Thursday, October 29, 2009

Have cookies, will travel

Every week besides the TWD selection, I usually make something else to either share or to have for dessert during the week. If I'm making anything to share with the MKM it needs to be easily transportable.

I have the Martha Stewart Cookie book but seem to stick with just making my favorites. I saw someone who I can't remember post on their blog about making Grammy's Chocolate Cookies from the book and so I made them a few weeks ago, with a couple of additions. I added some dried tart cherries and some semi-sweet chocolate chips. These were delicious, they were moist, a nice shape and the taste was spot on. I forget to take a picture though.

Another easily transportable cookie I made recently are these Peanut Butter-Nutella cookies I found on our local newspaper's food columnist website. There was a little tinkering done with the recipe, I added semi-sweet chocolate chips (isn't everything better with chocolate chips?). They recieved a thumbs up, although the Nutella flavor wasn't as prominent as I would have liked.
Last night, since Glee was not on because of the World Series (boooo), I made Ina Garten's Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars. These are fabulous, I used a mixture of half strawberry preserves and half cherry preserves for the jam part because it's what I had in the fridge. I made a massive pan full though so some of these will be going to be enjoyed by other people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

Everyone always says this but it's finally my turn! I've been baking with the TWD group since May, 2008. My first attempt was Pecan Honey Sticky Buns and it was also the first time I ever made brioche. Being a part of TWD has given me the opportunity to make/bake things I never dreamed I would be able to. Kugelhopf, cream puffs, homemade pie crust, completely homemade lime meringue pie, pudding, I could go on and on. It's such so much fun to do and there are a ton of great blogs I've discovered by being a part of TWD.

It wasn't too difficult for me to choose, I had my eye on the Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte for awhile because I love the combination of cherries and chocolate. The torte took awhile to put together, you have to flambe the the dried cherries with kirsch, melt the butter and chocolate together, then mix everything and bake it for 55 minutes. The cake has to cool completely before you mix the mousse topping up and pour it over the cake. I think it took about an hour or so for my cake to cool. The mousse part is cream cheese, sugar, mascarpone cheese and a dash of vanilla. It came together really quick and was very pourable. I was a little worried that it would 'set' because it was so pourable. After an overnight stay in the fridge the mousse was still runny, but I have a feeling it's because I overbeat it a little. It was still delicious, just what I imagined.Thank you for baking with me this week! I can't wait to see what baking adventures lie ahead.

Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

For the brownie layer
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (or up to 2 teaspoons, to taste) coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup kirsch
3 tablespoon cherry preserves
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
11 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the mousse
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup cold heavy cream

unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To Make the Brownie Layer: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, pepper and salt.
Put the cherries and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then stand back and carefully ignite the kirsch. When the flames die, stir in the preserves and boil until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put the butter and 7 ounces of the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolate are just melted. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar, and remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs, the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Switch to a large sturdy spatula and gently mix in the melted chocolate. Still using the spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the cherries and the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate. Turn the batter into the springform pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake the brownie cake for about 55 minutes, or until the top is dry - it may be slightly cracked, but that's okay - and the cake is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. If you stick a thin knife into the center, it should come out streaked with some moist (not wet) batter attached. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then loosen the brownie by running a blunt knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on the base of the pan.

When the cake is cool, invert it onto a rack and remove the base of the pan and the parchment paper. Wash and dry the pan and return the cake to it. Refasten the sides around the cake. (The cake can be made ahead; wrap it well and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Or wrap it airtight and keep it in the freezer for up to 2 months; defrost it in the wrapper.)

To make the mousse: Working with the stand mixer preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl as needed, until very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the mascarpone and mix it until it is smooth. Add the cream and beat only until it is blended - don't overbeat it; you want a light, smooth mousse. Pour the mousse over the brownies and tilt and jiggle the pan to even the mousse.

Slip the cake into the refrigerator and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to set the mousse.

Remove the sides of the springform and let the cake set at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder just before serving.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Neighborhood walk

Sunday afternoon we took a rambling walk around our neighborhood. It was another gorgeous clear day. I snapped a few iPhone pictures of some of the more colorful trees with leaves that are changing. The yellow ginkgo tree is my favorite.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A reason to dress up

Friday night we hosted a Halloween costume party for my knitta & hooker friends and their significant others. It was a ton of fun and everyone helped me prepare (especially Lynsey and her significant other who helped and brought delicious food AND set up a movie screen on our patio).

Here are some highlights:
Creepy ham face! Made by Lynsey with ham, prosciutto, cream cheese & ranch dipInstructions found here

Me, in costume, I was the Sunmaid raisin girlDoug, also in costume, he was a farmer. Just an excuse to buy overalls. The food tablePeople watching movies on the patio

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Hi, my name is April. I live in the South and grew up on biscuits and gravy but have never made my own biscuits. Really.

This TWD selection gave me the push I needed to make my own biscuits. This was not a hard recipe, I was ready to commit murder early on though because my crappy can opener wouldn't work and I ended up flinging some of my sweet potatoes across the kitchen while banging the can on the counter in frustration.
I used the trick someone suggested in the P&Q for using a tea towel to roll out the biscuit dough. I floured the towel and my rolling pin well and it all worked like a charm. However, guess who doesn't have a biscuit cutter? Instead I used various cookie cutters, including a mushroom, a heart and the United States (found and purchased over at Bake It Pretty). The first batch cooked a little too long but the next batch was better and the first batch was fluffier (the first 'roll' of dough). The end result was a good little biscuit, a little flatter than I would have liked but still good.
Thanks to Erin of Prudence Pennywise for the biscuit selection!

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's fall y'all

I spent a great weekend with friends and that sweet man I'm married to. The weather was cool and crisp, even downright cold at night, which gave me the opportunity to dig out all of my hand-knitted hats, scarves and cowls!
Friday night we picked up sandwiches from Soul Fish and headed down to the Levitt Shell to meet up with our friends and watch the Elvis '68 Special and The Big Lebowski, which was part of the Indie Memphis film fest this year. It was so much fun and I loved being out in the cold weather (even though I couldn't feel my toes by the end of the night).
Saturday we had breakfast at Republic Coffee (stuffed french toast is heaven), did some thrifting at the Junior League Repeat Boutique (I found a copy of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home for cheap, cheap!), got coffee at Otherlands in Cooper-Young, drove downtown to see the Elizabeth Brim exhibit at the Metal Museum, drove back to Cooper-Young to have lunch at Central BBQ, and ended the night at our friend's 10th annual pumpkin carving party.

The Metal Museum is a small but nice little place to visit if you're ever in the city. The current exhibit features a metal-smith who makes ruffles and bows and pillows out of metal, amazing work, her pieces look like fabric. I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch it. Plus the gates of the museum have different mini-metal pieces all over it. The tea cup is one of my favorites. There are also some nice views of the Mississippi River but they were setting up for a wedding and we didn't want to get in the way so no pictures of that.

The pumpkin carving party is something we've been going to since we started dating. We've never missed a party since we started dating 8 years ago and it's where I met my sweet friend Stacey. We never win the carving contest but it's still fun. This year I came up with the idea Saturday afternoon before we left and Doug replicated it. He did let me scoop out the pumpkin guts though. (notice two hand knit items at once and they don't match)Here's our non-winning pumpkin and then all the other pumpkins lined up at the end of the night. Stacey and her husband won first place, because their pumpkin was fantastic, as always.
Sunday I had pumpkin on the brain and after making this week's TWD selection, I made the Sour Cream-Pumpkin Pie in Dorie's book that no one has chosen yet. It was good, but I didn't make my own crust I used a refrigerated one. I think it would have been better if I hadn't have run out of ginger. But I'll make it again for sure.Have a great Monday!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm number two

Remember my ranting about not winning anything at the Mid-South Fair? Well it turns out I did win something. Last week as I was shifting through the mail I found a thick envelope addressed to me from the Mid-South Fair. It seems my blueberry muffins and my brownies won 2nd place ribbons and my almond brown sugar cookies won a 3rd place ribbon. Plus I got a $5 check and $4 worth of Domino sugar coupons. I guess they only show the 1st place winners and ribbons at the fair itself. So I'm pretty excited, my chocolate marshmallows were the only thing they didn't win a ribbon, which seemed surprising because most people love them. The brown sugar-almond cookie recipe is below, I thought it was the best tasting thing I entered. They're simple and quick to make, be forewarned though that I play it by sight for the ingredient amounts so it might not be perfectly precise. If I ever get my hands on almond paste I might try to use it instead of almond extract.

In other good news, my awesome group of friends and me, aka the Memphis Knit Mafia, made the Memphis edition of Skirt magazine this month. It's free on newsstands around the city and the full article and photo can be found here. Although in the online article they forget to mention me at the very bottom but they do tell the very sweet story of how my knittas bought my sock yarn to help fund my purchase of my KitchenAid mixer back in the spring. Love those women SO much!

Brown Sugar-Almond Cookies

1 stick + 6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp high quality almond extract (Nielsen-Massey is my favorite)
2 cups King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder

For sugar coating:
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light brown sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees

In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and baking soda, set aside.

Melt stick of butter in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring continually until the butter becomes a light tan color. Remove from heat, pour into small bowl, whisk in the remaining butter and let sit for 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and fleur del sel to the butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Then add eggs and almond extract.

Fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture until well combined.

Mix 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp brown sugar in bowl roll out cookie dough into small balls and coat in sugar mixture.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes (or less depending on how hot you’re oven runs). Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Allspice Crumb Muffins

Occasionally I'll make something for TWD and it won't turn out the way it's supposed to. This happened with Round 1 of the muffins last week. The recipe is super simple and looked very tasty and didn't require a mixer. Awesome.

Making the muffins isn't difficult at all. The problem I encountered was that I overfilled the muffin papers and didn't press the crumbs into the batter well enough AND I baked them a little too long. I ended up with dry muffins that had hard sugar tops and melted butters muffin papers. Bleh. I tried to eat one but it just wasn't good so I tossed them in the garbage. Since the recipe was so easy I made them again on Sunday. I ran out of whole milk so I subbed buttermilk instead and I only made half the recipe. Also this time I didn't fill the muffin cups up as much and I made sure to press the crumbs into the batter. Round 2 of the muffins turned out SO much better. They were moist and had a sugary sweet top with only a hint of crunch. I had one while it was still a little warm with homemade fig jam sent to me by a friend (thanks Gwen!). Really, really good. I liked them best with jam instead of solo, they're good but I felt like they need a little something extra.
Thanks to Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table for this selection!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Split-Level Pudding

Chosen by Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla. Since my first venture into making homemade pudding when the Chocolate Pudding last year I realized how much better it is than boxed pudding. We've made the Chocolate Pudding and Butterscotch Pudding and this pudding was a vanilla pudding with a layer of chocolate ganache underneath.
Making the pudding isn't difficult you just have to keep your eye on it because it can scorch easily. It was a pain to keep taking the pudding in and out of the mini-chopper/blender so next time I'll just use a little arm power and a whisk. In the 'Playing Around' section Dorie also gives directions for different pudding flavors instead of vanilla, one of them was coffee. Since I had a jar of instant espresso to use up our pudding became coffee flavored. The final product was delicious but I should have spread out the chocolate ganache a little better on the bottom of the cup. Tasty, tasty pudding! Thanks Garrett for the selection.

(sorry for poor quality pictures, it was late at night!)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Weekend sabbatical

I made a vow on Friday that after I got home from work Friday afternoon I wasn't going to leave the house again until Monday morning. I've been so busy lately that I really haven't had any time to relax and catch up. Most of the weekend I spent doing yard/garden work, knitting cooking, putting up our Halloween decorations, laying on the couch and catching up on all of our DVR-ed shows.

Friday night I made Spaghetti Bolognese using a recipe found here. I did skip the celery and added an extra carrot and two golden bell peppers from the garden. The sauce was good but I should have added a little more salt. The recipe made enough for me to bag and freeze a whole other serving. For dessert I made Apple Cobbler with Cheddar Cheese Biscuits, a recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts I heard about at Angry Chicken. I bought myself a copy at Davis-Kidd and there's lots of delicious looking things I can't wait to try. The cobbler was very good and I was able to use up some of the apples I bought at the Farmer's Market last weekend.
Saturday we were the recipients of gorgeous weather, it was clear, sunny and the air had just the tiniest nip in it. Much of yard work (weeding, trimming hedges, trimming the ivy, etc.) had been neglected over the last couple of months so I spent the morning doing those things. In the afternoon Doug and I put up our Halloween decorations. The black silhouettes are from the Martha line at Michael's and were picked up at 40% off last week.
Sunday was the complete weather opposite of Saturday, it rained steadily all day and the temp was almost chilly. I made this week and next week's TWD selections, finished the second sleeve on my Francis sweater, watched more television and made Chicken Apple Curry for dinner (recipe here).

Not everything I wanted to accomplish this weekend got done but I did manage to have some much needed 'home time' for the first time in forever. Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Agony of Defeat

So as you know I bake - a lot. I thought it would be fun to enter some of my baked goods in the Mid-South Fair. This year the fair moved from Memphis to Southaven, Mississippi, about 25 minutes from my house, which was kind of sucky, but whatever. Last Wednesday I drove down to Southaven with brownies, chocolate marshmallows, brown sugar-almond cookies and blueberry muffins in tow for judging. I hadn't made it back to see the results until last night. Lynsey and I drove down to the 'haven to see the results and eat a Pronto Pup. Sadly, I did not win anything. Some other woman won almost every flipping category. Her stuff didn't even look appetizing at all. Blah.

The fair was really minimized this year since it moved from the fairgrounds to a site not really set up to accommodate a fair with rides and a midway. I still have dreams of attending an actual state fair.But Lynsey and I did get those Pronto Pups and grilled corn and pork rinds and fudge. Justify FullPlus we got to pet some farm animals and who doesn't love to do that really?