This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Donna of Life's Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First: espresso chocolate shortbread cookies. I've mentioned numerous times that I don't drink coffee (or espresso for that matter), but I do really love the combination of espresso and chocolate. Generally, the espresso is used in small quantities just to enhance the chocolate flavor, but in this recipe I suspected it would play a bigger role.
There are only a few ingredients in these cookies and the recipe is super simple. It employs one of Dorie's great techniques too! After making the cookie dough, she transfers it to a zip top bag and rolls it out in that bag. To be honest, it's a technique that gave me a little trouble the first few times I used it, but now that I've mastered it, I love it. Dorie is full of neat tips and tricks like this one (which is one of the big reasons her new book (see below!) is on its way to my house despite the fact that I almost always borrow/try cookbooks from the library before buying them). I made half of this recipe and used a quart size zip top bag instead of a gallon size, and wound up with about 20 cookies.
For me, the best thing about these cookies was the texture. They had that perfect sandiness that is characteristic of shortbread, which is not always something I've achieved when making shortbread. I was extra careful not to overmix the dough and, hey, what do you know, it worked! The espresso flavor was perhaps just a tad bit too strong for me in the cookies but I still enjoyed them. They're definitely a repeat here - with just slightly less espresso next time I know they'll be perfect! Many thanks to Donna for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the shortbread cookies on her site here or on page 125 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Also, for those who don't know, Dorie has written a new book, Around My French Table, and it's now available here on Amazon! I rarely pre-order books and this one was no exception, but when I saw it was available yesterday, it was in my cart in no time. The book wasn't expected out until the start of October so it was a great surprise. Unlike Baking: From My Home to Yours, Dorie's new book includes lots of savory recipes and I really can't wait to get my hands on my copy :)
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Rachel of Sweet Tarte: crunchy and custardy peach tart. Peaches have been popping up at the farmer's markets around here for a few weeks now but I hadn't taken advantage until this week. I think I'd forgotten just how delicious sweet, juicy peaches can be. After I cut the one for my mini tart, I ate not only the leftover slices but also proceeded to immediately cut up a second peach and eat that too! Yes indeed, I anticipate many peach desserts in my future, if I can exhibit enough restraint not to eat all of the peaches as is :)
I'll admit I was skeptical about this tart, mainly because I'm not a big fan of custard (unless it's been turned into ice cream). For that reason, I went with just one mini tart that I made in a 4" pan. I had just enough leftover sweet tart dough in my freezer to avoid having to make that part of the dessert, so this one was really easy for me. With such a tiny tart I had to get creative with the placement of the peaches, and I wound up using only about 5 or 6 slices. I made 1/3 of the custard recipe, which, luckily, turned out to be exactly the right quantity to fill my mini tart shell. As for the baking time, I tried to estimate as best I could, keeping a close eye on the tart to make sure it didn't overbake. I went with 5 minutes at 425 followed by 10 minutes at 375, then I added the streusel and baked the tart for an additional 7-10 minutes. At that point I took it out since the custard seemed set and the crust was starting to get dark.
I offered the mini to my mom to take home but not before she and I each had a bite to see what we thought. I was pleasantly surprised! I loved the combination of the peaches and the almond flavor contributed by both the streusel and the custard. Dorie's tart crust is always a winner and it was no different here. I almost regret only making a mini as I would certainly have enjoyed snacking on a few slices of the tart. It's probably for the best, though, as we're off on vacation in a few months and I really need to cut back on sweets so I can fit into my bathing suit...
Thanks to Rachel for hosting this week! You can find the tart recipe on her blog or on pages 346-347 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's SMS was chosen by Katie of Katiecakes: sweet almond cake with lemon curd and lemon mascarpone frosting - whew, that's a mouthful! It sounded great to me though so I was definitely game. Only problem? No need for a huge cake that only I would eat sitting here tempting me all weekend. Instead, I went with cupcakes with a lemon curd filling. You'll notice I skipped the frosting - more on that later.
I made 1/4 of the cake recipe, which yielded just 7 cupcakes. The cake batter is full of goodness - almonds ground with sugar to make almond flour, browned butter and lots of egg whites whipped with sugar to make a meringue. As a result, the cupcakes were incredibly delicious, definitely among my favorites! They were moist, light and had wonderful almond flavor. As for the lemon curd, it can do no wrong in my book. I cut little cones from the tops of my cupcakes, filled them with the lemon curd and then proceeded to eat several spoonfuls of the leftover curd with a spoon :) I had to cook the curd quite a few minutes longer than Melissa instructed and it was a bit thinner than I'd have liked, but every bit as delicious as other recipes I've made.
It all went wrong with the frosting, unfortunately. The frosting consists of confectioners' sugar, mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and zest and butter and Melissa warns not only to have the butter and mascarpone at room temp, but not to overbeat the ingredients or the frosting will wind up grainy. As soon as I added the butter and mascarpone my frosting looked curdled and grainy. I couldn't figure out how to salvage it so I skipped it entirely. If I'd been feeling more motivated I would have whipped up cream cheese frosting (my fave!) but instead I just threw a few fresh raspberries on top of the cupcakes and called it a day. I'll definitely make this cake again along with the lemon curd and just go with a different frosting. It's one that's sure to please almond and lemon lovers!
Thanks to Kate for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her site here or on pages 104-106 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Natalie of Oven Love: oatmeal breakfast bread. I checked the P&Q's on the TWD site before I baked this one to see if there were any good tips, and I was excited to see lots of early raves for the bread. The recipe was full of promising ingredients - applesauce, dried fruit (I used apples), lots of great spices - including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and oats. Plus, it called for a sweet, crunchy topping - comprised of brown sugar, pecans (which I omitted) and cinnamon - and everyone knows a topping like that almost guarantees a delicious result! I was on a baking roll this past weekend and after having already made granola and cupcakes, I decided to get this bread out of the way too. It's so easy it can be started at 11 pm and it'll be in the oven by 11:15 - which may or may not be exactly what I did. Of course, I didn't factor in the 60+ minutes of baking time as well as the cooling time so you probably don't want to start this bread at 11 pm unless you're a real night owl :)
Dorie mentions that this bread is a good keeper, which was perfect in my case, as I didn't get around to cutting into it and trying a slice until this morning. The crunchy topping on my bread was a bit of a mess, scattering all over the counter and the floor the minute I put my knife near the loaf. Messy or not, it was definitely the most delicious part of the bread. Otherwise, this one was just ok for me. I can't put my finger on exactly what I didn't love though I think it may have been the texture. My bread was really dense and almost too moist despite definitely having been fully cooked. In general I'm not a huge fan of quick breads so I wonder if subconsciously that played a role too. With so many of the other TWD bakers raving about this recipe, I may try it again in muffin form and see if I have better results.
Thanks to Natalie for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 44 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Although I did make the flourless chocolate cupcakes that were selected last month for the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club (they were good, recipe here), I never got around to posting them (sorry Lauryn!). Luckily, this month things are a little slower so not only did I bake the triple citrus cupcakes selected by the wonderful Marthe of Culinary Delights, but I'm posting them too - I love it when a plan comes together :)
I'm sort of obsessed with citrus flavors, and specifically the scent of citrus zest, so these cupcakes were right up my alley. Yankee Candle used to make a lemon zest candle that I adored, but sadly they discontinued the scent. I found a few at the outlets by us, and I've been using them very sparingly to make them last as long as possible. I know when they're gone I can still turn to real zest, but it's just not quite as convenient.
Luckily, these cupcakes were chock full of citrus zest, including not only lemon zest, but also orange and lime. Though the recipe didn't specifically instruct it, I rubbed all of the zest into the sugar with my fingers before creaming the sugar with the butter. I almost always turn to that trick I learned from Dorie as it really brings out the most flavor and aroma from the zest. Like a lot of the recipes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, this one makes a ton of cupcakes - 36! I scaled back to make 1/3 of the recipe and wound up with 10 cupcakes. Instead of a traditional frosting, the cupcakes are topped with a simple citrus glaze made with confectioner's sugar and both citrus zest and juice. I went with lime glaze on all of my cupcakes and garnished with more zest.
I really enjoyed the flavor of these cupcakes - bright and very citrusy - but unfortunately they were pretty dense. This is definitely a recipe I'd like to play around with someday when I have more time as I think they would be awesome if they were light and fluffy like cupcakes rather than dense like muffins. Lots of thanks to Marthe for hosting this month! We don't post recipes on our blogs for this group, but you can find this one on page 64 of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Book or here on her website.
Well, hello there! I can't believe I haven't posted since Tuesday. The frequency of posting around here has been abysmal but I'm flat out of excuses. Yes, I'm still busy with work and somehow still not entirely over the cold I've had for the past two weeks, but truth be told, I've just been trying to enjoy summer while it lasts and most days that doesn't include sitting in front of the computer any more than I already have to at work. Today, though, I'm back with a bang! This is the first of two posts I'll be sharing as Sweet Melissa Sundays and the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club both happen to fall on the same day. First up is cherry almond granola for SMS.
Like most granola recipes, this one is highly adaptable so you can probably make it work with what you already have on hand. I did make a special trip out to try to find the rye flakes Melissa calls for, but after checking the bulk bins at Whole Foods as well as my local grocery stores and striking out, I wound up substituting more oats instead. Along with the oats, the recipe includes both sunflower and pumpkin seeds as well as whole natural almonds. Honey and maple syrup sweeten and bind the granola while a full array of fall spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc) make this granola super fragrant. I was grateful the temperatures around here were relatively mild this weekend as the granola bakes at a low temperature (250 F) for 1 1/2-2 hours, and I'm not sure I would have wanted the oven on for that long if temps had been up near 100 F. Finally, to finish the granola once it's completely cooled, dried fruit is added. Melissa suggests currants, cherries and raisins, but I went with what was in my pantry - cranberries and raisins.
I don't really eat granola much so this batch is earmarked for my stepfather, but I've made the recipe before and can vouch that it's wonderful! I always consider it a plus when you can make something at home so easily instead of buying it and granola definitely falls in that category. Big thanks to Wendy of Pink Stripes for hosting this week! She'll share the recipe on her site today, or you can find it on pages 34-35 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Don't forget to check back later today for Martha Stewart's triple citrus cupcakes.
There's been a lot of ice cream in our lives this summer, but unlike previous years, very little of it has been of the homemade variety. We've visited several of the great local ice cream shops in our town more times than I can count. I wish I'd had more time/energy/motivation/freezer space to make homemade ice cream but it just hasn't happened. So, I have to thank Katrina of Baking and Boys for selecting chocolate ganache ice cream for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. It was just the push I needed to pull out my ice cream maker before the summer sunshine comes to an end.
For the first time in ages, I did not scale back the recipe at all. Can you believe it? If there's one thing that's certain to get eaten around here, it's ice cream. That's not to say I didn't play with the recipe a bit, because I did. Initially, I planned to add mini marshmallows and chocolate chips - sort of along the lines of a rocky road, minus the nuts. When I mentioned my plan to Shane he suggested instead also adding graham cracker pieces to make the ice cream more s'mores-like. Sounded good to me, so that's just what I did.
I confess that chocolate ice cream isn't high on my favorites list - I'm more of a vanilla or mint chocolate chip girl - but I absolutely loved this ice cream! It surprised me in the best way possible. The ice cream starts with a pretty standard custard, which is added to a luscious chocolate ganache to make the base and after chilling in the fridge, it was almost pudding-like. It churned beautifully; I tossed in the marshmallows, chips and graham crackers in the last minute. After some time in the freezer, the ice cream is quite hard so it needs to sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping, but we loved the texture. I used good quality semisweet chocolate, so the ice cream had a lot of chocolate flavor and wasn't overly bitter. It was rich, creamy and smooth. I thought the graham cracker crumbs got a little lost so next time I'll keep the pieces slightly bigger but otherwise, this was a huge hit! Shane declared it a winner too. I don't think it'll last long around here.
Many thanks to Katrina for hosting this week! Head over to her blog for the recipe (as well as some great photos of her cute boys - all 4 of them!) or find it on page 430 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Jennifer of The Rookie Baker: chocolate raspberry truffle torte. I had planned to write my post earlier this morning, but instead Shane and I found ourselves at the outlets doing a little shopping! When we head to the outlets my first stop is always Williams-Sonoma and today I got some great deals, including a mini cheesecake pan for only $8! It's not a pan I really needed, but at that price I simply couldn't pass it up. I almost never make cheesecake because a whole one is just too much, but minis solve that problem nicely.
Back to this week's recipe... As delicious as the combination of chocolate and raspberries is, I skipped the raspberries because I was counting on Shane eating a majority of the torte. I also scaled the recipe back making just 1/3 and baking it in my 4" springform pan. This is a really elegant, yet super simple dessert. Four ingredients (five if you include the raspberries) are all that you need to pull it together - good quality bittersweet chocolate, butter, rum, and eggs. I used Guittard 61% semisweet chocolate for the torte (close enough to bittersweet in my book) and dark rum. First, the butter and chocolate are melted then the rum is added. The eggs are whipped until tripled in volume and then folded into the chocolate mixture. It reminded me a lot of making a souffle actually as the process and the ingredients were fairly similar. My one complaint about this recipe - the instructions for baking provided only a time and no visual or textural cues. It would have been helpful to have had some insight as to how I should reduce the baking time for my mini torte. In the end, I only baked it about 10 minutes less than the full size torte, but I don't have a good sense whether it turned out with the right texture.
I gave Shane a taste of the torte as I photographed it to get his take. Essentially he liked it, but didn't love it. He commented that it was really rich and definitely on the bitter side. I had a small bite too and mostly agreed with him. Perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream I could have eaten a sliver, but otherwise, this type of dessert is too rich for me. Many thanks to Jennifer for hosting this week! She'll post the recipe on her site or you can find it on pages 206-207 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
Living in a coastal state I know we should take advantage of the fresh seafood available to us. We don't do it nearly enough though. This summer I resolved to do better, and for the most part, have. Some variety of seafood has made it onto the menu at least once a week and it's really been a nice change from the usual rotation of chicken, pork and ground turkey. Last week, I bought mussels for the first time ever after having seen this recipe in my most recent issue of Cooking Light. I've eaten them before, but this was my first time working with them. I researched how to store them once I got them home from the store (in a large bowl in the refrigerator with a damp kitchen towel covering the bowl) and also discovered that you should discard any that don't have tightly closed shells before cooking (if they're open, you can try lightly tapping them to see if they close - if so, they're fine but if they stay open, discard).
This dish comes together easily in one pan, though I do recommend using a very large skillet. My 12" skillet was so full I had trouble tossing all of the ingredients together at the end without making a mess all over my stove. Next time I'll go with my Dutch oven. We didn't have white wine on hand, so I subbed chicken stock, and it worked perfectly. I have no doubt the wine would have been even more tasty, but I was trying to work with what I had. The dish is colorful and flavorful, inexpensive and so quick to throw together - a winner on all fronts!
Fettuccine with Mussels
from Cooking Light, August 2010
8 oz uncooked fettuccine
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup clam juice
1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta's cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and, stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Pour the wine into the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, or until most of the liquid evaporates. Toss the tomatoes into the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the reserved pasta water and the clam juice. Bring to a boil then add the mussels. Cover your pan and cook for 4 minutes or until the mussels open fully (discard any mussels that do not open). Finally, add the pasta to the skillet and cook to heat through, about 1 minute. Toss well to combine the pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with the fresh parsley before serving.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina: gingered carrot cookies. This recipe is definitely a sleeper - the one you pass right by without much of a second thought - and also the one you wish you'd tried sooner once you finally get around to making it. The cookies include a lot of the ingredients Dorie uses in her carrot cake (the very first recipe I ever made as a member of this group) - carrots (obviously), raisins, coconut and pecans. Don't get me wrong, I like carrot cake, so I wasn't opposed to the idea of these cookies. They just didn't excite me at first.
I halved the recipe this week and still wound up with over 20 cookies. The only other change I made to the recipe was to omit the pecans. Baking these cookies was fantastic as they don't spread much so you can cram lots of them onto the same baking sheet. Surely I can't be the only person who enjoys being able to bake all of the cookie dough at once, eliminating the need to let the cookie sheets cool before loading them up and popping them into the oven again...
The cookies were delicious plain, but I knew they'd be even better with a drizzle of maple glaze. I used a simple recipe combining maple syrup and confectioners' sugar (the same one I used on these pumpkin scones last year). I adore this glaze and it was the perfect complement to these not too sweet cookies. The carrot flavor isn't overly prominent and the texture is both light and chewy - all in all, a surprisingly fun treat. Many thanks to Natalia for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 162 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
As an aside, remember when I mentioned being sick in my post last week? Well, it lingered into the weekend and kept me from doing much of anything besides sitting on my couch. So, that explains the complete radio silence on my end. I have a huge backlog of posts to share so hopefully things will return to normal around here soon!