Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TWD - Coconut Butter Thins

When I read through this recipe and spotted coconut, macadamia nuts, and lime as ingredients, I was immediately put in an island state of mind. When I spotted key limes at the grocery store, I knew I had to have them! Would anyone know the difference if I substituted key lime zest for regular lime zest? Nope. But I would know and adding key lime zest makes me happy. :)

The recipe states that the cookies should come out "wafery" and "lacy". Anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes, knows that I do not like thin crunchy cookies. "Wafery" and "lacy" are not what I look for in a cookie, so I put the baking sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking them and removed them from the oven at exactly 18 minutes. The results were perfectly square little butter cookies that resembled a shortbread.
I baked the cookies on Sunday afternoon and as I stood at the kitchen window, nibbling on coconut and key lime, I was transported to a lovely little key, swinging in a hammock, and watching the sunset. In reality, I watched big fluffy flakes of snow fall from the sky and blanket my yard in white. I swear they were mocking me. The cookies were delicious and super easy to bake. I will definitely bookmark the recipe to make again and again!
This weeks recipe was chosen by Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 145 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my home to Yours". Please visit the TWD Blogroll to see what the rest of the bakers did this week!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

When I found out we would be making pasta for this months challenge I was super excited. Pasta making is something that I have always wanted to try and now I had the perfect opportunity. We were to make an authentic Italian lasagna composed of noodles, bechamel sauce, and a ragu. My enthusiasm started to fade as I was reading through the recipe for the ragu. I started Weight Watchers about a month ago. I'm not the food police by any means and if I want something like lasagna, I just have a small portion, make good choices for the rest of the day and call it good. But the ragu ingredients (pancetta, veal, pork loin, beef skirt steak, Prosciutto di Parma and red wine among other things) did me in and I had resigned myself to skipping this months challenge. Lucky for me ... I stumbled upon a logical substitution. Roasted Vegetable Ragu.

My friend google and I found a delicious sounding recipe at Picky Cook. The ragu tasted as wonderful as the recipe promised! I was eating it straight out of the pan! The vegetables looked so pretty in the pan ready for roasting.

Here's the finished roasted vegetable ragu. Some of the veggies got a little overdone.

Now on to the pasta making! I struggled with the recipe at first. I wanted to make 1/2 batch and I couldn't get the dough to come together. I had a big pile of unsightly crumbs.

So I added another egg and after a lot of hard work formed a lovely little dough ball!

After some rolling and stretching of the dough, I cut some beautiful noodles. My noodles were a little on the thick side but my dough was starting to tear, so I decided to just take my chances. On a side note, how is it that Alton Brown made this process look so much easier on TV and he did it in thirty minutes! I didn't let my noodles dry since I did the entire lasagna process in a single day. Here they are hanging out in the kitchen.

I made the bechamel sauce and assembling the rest of the lasagna was a breeze! The end result was divine! I never imagined that this lasagna would taste so good!

Thanks Mary, Melinda, and Enza for this great challenge! Thank you Kristin for allowing me to use the ragu recipe. Please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how the rest of the gang did with their lasagnas! If you've never made your own pasta - try it!

Oh, and for those that may be counting: WW Points=7 :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD - Blueberry Crumb Cake

Or in my case, Blackberry Crumb Cake! I searched two different supermarkets for fresh berries and could only find fresh strawberries. I found myself in the frozen food aisle contemplating blueberries and blackberries. I wanted to try something a little different (for me) so I went with the blackberries since I had never baked with them before. A wonderful choice if I do say so myself and I will definitely bake this one again when fresh blackberries, and blueberries, and raspberries, come into season around here!

The only other change I made to Dorie's recipe was using the zest of an entire lemon instead of half - another wise choice I think! I also used a round pan instead of square since I rarely have the proper pan for the chosen recipe!

Unfortunately, I had a few problems with this cake. From what I have read from other TWD bloggers, many had the same issues with their crumb cakes. After 55 minutes in the oven, I had a puddle of butter in the center of the cake. After 65 minutes in the oven, my cake was over browning and not cooked in the center. When all was said and done, I think I left my cake in the oven for close to 90 minutes! YIKES! I still couldn't get a clean knife out of the center so I just gave up and removed it from the oven and when it cooled, it seemed fine.

My official taste taster had to have a piece before it was properly photographed and he said it was fantastic. I took the rest to my co-workers and they ate it and (I think) mostly loved it. I heard no complaints about it being dry. I had a small portion from near the center of the cake and thought it was absolutely wonderful! I will be trying this one with an assortment of fruit. Dorie says you can use peaches and in my world peaches = mangoes, so expect to see that version come out of the kitchen! :) I also want to make these as minis from my cupcake pan.

Please see how the rest of the TWD group fared and visit Sihan of Befuddlement for this weeks recipe. Sihan has mango marshmallows posted on her site. Mmmmm ..... mango. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD - French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

This weeks recipe was chosen by Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction. Please visit her blog for the recipe! I was happy to see that this weeks recipe was simple and Dorie called it "foolproof"! Yeah! I skipped last weeks TWD because I made three cakes for my coworkers and just couldn't find the time to squeeze in the custard. I was really surprised at how lemony the yogurt cake turned out using only zest and no juice.

Although Dorie instructs us to strain the marmalade and gently brush it the glaze on the cake tops, I decided on a more rustic look and basically spread my marmalde directly on top of the cake! I think it looks pretty cool with the chunks of orange peel.

Instead of making a large loaf or a round cake, I baked eight mini loaves instead. They were super moist and delicious. Yum!

Please check out the TWD bakers to see what they're up to this week and thanks for stopping by. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Armagnac Cake

Armagnac? Armagnac is a grape brandy from the Gascony region of Southwestern France. Its closest relative is cognac, which is also grape brandy. I had to google to figure it out! After checking my booze stash, I realized I was fresh out of Armagnac. I also sadly lack cognac, brandy, and scotch whisky, all suggested substitutes for Armagnac. The closest thing I have? Bourbon whisky. Wild Turkey. Close enough. :)

Dorie's cake also calls for prunes. Prunes are not a staple in my pantry and since I am not going out for liquor - I am most certainly not going out for prunes. As recommended, I sub raisins for prunes. Raisins soaked in Wild Turkey Bourbon Whisky. Yee haw ... I'm going to countrify Dorie's fine french dessert!

I think I'm ready to get this cake going but realize that, once again, I don't have the proper sized pan. You'd think that I would just throw in the towel at this point. I don't have several key ingredients and I don't have an 8-inch springform pan. I'm not a quitter and I refuse to let baked goods get the best of me! A few days ago, I saw an episode of Good Eats on the Food Network where Alton Brown uses a regular 2-inch tall cake pan instead of a springform pan so I decide to improvise by covering the bottom and sides of the cake pan with parchment paper. I am happy to report that it worked like a charm!

The cake came together easily enough and looked beautiful when I removed it from the oven. It tasted great ... except for one small thing ... I don't like dried fruit co-mingling with chocolate. Like a 3 year old, I picked the raisins out of my cake slice. The bits of cake without raisins were fantastic! I plan on making this cake again and using the prunes as directed. I think they will disappear into the cake and I will be happier with the texture. The chocolate glaze that tops the cake is thick and rich and decadent!

Thanks Lyb of "And then I do the dishes" for choosing this months recipe for Chocolate Armagnac Cake, also known as the cake that got Dorie fired. You can read that story and find the cake recipe on pages 278-281 of "Baking: From my home to yours".

This is how I like my fruit and chocolate. Neighbors. On the same plate but separated by dollop of sweetened whipped cream. No touching!
Don't forget to check out the rest of the TWD bakers to see their twists on this cake.