itself, through Baking I found a little group of online bakers called Tuesdays with Dorie. Baking along with that group was some of the most fun I've ever had, and I made some lifelong friends in the process. I'm thrilled to see the group still thriving, and it will be fun to do some baking along with Baking Chez Moi!

Baking Chez Moi was to be released right around my birthday, so obviously I asked for it for my birthday. For whatever reason it was a bit delayed being delivered and did not arrive in time for my birthday, and I could see that my husband had plans to squirrel it away for Christmas. So I dropped subtle hints that I would rather not wait until Christmas ("Actually, I really want that book now. Where's the book? GIVE ME THE BOOK!!!!"). He gave me the book then slowly backed away. It's gorgeous, of course, and I immediately felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. The first recipe I baked from the book was this week's TWD selection, Palets de Dames. God bless the French for a lyrical language that makes everything sound more elegant. I served the Palets de Dames on the good silver, whereas the English version, Soft Iced Sugar Cookies, would have gone straight into the Tupperware.

These are simple cookies that contain only a handful of basic ingredients, and they were delicious -- soft and not overly sweet. I forget my son's exact description, but I know it contained the word "heaven." Another wonderful cookie from Dorie! I'm so excited about Baking Chez Moi. Thanks, Dorie!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TWD: Translucent Maple Tuiles

I had a feeling that this week's TWD recipe would give me fits, and my feeling was correct. Clivia from Bubie's Little Baker chose the Translucent Maple Tuiles -- those beautiful, delicate, paper thin cookies that I'd previously only seen atop elegant desserts in fancy restaurants. But as soon as I saw this was the pick, I knew I had to make them (to further my baking education and all).

The batter itself is so easy to mix up that it almost compensates for the ordeal that ensues once these come out of the oven. Mix together butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and flour -- no need to even haul out the Kitchen Aid; you can just use a sturdy spatula or hand mixer for this. The dough needs to chill well; I let mine refrigerate over night. I figured I'd bake them up first thing in the morning and then snap a few shots in that pretty 8 a.m. light -- you know, while the sun's golden rays illuminated the intricate patterns of my translucent honeycomb cookies.

Reality quickly jolted me out of that daydream. These are supposed to get baked on an unbuttered cookie sheet. They spread extremely thin, and then after they set for just a second, you're supposed to quickly get them off the sheet with a spatula and transfer them to a rolling pin, which will mold them into their traditional curved form. But when I went to slide the spatula under mine, the cookie completely crumpled into itself and dissolved into a pitiful pile of maplebuttersugarflour. I tried with a few other cookies and got the same result. There was NO way these babies were coming off with a spatula, at least not in my kitchen. I scraped the cookie remains into the trash and proceeded with the non-cookie aspects of my day, still undecided about whether I would try again with the rest of the dough.

But as good fortune would have it, when I was in carpool line this afternoon I jumped onto Facebook (carpool line is my favorite time to Facebook, which may explain why a disproportionate amount of my Facebook activity involves complaining about carpool line) and saw Tracey's post on these tuiles, in which she mentions Nancy's suggestion to make the cookies on individual squares of parchment to make for easier handling. That sounded like a brilliant idea, so I rounded up the children, took a quick detour to paint pottery with Santa:

and hurried home to try the tuiles again using the parchment trick. And it worked perfectly! I never had to touch a spatula; I simply transferred the cookies directly from the parchment square onto the rolling pin. Nancy, you are the best!

Note the incandescent light illuminating the intricate patterns of my translucent honeycomb cookies

I know he needs a haircut and plan to make it a top priority very soon

I only baked two of these cookies (successfully) so far, so I have a bunch of dough in the fridge to bake up later. David, while in the midst of enjoying his cookie, asked innocently "so you have to bake these one at a time?" I explained that others could probably bake several of these at a time, but yes, *I* need to bake them one at a time (well, I can probably work up to two or three eventually).

I don't know if I'll ever think of these as a stand-alone dessert or even a stand-alone cookie, but they are totally delicious, and a really lovely accompaniment to just about any dessert. What a fun pick - thanks Clivia! You can find her terrific post about these cookies here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TWD: Cranberry Orange Galette

This week's TWD recipe is the wonderfully seasonal Cranberry Lime Galette. When I saw that this was on the calendar, I initially thought that I'd make it for our wedding anniversary, which happened to fall on the weekend before the galette was due. It never occurred to me in the first 10 years of our marriage to bake pies to celebrate our anniversary, but then I started baking, and when you bake as much as I do, you make the dessert fit whatever occasion happens to pop up (and you actually invent whole new occasions so that you have an excuse to eat the dessert). As I read the recipe through when still thinking it would be the anniversary pie, I decided to go with the cranberry orange version, which Dorie describes as "a little less edgy but no less enticing" -- that seemed to fit a 12th anniversary just perfectly. But then we were invited to attend the Thanksgiving feast at David's grandmother's retirement home, and the "Baked Good Foisting Opportunity" bells just started blaring furiously in my head; we'd have to find another way to celebrate 12 years of wedded bliss, because this Cranberry Orange Galette would be taking its rightful place on the retirement home dessert table.

I made Dorie's pie crust again, and I think this was my best/most successful pie crust ever. I even rolled something approximating a circle. But I must have been spending too much time congratulating myself on the crust and not enough time concentrating on the filling, because I forgot the fresh ginger (which I think would have added a nice dimension to the other flavors). The rest of the filling was easy - cranberries, apples, dried cranberries, brown sugar, orange zest, orange marmalade.

Top the crust with a ground nut/bread crumb mix and then the filling, fold the edges up, then bake.

This baked up beautifully and was a rustic, yet attractive (in a homely way), dessert. We (the extended family) decided that David and his brother would attend the feast, because we knew the energy level at the party would be high enough without my 8, 5 and 3 year old running around. I packed it up carefully for David and made sure that he knew to tell the person in charge that there were nuts in the dessert (in case of nut allergies) and also sugar, fat, gluten, etc. -- basically, this pie was one big, delicious dietary violation. I also told him that he had to eat a piece and report back to me, and with that, I sent him on his way. When he got back later that evening, he gave me some general positive reviews about the galette, which was fine at the time, but when I sat down to write this post I told him that I needed descriptive adjectives, and "the galette was good" wouldn't cut it. So he told me it was "tart." And then he added "I figured you'd just say that it baked up well. The crust was perfect. All the old people loved it, and there was none left. It was a nice departure from the sea of pecan pies."

Whitney, April and Elizabeth of Celestial Confections chose this galette. Thanks for the crowd-pleading pick, ladies!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TWD: Not-Just-for-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

This week's TWD recipe is for the Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread cake, chosen my one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen. Any child who watched cartoons in the early 80s could tell you that Orange Juice is Not Just for Breakfast Anymore, but the fact that Cranberry Shortbread Cake is not just for Thanksgiving anymore has not been as widely known -- until now. Because thanks to Dorie (for creating this recipe) and Jessica (for choosing it) I have no doubt that TWDers everywhere are spreading the word about this cake and its late October/early November/anytime fabulousness.

The recipe begins with a cranberry/orange jam filling. Dorie's recipes are famously clear and easy to follow, and this one is really no exception, yet for some reason all the talk here about orange segments/orange membranes sort of confused me.

I may have done better if I'd had charts and graphs and the steady hand of a surgeon, but lacking all of those things, the process of removing the segments from the membranes went poorly for me, as my segments never completely released from my membranes, and my segments contained leftover pith (which required additional sugar later to offset the bitterness). Basically it was an orange train wreck. Dorie then says to try to squeeze some juice from the membranes, and if you could get 1/4 cup, great! I could not even get 1/4 teaspoon. (Seriously, did anybody out there get any measurable amount of juice out of the membranes?) No matter, water or additional orange juice worked just fine. I added the cranberries and sugar (and extra sugar to taste, per Dorie's suggestion) and the jam cooked up beautifully.

The cake is a shortbread cake {as the recipe name would indicate} and the batter tastes EXACTLY like super awesome sugar cookie dough. Cranberry filling between sugar cookies? Sign me up! As it turned out, the cake definitely baked into a cake, not a cookie - the texture was a little on the dense and chewy side (in a good way!), and the sugary/buttery flavor paired so well with the tart filling. We loved this one!

Jessica, thanks so much for the fantastic pick! Hurry over to Jessica's blog for fun narratives, beautiful pictures, and the recipe!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TWD: Peanuttiest Blondies

I intended to make this week's TWD selection, Peanuttiest Blondies, to serve for dessert after Halloween (pre-trick or treating) dinner. It may seem insane to serve dessert before heading off to collect candy, but it always seemed to me that enjoying a quality dessert after dinner may actually reduce the impulse to pour grape-flavored Nerds into one's mouth before bed. In the end it didn't matter, as I woke up sick as a dog on Halloween, and was not able to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water, much less bake blondies (or make my kids Halloween pancakes using my new Halloween pancake molds, which I'm still pretty bummed about. I plan to make them for breakfast tomorrow (11/2) but they're no fools - they know that eating a bat shaped pancake in November is not the same). Anyway, as soon as I was certain that the plague had indeed left me, I went ahead and made these blondies. And what a great way to reenter the world of eating food!

The one ingredient I wasn't sure of here was the cinnamon. I'm funny about cinnamon - I love it, but I generally don't like to be surprised by it. If it's in something I'd expect it to be in (pumpkin-spiced things, oatmeal raisin cookies, apple pie), I'm fully on board with it. But when it shows up in something unexpected (like chocolate), I find myself wishing it wasn't there. I almost skipped the cinnamon here because I didn't see why it needed to be here, but OH MY, am I glad I listened to Dorie. The cinnamon MAKES these blondies. It's subtle, but it's there, and it just works.

Dorie calls hers the peanuttiest blondies, but I believe mine are even peanuttier, as I added peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips so that my husband would eat them. Every ounce of my being wanted to add chocolate chips, but the peanut butter chips really worked well as a distant second choice. My dream peanuttiest blondie would probably skip the peanuts and add both chocolate and peanut butter chips - oh yeah.

I will make these again and again - no doubt about it. We all loved these, and I'll take one over a fun-size Milk Dud any day of the week. Nicole of Bakeologie chose these blondies. You can find the recipe here. Thanks for the great pick, Nicole!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TWD: All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie

I haven't ever tallied up my posting average for the time I've been in TWD. I figure I post at least 50% of the time -- I'll go stretches when I post every week, and then I'll go two months without a post {which is a flagrant violation of TWD rules by the way, and (justifiably) grounds for being cleaned off the blogroll when housecleaning occurs}. That said, even when I go through a posting drought, I still bake the vast majority of the TWD recipes. How I can't manage to throw up a bad picture and a "loved the cake!" sentence those weeks is beyond me, but oh, crazy life, it just gets in the way sometimes. But one thing I've never ever done is post on a day other than Tuesday. If I miss the Tuesday deadline, I just don't post. Because this is Tuesdays with Dorie. But this apple pie was so delicious that it warrants the unthinkable - a Wednesday Tuesdays with Dorie post.

I went ahead and used Dorie's good for everything pie dough this week (after using the Cook's Illustrated pie crust for the pear torte and the caramel pumpkin pie). I think that both crusts are equally delicious. The Cook's Illustrated crust may be a tad easier to roll, but I've never had to drain and wring out Dorie's pie dough the way that I did with the CI recipe, a stressful process that I'd rather avoid. So I'll probably stick with Dorie's going forward.

The apple pie filling here contains the usual suspects -- apples (I used a mix of honeycrisp, gala, granny smith and golden delicious), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, lemon zest as well as the unexpected, quick cooking tapioca, which is used as a thickener. I lost my quick cooking tapioca, which forced me to wander around the house asking "has anyone seen my quick cooking tapioca?" over and over again. If there is anything worse than having to make a special trip to the store to buy quick cooking tapioca, it's having to make a second special trip to the store to buy quick cooking tapioca to replace the quick cooking tapioca you bought two hours ago and lost. Fortunately, I found the quick cooking tapioca under the passenger seat in my car, next to a can of canellini beans I lost two weeks ago. (I'm sure you could use corn starch or something else as a thickener, or skip the thickener -- my grandmother never used anything to thicken her apple pie and it will always be my favorite pie ever).

This pie baked up just beautifully. It was all-American and all-delicious alright! It is pretty much the quintessential apple pie, and if you like apple pie, you'll have a hard time doing better than this one.

Emily of Sandmuffin chose this pie, and be sure to check out her post here. Thanks for the perfect October pick, Emily!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TWD: Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and if that is true, Albert would have been the first one to tell me that I would not enjoy this pumpkin pie, and that I was insane for even thinking that I might like it. As is well documented on this blog, I do not enjoy boozy desserts. And if I happen to like a boozy dessert okay, I always think that I would have liked it more if it hadn't been boozy. For those of you keeping score at home, that is over two years' worth of boozy desserts; over two years of not liking boozy desserts; and/or over two years of thinking thoughts like "that dessert wasn't bad, but a little too boozy for me -- I think it would have been great without the booze." And yet what do I do every. single. time a boozy dessert shows up on my calendar? I use the full amount of booze called for in the recipe, while thinking "I bet this rum will complement the fall spices nicely." Why would I think that? Because I'm insane, that's why. That is not to say that the rum does not complement the fall spices nicely; it very well might, it's a matter of personal taste -- *I* will just never think that it does. I will just think that it is too boozy. And that is what I thought about this pumpkin pie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a huge pumpkin pie fan to begin with. I love pumpkin flavored baked goods and pumpkin spices, but the texture of pumpkin pie is not my favorite. This pie offers a fun spin on the classic pumpkin pie with the addition of a very dark caramel. The caramel begins with sugar in a skillet, and after it turns a dark amber color and starts bubbling furiously, cream, butter, and dark rum, cognac, or apple cider get added to the mix. Had I been sane, I would have opted for the apple cider since I know/should know what my personal preferences are by this point, but instead I decided to prove Albert right by going with the 2T rum (although in fairness to my inner sane person, I know that a lot of people in my world like boozy desserts way more than I do, and I don't bake to eat it all myself, anyway). I actually think I nailed the caramel for once, without setting off the fire alarms or frightening small children.

This pie? Really not the pie for me. I felt like the rum was simply overpowering. I did not taste caramel at all - rum, just rum (and a slightly bitter aftertaste). The next night, I served a piece to David, who had been on a haunted camp out with Jacob the day I made this, and I issued a warning before I served it. And David liked it WAY more than I did. That is why I want to be clear that this might be -- heck, probably is! -- an incredible pie - but it is not your pie if you don't like pumpkin pie or boozy desserts. If you do like pumpkin pie and boozy desserts, you should absolutely try this pie, because it's a Dorie dessert - i.e., money in the bank - and therefore without a doubt the best boozy pumpkin pie ever.

Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs chose this pie. Janell made the pie twice because she did not enjoy it the first time, and voila! -- the second time was a charm. Janell suggests not cooking the caramel quite as long as the recipe calls for. This is an interesting point, and it makes me wonder if that was part of my issue - my caramel was definitely deep amber (I thought the perfect color), but perhaps if I hadn't cooked it as long I would have tasted more "caramel" and wouldn't have gotten that bitter aftertaste. Anyway, food for thought. Janell, thanks for the great seasonal pick!
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