Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chocoblock Cookies (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for Chocoblock Cookies means serious business with all of these delicious add-ins:
In addition to the above ingredients, this cookie recipe calls for a healthy amount of old-fashioned oats and molasses. As I'm not a big fan of molasses, I substituted an equal amount of Lyle's Golden Syrup, which provides the same consistency as molasses without the strong flavor.
Once all of the ingredients are combined, you end up with a fairly wet sticky dough. To my surprise, the scooped dough didn't spread much as it baked, and it resulted in these hearty, chunky cookies.
I'm usually not a big fan of "everything but the kitchen sink" style cookies, but I really enjoyed noshing on these babies. The cookies had a really nice chew, with the chocolate, coconuts, dried figs, nuts and oats provide a a ton of flavor and textural contrast. I particularly loved the dried figs in combination with the chocolate --- delicious!

Thanks to Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet for a terrific pick this week. Doesn't Mary's blog name make you yearn for summer? :)
I'm sure the TWD bakers got really creative with the cookie ingredients this week, so make sure to peruse the blogroll to some wonderfully yummy creations.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

In Southern California, you know it's springtime when you start to see an abundance of gorgeous strawberries popping up at the farmers markets. Gaviota, Camarosa, Chandler Seascape...so many varieties to taste, all with their own textures and flavors.

Growing up in Orange County way back when, my family lived in an area where land originally devoted to strawberry fields and orange groves were transitioning into residential tracts. During strawberry season, my mom would give me a few dollars and send me across the street to the local strawberry farm to pick up a bounty of beautiful berries for my family to enjoy.

Today, most of those strawberries fields have all but disappeared from the Orange County landscape, and I'm sad that I took for granted the opportunity to buy beautiful fruit straight from the farm. Although dwindling in number, a few strawberry farms still exist in Orange County. Mary (aka Food Librarian) has a great post about her recent visit to one.
I usually enjoy strawberries simply as is, as they are so sweet and juicy and don't really need anything else to enhance their flavor. If I do make something, I want the strawberry to be the star, like this strawberry shortcake recipe.

The base of this recipe is a simple, slightly sweet delicate scone, which can be baked and cooled a few hours in advance. The shortcakes do not rise much when baked, but it has a wonderful cakey, crumbly texture---perfect for strawberries and whipped cream!
The components of this recipe is short and sweet - shortcake, strawberries (macerated with a little sugar, balsamic vinegar), and vanilla whipped cream.

I like to mash some of the strawberries with a little sugar, as it own juices create a beautiful syrup that is soaked up by the shortcake. A few drops of a good, aged balsamic vinegar really enhances the berry flavor. If you have a pint or two of strawberries sitting on your counter and wonder what to do with them, consider trying this simple and delicious recipe!

Strawberry Shortcake
serves 4

1 C AP flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter - cold and cut into little cubes
3 oz heavy cream
extra cream and sanding sugar for the biscuit topping

Strawberry Mixture
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2-3 Tbsp sugar, to taste
1 tsp good aged balsamic vinegar (optional)

Whipped Cream
2/3 C heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

For the Shortcakes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat and set aside.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix.
- Add the butter and cut into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (I like using my fingers to do this, but you could use two forks or a pastry cutter).
- Add the cream and stir to mix until the dough comes together. Use a light hand, and don't overwork.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and press together into a flat square shape, and roll out dough to 3/4 inches thick. Cut the dough into quarters, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with a little heavy cream and sprinkle with a little sanding sugar.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on baking rack to cool.

For the Strawberry Mixture
- Mix half of the strawberries with the sugar and balsamic vinegar, mashing gently with a fork to release the fruit juices.
- Toss in the remaining strawberries and set aside for 15 minutes to macerate.

For the Whipped Cream
- Whip the cream in a bowl with and electric mixer (or use a whisk if you've got strong arms!). When soft peaks form, add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Assemble the Shortcakes
- Slice each shortcake in half crosswise. For each shortcake, place the bottom half of one shortcake cut side up on a plate.
- Layer a generous spoonful of the strawberry mixture, then the whipped cream, and finish with the top half of the shortcake. You can top with more of the strawberry mixture or whipped cream, or both.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweet Cream Biscuits (TWD)

{Due to some serious procrastination, I'm doubling up on TWD this week, with the delicious Swedish Visiting Cake preceding this post.}

Flour, cream, sugar, baking powder, salt --- with this short and readily accessible list of ingredients, you can whip up these soft and fluffy Sweet Cream Biscuits.

I enjoy noshing on homemade biscuits - as long as someone else does the baking. My prior experiences with biscuit making have resulted with sad, flat, dense rounds of dough, so I've given up trying --- until now.
In this recipe, heavy cream is used in place of butter and milk, so I was definitely curious to see how these would turn out.

In the book, Dorie Greenspan calls for a combination of all-purpose and cake flour (alternatively, using 100% all-purpose flour will also work). After combining a short list of dry ingredients, a generous amount of heavy cream is added to make the dough.

As I worked with the sticky dough, I was already doubting that these biscuits would turn out. I've definitely been negatively conditioned by my previous biscuit fails. I cut the dough into rounds, popped them into the oven, and hoped for the best.

Biscuit success! The biscuits rose beautifully in the oven, and they came out golden brown with a wonderfully light and fluffy texture.
These biscuits don't need much more than a slathering of butter and jam, as they were so delicious on their own.

Thanks to Melissa of Love At First Bite for a fantastic selection this week...hop over to Melissa's blog for this recipe. Make sure to peruse the Tuesdays With Dorie blogroll for more biscuit deliciousness.

Swedish Visiting Cake (TWD)

I'm a week late in publishing last week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Swedish Visiting Cake. No excuses this time around - I just suffered from a case of chronic procrastination.

I definitely didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to rave about this ridiculously simple and totally yummy cake, so am doubling up with this week's TWD post for Sweet Cream Biscuits.
In essense, this is a one bowl cake that can can be prepped in popped in the oven in a matter of minutes. There is no leavener in this recipe, so the cake bakes up thin yet with a light, moist crumb.

I halved the recipe (which is for a 9 inch cast iron pan or cake pan), and it gave me enough batter for a 6 inch mini cast iron pan AND a 6 inch cake pan. In the cast iron pan, I topped the cake batter with sliced almonds and a sprinkling of sugar. The mini-cake only took 18 minutes to bake, and came out of the oven smelling heavenly!
For the cake pan version, I wanted to try a variation of the recipe that Dorie Greenspan shares in Serious Eats, which calls for the addition of sliced apples.
With the fruit addition, I should have known to bake the cake a bit longer. I took this cake out of the oven at the same time as the cast iron version, and as you can see I was a little premature. This cake needed 5-10 more minutes in the oven.
I definitely loved the almond topped version for it's simplicity and flavor. The use of a cast iron pan gave the cake a nice crunchy exterior crust, which was a nice contrast to the soft, moist interior.

I also enjoyed the apple version, but would omit the almond extract next time as the flavor was a bit overwhelming. I didn't get the crunchy crust using the cake pan, and would have loved to have a little texture contrast to the moist cake and cooked apples.

I am so glad that Nancy of The Dog Eats The Crumbs made this exceptional selection. This recipe is a gem, and I would have never considered making this cake on my own. Thanks Nancy --- this cake recipe is a keeper! Please visit Nancy's blog for this wonderful recipe, and check out Serious Eats for the apple version.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake (TWD)

This week is a Tuesdays With Dorie two-fer! Along with a post for a delicious Coconut Lime Tea Cake, you can read all about a little incident at the Tender Crumb casa which derailed my plans for posting on time last week.

This week's TWD selection is a Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake --- sounds pretty delicious doesn't it?
This bundt cake looks unassuming on the outside, but when you cut a slice you will be surprised with this beautiful marbling: the dark cake is flavored with bittersweet chocolate and coffee; light cake is flavored with vanilla.
Finely ground walnuts replace a portion of the flour as a dry ingredient. I added a little of the flour portioned for the recipe (1/4 cup) along with the walnuts to the food processor to grind them, as the flour will prevent the nuts from turning into a nut-butter.

I thought this cake was delicious, but was left wanting a bit more walnut flavor. You can definitely taste the chocolate, coffee and vanilla, which is a fantastic combination. If I didn't know about the walnuts, I would have had no idea that ground nuts were added to this cake.

Flavor aside, the cake is super moist, and it is definitely one that will keep for several days.

Setting aside my minor gripe about the flavor, this cake is definitely worth repeating, and I may experiment with a different nut next time.

For the complete recipe, please visit Erin's blog, When In Doubt...Leave It At 350.

Coconut Lime Tea Cake (TWD)

I totally dropped the ball and didn't get my Tuesdays With Dorie post up on time last week (s0rry Carmen!). I promise that I have a good reason, as you can see here (the poor girl looks completely miserable, doesn't she?):
You would think that just after turning a year old that my dog would become older and slighly wiser...wishful thinking! Siena was tearing through the house like a tazmanian devil and caught her leg on something, which resulted with a massive gash on her leg. Fast forward to a emergency visit to the vet's office, and Siena left with nine stitches and this beautiful lampshade. Today, the stitches have been removed and Siena is back to her mischievous ways.

Back to the baking! Last week's TWD selection for Coconut Tea Cake was one that my coconut lovin' hubs was looking forward to sampling, so I couldn't just skip over the recipe. It's a simple cake recipe with a double dose of coconut with unsweetened coconut milk and shredded coconut.
Dorie provides a number of suggestions to play around with the basic recipe. I was torn - the spice and sesame additions sounded delish, but the yummy sounding coconut-lime variation won me over.

The original recipe calls the cake to be baked in a bundt pan. As I've always associated a tea cake with individual little cakes, I ended up using a square muffin pan. I halved the recipe, which was the perfect amount for a dozen mini cakes.As I had extra lime juice leftover, I combined the juice with some powdered sugar to make a simple glaze.
YUM! These cakes were delicious! The cakes were wonderfully moist and the coconut-lime flavor was well-balanced with a hint of rum.
This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with the other suggested variations.

Thanks to Carmen of Carmen Cooks for a great pick! Make sure to visit Carmen's blog for the complete recipe and make this - I promise you won't regret it.
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