Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chocolate Mint Nightcaps

These sounded so delightful!  Mint… chocolate… nightcap.  All things I love.  But I did not love all these things together in this cookie.

The ganache, despite being ganache and otherwise awesome, needed more mint flavor, certainly more than what was imbued with fresh mint and cream coming to a boil together.

The chocolate cookies came out soft and rather bland.  I was expecting some crispness to lend contrast to the rather soft and forgiving ganache.

And the "nightcap" looked like something I might find on my lawn from a neighboring dog.

Not my type of cookie, but I was excited to be back baking after missing the walnut loaves earlier in the month.

For others' experience with this cookie, be sure to check out the blogroll Tuesdays with Dorie.

And Rhiannon...

Monday, November 17, 2014


These little cookies have been brought up multiple times during our nomination process at the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll, so I was excited to finally make them, plus I love almond paste when used in baking.  Let's clarify this.  I love to eat things made with almond paste.  This is the first time I have made something with almond paste.   

I decided to make this already easy recipe easier by not making my own almond paste.  As instructed in the recipe, I searched high and low for a can of paste instead of a tube, but had to settle for a tube.  To make up for this,  I wound up using a wee bit less sugar than the recipe called for.  

I think they turned out well.  Nice and chewy but a bit crispy on the edges and outside in general.   I believe they could have been a bit crispier; maybe this was due to the paste coming from a tube or maybe because they turned out a bit larger than I think they should have been.  Regardless, I am looking forward to them hardening up over the next couple of days… and eating more of them.

Rhiannon approved!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alsatian Onion Tart

Not much to say about this recipe except, "yum!"  And surprisingly so.  I am not an onion lover.  I don't add them to pizza.  I don't eat them raw, not even the red ones. They need to well caramelized for me to eat them.  So a whole onion tart sounded like, well, too much onion.  But the onion was well cooked in a light broth and then baked on top of puff pastry.   It is hard to dislike much when it sits on top of puff pastry.

This recipe calls for bacon to be added to the onion, which I am sure helps out the onions tremendously, but being a vegetarian, I replaced it with Kalamata olives and then added some feta after the bake (just because I had some in the fridge).

It was delicious, and I had some as leftovers, cold, the next day and they were delicious.  Go figure with all those onions.

Be sure to check out fellow bloggers results at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Rhiannon- not an onion eater, yet. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Puff Pastry Pizzettes

Simple.  Simple.  Simple.  

Perfect hors d'oeuvre.

Perfect after school snack.

Perfect midnight snack. 

Easy elegance. 

That is, if you have already made the puff pastry dough or have bought some from the store/ bakery. 

Besides the above combination I also made a sweet cherry one with a plum glaze  which turned out tasty but not too pretty (thus no picture).   But the possibilities seem endless with this one too.  I can see pesto, olives, compotes…

See the posts at Tuesdays with Dorie to see how others' fared with this recipe. 

Rhiannon running...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sunny-Side Up Apricot (Plum) Pastries

These became plum pastries for me,  as apricots will not be found in our grocery store or markets for another nine months.  And oddly enough it has been warm enough here to keep the plum and peach season lasting a bit longer than normal. No complaints here.   Although I do lose the effect of sunny side up "eggs" as intended.  

This recipe was the first in our puff pastry month with Tuesdays with Dorie.  I had all intentions of making the puff pastry myself, especially after reading the recipe as it seemed no harder and less fussy than croissant dough.  But I decided to take it easy, stay on schedule and use some of the local, awesome puff pastry dough from Grand Central Bakery.  

Overall, this turned out well, and with a few minor changes I might make these again.  I would cut the circles larger and roll the dough out less as I feel these were rolled too thin.  I would use a smaller fruit to help the ends puff up more.  I would continue using the pastry cream recipe with vanilla beans and maybe double it as it was so tasty.  I would pull the skins off the poached  fruit to help with appearances (no effect on taste).  And I would heavily sugar the rolling surface; I only lightly dusted mine, and the pastry could have stood up to more. 

I am looking forward to the second puff pastry recipe in a few weeks.  My dough scraps are in the freezer, waiting. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poppy Seed Torte

About a month ago, I missed the recipe for Poppy Seed Torte.  I have to admit I was blocked by the requirement to buy 2 cups of poppy seeds.  Seriously, 2 cups.  But then one day, about two weeks ago,while busily hustling around a part of town I usually do not visit,  I spied a spice store.  I immediately thought about those poppy seeds.  I compromised with myself and bought one cup, planning to half the recipe.  (And by the way, this spice store sold white and blue poppy seeds which apparently the only difference is a bleaching or whitening of the seeds.  They naturally are all blue.)

And I must say the only reason I kept thinking about poppy seeds was due to the rave reviews I had read on the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll; everyone seemed to like this one.  I was intrigued despite my usual indifference for most cakes.

The recipe originally calls for apricots to be poached.  Since apricots have since fallen out of season, I chose pears as a substitute.  No problem there except maybe a little less appealing to the eye.  The poppy seeds were ground up and mixed with cake crumbs and then this combination was mixed with alternating cake batter and meringue.  No problems there either (just a lot of dishes).

I can't say that I liked this one, despite my heightened anticipation of it.   It wasn't too sweet, which I liked, but the flavor seemed off or lacking.  Maybe it was the pear substitution or maybe my poppy seeds had turned without me realizing it.  The texture was terrific, so maybe it needs a second trial but then again, I would have to find more poppy seeds.

This blog participates in Tuesday with Dorie.  This week was a rewind week; check it out.

And Rhiannon...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classic French Bread

Now here in Portland we have about a dozen "real deal" french bakeries where I can pick up a fresh afternoon baked baguette.   To make one at home seems a little pointless.  But then I watched the video and I was intrigued; could I really make an airy, crusty baguette in my humble kitchen?  I had to try, much like I had to try croissants last year despite their similar rampant availability here.  

It turns out, I was much better at replicating the croissants than the baguette.  The baguette had a nice crusty crust but the inside turned out like normal bread, which was tasty but not airy and light at all.  I think it had to do with my first rise which lasted too long and the dough formed a skin which then made rolling it for the final rise a challenge due to the inelasticity of that skin.  But it may have been a result of the old frozen, fresh yeast I used; it probably would have had more oomph with really fresh yeast.

We had no trouble eating the loaves all in one meal (I halved the recipe), but I am sure they would not have met any French bakery standard except for the fact we did wait 20 minutes to eat them after they came out of the oven.  And despite all our good bakeries in Portland and the fact that I can kind of make them at home (with more practice),  I still can't wait to get to France someday and eat a real baguette. 

Be sure to visit others' posts on this recipe in the Baking with Julia baking group at Tuesdays with Dorie. 

And Rhiannon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes

This recipe was a trial in following directions.   It started with prepping the pans/ ramekins.  I rubbed them with butter, not melted butter.  I used muffin tins and 1/2 cup ramekins, instead of full cup ramekins (I don't have any).  I must have put 3-4 TB of batter in each container because 2 TB seemed like a ridiculously small amount of batter especially with a half of a plum on top. And I squished that half plum down a bit in the batter because I felt like it, even though the recipe warned to keep the plum afloat so as not to sink.  

I think I should just follow instructions.  

The cakes were difficult to remove (the pans could have used melted butter).   I was not sure how long to bake them due to the size difference.  And those plums sunk bringing the extra batter down with it.

But then again, they were quite tasty despite my lack of obedience. 

So next time, I would follow the directions more closely except for the sugar sprinkled on top. I would use regular sugar on top and less of it.  The recipe calls for brown sugar, and I felt the molasses flavor came through too much and masked some of the plum flavor, which was delicious.  There is always room for some intelligent disobedience.  Rhiannon knows this.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Baking Powder Biscuits AND Savory Wheat Crackers

I'll start with the recipe that was due this week for Tuesdays with Dorie.   And let's just say I do not have a biscuit hand as Julia speaks about in the opening paragraph of this recipe.  The height of the above biscuit is the primary proof of my non-biscuit hands.  (I do not fault the recipe at all.)  That's not to say I don't make biscuits.  I make them frequently, but I cheat and make drop biscuits which requires a bit more liquid and no handling of the dough.  The biscuits come out lumpy and crazy looking, but rarely do I have a leaden, tough biscuit like the above.  I think I will stick to my drop biscuits.

Back in June there was a recipe for Savory Wheat Crackers that I missed and then completed for a rewind week but then missed blogging about it, so I will sneak it in here.  (I have 2 recipes (fougasse and poppy seed torte) already lined up for September's rewind week.)  At first I was not motivated to complete this recipe.  All the rolling and maneuvering of a thin dough intimidated me, plus it called for a food processor, a kitchen tool that I lack.   But then I read everyone's posts about it, and my fears quickly dissipated.  It turned out to be simple and easy indeed even without a food processor.   I made a 1/4 of the recipe and made one batch sweet with cinnamon and sugar and the other savory with sesame seeds, salt and anise seeds.  The kiddos devoured the sweet versions and we enjoyed the savory.   All in all, a success.

And Rhiannon as of late…

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vanilla Poundcake

This was super simple and super delicious.  We recently traveled north to Alaska to spend time with family, and I brought this recipe along.  It turned out to be a good idea as it was perfect for feeding a crowd and there was no harm in turning the oven on (temperatures in the 60's).   I wound up making two loaves of a more traditional poundcake shape as I did not have a tube pan.   We ate the first round with raspberries in syrup and ice cream and munched on the leftovers all by themselves the next night.  And the picture below shows the small piece left two days later that I wound up toasting.  The best?  The final toasted one, three days old. 

Rhiannon on the 4th of July

Monday, June 16, 2014

Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches

The pictures of this one intimidated me and then the recipe assuaged me. It was basically an assembly recipe with very little baking.  I had to only bake the phyllo strips mounded into little nests,  after dousing them with some butter and sugar.  Simple.

The other assembly parts were some whipped cream, ice cream ( I used store bought frozen yogurt), skewered fruit and a chunky fruit puree with mint.  Simple.

The ironic part of this recipe was that it called for raspberries.  The kiddos and I had just picked pounds of the season's first raspberries but froze them or sauced them all.  No fresh ones left.  But we did have strawberries and blueberries so we subbed those in.  Simple.

Although difficult to eat, much like the recent tropical napoleons, they were delicious. They tasted like summer on a plate.  

Check out the other bloggers take on this recipe at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tropical Napoleons

How does one go about eating this…  layers of crisp meringue with whipped cream and sliced tropical fruit…?  There is no graceful way, really. (But I would love to learn a way if it exists.)   Thank goodness each messy bite is delicious.

The meringue wafers were easy to whip up but a little tricky to shape and bake.  We were instructed to make circular molds of meringue with a cut out plastic ring, which worked surprisingly well.  But I didn't know how thin to make the wafers, so I experimented a bit and learned the thinner they are, the harder they are to pull off the tray.  And I baked them for about 10 minutes  (recipe calls for 5-7 minutes) and they never seemed to stiffen up enough;  I could have baked them longer.  But being that they are whipped egg whites, sugar and coconut, they still tasted excellent even if a bit chewy.

The whipped cream was a treat in and of itself.  The recipe asks for a small amount of dark rum to be added which makes it irresistible by my tastes.  It compliments the coconut of the meringues well.

For the fruit I used kiwi and strawberries, relying on the kiwi to make it tropical.

Check out Tuesdays with Dorie baking group to see how my fellow bakers fared with this recipe.

And Rhiannon...

Monday, May 5, 2014

(Scallop) Asparagus & Pesto Purses

It took me until two days ago to read the recipe for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie baking group.  I think I was intimidated by the title of this recipe.  Any food item that was supposed to look like or function like a purse, sounded difficult and perhaps impossible for my novice skills.

And then I read the recipe.  Simple.  One page recipe.  Six ingredients.  Never mind that one of those ingredients was phyllo dough, I could do this.

The idea is to make a purse of phyllo dough filled with scallops and pesto.  The enclosure traps the steam as it bakes and cooks the scallop.  Since I am a vegetarian, I substituted fresh (yea!) asparagus for the scallops and added a sprinkle of goat cheese and lemon zest.   I also ignored the step in the recipe instructing us to tie each little purse with string prior to baking.   (That would have made this recipe not-so-simple.  Phyllo dough and I are not such great friends and tying it up string sounds like a battle I would have lost.  Furthermore, it brings back a memory as a child, watching my mom come to tears over a phyllo dough recipe she was baking for a 'gourmet club'.  Maybe that is the origin of our animosity.)

They turned out surprisingly amazing.  We ate them within 3 minutes.  Seriously.

These purses are meant to be served as appetizers.  They can be made earlier in the day, chilled in the fridge and baked immediately prior to serving.  Brilliant for entertaining.

Check out my fellow bloggers account of this recipe at Tuesday with Dorie.

And Rhiannon...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


= biscotti
"twice baked cookie"

I discovered biscotti/ cantuccini a while back and have treasured them as a guilt free breakfast treat (or-anytime-of-day-treat).  Since they have no butter or other fat and are baked twice they are relatively dry, fat free, and delicious (somehow that is possible without butter).  They are a snap to make; if you have never made them, go for it, as they are even easier than regular  drop cookies.  And if that isn't enough, they store up to a month in a sealed container or tin.

This recipe is a very basic, standard recipe without a lot of thrills or additions as you might see in coffee shops.  Check out the book,  Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, for the whole recipe and hop on over to our Tuesdays with Dorie baking group to see others' experiences with this cookie.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Potato Lefse

Lefse?  I did not know such a thing existed or even such a word.   A thin tortilla- crepe- swedish pancake type thing but made with potatoes?  Eaten with hot dogs or with cinnamon and sugar?   And I can make these at home?

Yes, yes, and yes. But it is actually Norwegian in origin and technically requires some pretty fancy specialized equipment (none of which I had).

The dough sounded intimidating to work with but wasn't.  It rolled out easily with plenty of flour and the use of a silpat mat.  And cooking them on a hot griddle was quick and clean.

A surprising success in this household.  All made in 15 minutes (with exception to the dough prep and chill time (8 hours)).  All eaten within 15 minutes.

This recipe represents many reasons why I love the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group:  I make things I never have heard of, never would have thought possible in my kitchen, and never would have the gumption to try.

Rhiannon enjoying the lefse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mocha Brownie Cake

This sounded like my kind of cake… a brownie cake.  As previously mentioned in this blog (with every cake recipe), I am not a cake fan.  I am a huge brownie fan however.  So, if there is a cake out there I might like, a brownie cake just might be it.  (I am slightly exaggerating as there are a few cakes out there I have enjoyed and would even eat again (Rhubarb Upside Down cake is one of them).  This cake, however, was more cake and less brownie.  A great one for cake lovers.  A tolerable one for brownie lovers.

It has some redeemable qualities worth mentioning:

- the ganache frosting/ filling is delicious and super easy to work with (I will dog-ear the recipe for this alone.)

- the recipe comes together easily

- the ganache has coffee in it

- the recipe outlines a simple and effective way to assemble a layer cake which was new to me, utilizing the spring form pan used to bake it

- there is never a bite without the ganache

I must confess that this may have been a bit more brownie-like had I baked the cake for less than the stated time.  As it was, the first time I checked it, the cake was already done and possibly a bit dry, but this was hard to tell given all that delicious ganache which lent moisture to every bite.  I will be curious to see how my fellow bakers baked this one up.  Check theirs out at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Rhiannon- a cake eater

Monday, March 3, 2014

Buttermilk Scones

Scones are one of those things I had a love affair with about a decade ago.  I could not go into a coffee shop and not get a scone.  Well, I actually could, but it was very difficult to do so.   At one point in this addiction, I realized I was spending way too much money on these pastry nubbins and decided to make them on my own dime.  It took fiddling with a few recipes here and there, before I settled on one that satisfied my coffee shop cravings.  Simple enough, one of the key components for me in a scone is the crackly top sprinkled with turbinado sugar.  Another is the crumb- dense but flaky at the same time (is that even possible?).  This one from Baking with Julia comes pretty close.  The buttermilk lends a tenderness to the scones I appreciate, yet does not weight it down.   The butter flavor comes through and the added lemon zest brightens everything without being "lemony".   It may just rekindle my old flame. 

Perfect with peach jam.

Rhiannon approves of this one.