Monday, October 26, 2009

Baker, Baker

Apple crisp is a traditional Fall treat. And has always been one of my favorites. It's easier to make than pie, but has all the warmth and hominess. That said, I may never make apple crisp again. Because now I know about baked apples, which are even easier! There's almost 100% less slicing than apple crisp. But all the wonderful taste and comfort. I love having the skin on for added texture. I love having such a compact and contained dessert. The streusel is just as delicious, possibly more so with the addition of honey (I used spun). No leftovers. Just simple. And delicious. How is it that I've never had a baked apple before now?!

Baker, Baker
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
*click here for printable version*


3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
4 Braeburn apples (Fuji will substitute)
4 teaspoons honey


In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients and diced butter. Rub mixture briskly between finger tips until it forms small moist clumps in a loose sandy mixture. Refrigerate while preparing the apples.

Cut a small layer off the bottom of each apple to create a flat, stable bottom surface. With a small paring knife, cut a cylindrical cone out of the top of the apple, moving about 1-inch outside of the core, similar to removing the top of a pumpkin when carving a Jack O'Lantern. Remove the top and discard. With a melon baller or a teaspoon, remove the remaining core and seeds taking care not to puncture the base of the apple.

Place apples on a baking sheet or pie dish and fill each center with a teaspoon of honey. Spoon in mixture, packing lightly until heaped and overflowing over sides of the apples.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees on the top or middle rack for 40 minutes or until filling is golden brown and the tip of a paring knife can be inserted into the side of the apple with little or no resistance. Let apples stand for 10 minutes before serving.

TGIP Rating--Baker, Baker--KEEPER. Another bake every week-er.

Next up: For Halloween, I'm trying another variation on the theme of Pumpkin Pie.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 24: I failed make my own Sourdough Starter. I followed these directions to the letter. No fermentation activity. I can grow mold (see arrow), but not bacteria. *cry* I guess I'll have to order some powdered starter.

I did succeed, however, in growing an artist:

Ice Cream by Seconda

Friday, October 16, 2009

Angel Food Host of Ghosts

Bahahahahahahaaaahaah! This cake makes me laugh. This picture of this cake anyway. Doesn't it look like that little ghosty is swoopingly on his way down the mountain of goo?! Let's get this much out of the way: not everything I bake turns out exactly the way I expect it to. But a mountain of Seven Minute Frosting can hide a multitude of sins. And even when that doesn't turn out according to expectations, a few well-placed dollops of black frosting can make just about anything look strangely cute. In a Studio Ghibli kind of way. Next year maybe one of the girls will request a Ponyo cake so I can be more straightforward in my strange-but-cute intentions.

I have many thoughts/concerns about this project. Let's start with the cake itself. Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake, which I've made before, without incident. It's not easy to make. I think you have to have something like 4 hands at one point in the process, but I managed.

The batter had plenty of loft to it. It baked up nicely, rising above the rim of the pan. Then, while it was cooling (upside down as instructed), it fell out of the pan. Without the clinging-to-the-sides-of-the-pan situation to keep all those air bubbles inflated, the cake quickly deflated, losing about 1-1/2 inches of height, and becoming pretty dense.

It still tasted delicious, I just don't understand what happened. I have never had an angel food cake be anything other than difficult to get out of the pan. Let me repeat: IT FELL OUT. Anyone have any insight on what might have happened? The silver lining on this dense cloud--it made it very easy to cut and serve. Angel food cake can be pretty difficult to saw through when it's as fluffy as it should be.

Now, the frosting. I think maybe I'm just not a fan of Seven Minute Frosting. It was perfect for this particular project, but overly sweet for me. And a little gritty. I don't know how that's possible, since the frosting is cooked. I would think all that sugar would have dissolved to a certain degree. If I ever have reason to make this kind of frosting again, I think I'll either buy super fine sugar, or do Alton's trick of running regular granulated sugar through the food processor for a couple of minutes to make it super fine.

The idea for the cake I got here. And they got it here. It should have looked like this:

But it ended up looking like this:

Still cute, I think, but a little saggy. Part of the problem may have been that I don't have a real double-boiler. My makeshift one tends to allow steam to escape from the bottom, and that allows some liquid to end up in whatever is in the top. Liquid and Seven Minute Frosting are not friends.

There was no amount of beating I could have done that would have made this frosting stiff enough to make ghosts as tall as the ones in the picture.

TGIP Rating--Angel Food Host of Ghosts--MEH. The cake itself I will definitely make again and try to figure out what went wrong. The frosting I will avoid at all costs. But I'm happy with how the decoration turned out.

One more picture for cuteness:

"Dude. Stop ignoring me when I'm trying to talk to you. Oh wait. I don't have a mouth."

Next up: Baker, Baker. The time is ripe for baked apples, I think. And P.S.: Am I not due for a prize for all the free publicity I give Alton Brown?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 23: Blinded with Science

I'm conducting science experiments in my kitchen. Well. One experiment in particular. In a couple of weeks this:

will become something altogether different. And a-MAY-zing. One more possible career that I missed out on: food scientist.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart

I have to admit: I am not the biggest fan of the combination of pumpkin and chocolate. Everyone in my family loves it, me?-notsomuch. But I've had this recipe since...a long time ago, and wanted to try it (that link goes directly to the recipe on love a site with printable recipes!). As it turns out, it has just the right combination of spices that accentuate the chocolate and it all melds together perfectly. Martha, as usual, you come through, and provide me with a dessert that may become part of our regular Thanksgiving feast.

The dough was a bit of a revelation to me. I was surprised at how dense it was.

And then surprised at how easy it was to work with. It only stuck to my mat the tiniest bit when I first started rolling it out, but came up easily and was very easy to transfer to the tart pan.

It made me wish that I could use it for pie, but I think it's probably too crisp and cookie-like. I definitely need to add chocolate-y pie crust to my list of recipes to try/develop. I was a little concerned that the crust shrank so much during cooking,

but as it turned out, my filling came right up to the edge and didn't spill over at all.

The filling was also a bit of a surprise. As much as I like pumpkin pie, I have always found the texture a little unappealing--it's sort of gritty, don't you think? This filling is put through a sieve after everything is combined. Be aware, if you use freshly grated nutmeg (which, in fairness to Martha, the recipe doesn't call for, it simply says "ground nutmeg"--but now that I've discovered the virtues of using freshly grated I don't want to go back to my old ways!) the pieces will likely be too big to go through a sieve (assuming yours is as fine as mine is). All of my nutmeg got left behind, so I just stirred more back in post-sieve. It was a bit of work to push this mixture through my sieve, but so completely worth it. The result is such a smooth and refined custard. Beautiful texture with the crispy chocolate/spice crust. The taste is fantastic, spicy, not too sweet, homey and autumn-like. A very classed-up alternative to pumpkin pie.

P.S. Beautiful fall colors.

Speaking of which, I never use light brown sugar. A lot of recipes (including this one) specifically call for light as opposed to dark brown sugar. I like dark. I like the depth it gives to the flavor. And I don't think it's ever caused the flavors to be unbalanced in any recipe I've used.

TGIP Rating--Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart--KEEPER--and think about using this sieve technique on traditional pumpkin pie (maybe add spices post-sieve, or get a slightly less fine sieve)

Next up: Prima turns 10 on Sunday. Holy. I've been a mom so long, why have I still not figured it out?! At any rate, we're throwing a spooky/creepy party for her on Friday. I'm baking an Angel Food cake. Pretty scary, huh? Wait until you see what I do with it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Butter Top Wheat Rolls

Shameless stealing. That's what I do. Stole this one from The Priestess. Super easy. She says she got the recipe online somewhere but doesn't remember where and I couldn't find it either. So, we'll call it hers.

Butter Top Wheat Rolls *click here for printable version*
from Melissa Hillman

1 pkg (2-1/4 tsp.) yeast

1-1/8 c. water (at 110-115 degrees)

1/4 c. + 1-1/2 tsp. sugar

1/8 c. very soft butter

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1-3/4 to 2 c. all-purpose flour

1/8 c. melted butter

Proof yeast in the water. If desired, add the 1-1/2 tsp. sugar in with the yeast and water.

Mix the proofed yeast with the remaining sugar, the soft butter, salt, egg, and whole wheat flour.
Beat smooth.

Stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Use as little as you can get away with so the rolls will be soft and tender.

Knead 6-8 minutes, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking.

Grease the dough lightly, put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place 1 hour.

Punch the dough down, divide in to 2 pieces, and then shape each piece into 12 balls. Place them approximately 1 inch apart on 2 baking sheets (lined with parchment or a silpat).

Cover the baking sheets and let rise 25 minutes.

Bake at 375 for 11-15 minutes. You may need to rotate the pans halfway through, depending on how evenly your oven cooks.

When they come out, brush them immediately with the melted butter, and serve.

I did all of the beating and stirring by hand, and it was no problem at all. I expected the rolls would rise more than they did after being formed, but when we ate them they were perfect. They weren't dense at all, as they would have been if they hadn't risen enough. They had lots of texture, but were light and sweet and delicious.

Wise words from The Priestess:

"You think the recipe makes too many, but you are wrong."

TGIP Rating--Butter Top Wheat Rolls--KEEPER (might become a winter staple)

Next up: Fall hit us like a truck this week. Time for something involving pumpkin. And chocolate.