Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

I think this was the first time I didn't have some kind of accident when baking for TWD. I'd begun to wonder what happened to my baking skills -- I haven't taken anything to work since the key lime coconut pie.

YUM, YUM, YUM!!! I made a double batch and took it to work. A co-worker immediately asked one of his staff if she'd go out and get ice cream -- and she did! It really made the dish.

I have to admit that all these lovely juices did not thicken up. I think it was because the berries were frozen and the cornstarch wouldn't stick to it. There were no complaints and it went very well over the ice cream. And everyone just loved the crust.
Of course, I had to make a mini for myself, to make sure it tasted all right before I foisted it off on my co-workers. It did.
Thank you Beth of Our Sweet Life for picking this dessert. I think I have about 1/4 cup heavy cream left.

Monday, June 16, 2008

TWD : Cream Puff Ring

I have to admit, I didn't think the mint thing sounded all that good. I infused with lemon peel and vanilla bean instead. Besides, I wanted to add berries since I missed making the pie last week. Also, I just used water for the choux pastry (I've never heard of using milk in it before). Still, in reading everyone's comments, I had the same problem; the ring didn't puff and was soggy inside although the puffs were just fine. It is so reassuring to find out that I'm not the only one who had this problem.

Choux pastry is a little like magic, isn't it? The first time I made cream puffs, I just knew as I was putting the pans in the oven that there was no way those flat little blobs were going to become golden brown, air-filled, well, puffs. Magic!

This is a picture of the cook's treat -- as soon as I finish this posting, these puffs are going to be history. What is it about choux pastry and whipped cream anyway -- they make each other taste better.

And speaking of whipped cream, I can't believe how decadent I've become -- I don't even blink twice now when I pick up a quart of whipping cream at Costco.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Brownies

There's no picture of my brownies this week. I fell asleep and they baked for almost 3 hours! They didn't burn, but formed a thick crust on top and the rest sank into a chocolate mass that had an unpleasant texture -- not deliciously gooey like the pics I've seen in others' posts. I trashed them (you know they were bad when I won't take them to work).

I'll be out of town for the Berry Tart, but will be back the following week for the next TWD. And the next. I want to make sure I get my two posts for June!

I tried the instructions for automatic subscriptions to TWD -- wow! does that make it easier to review the posts. And I get to see what TWDers publish the rest of the week. It's an amazing, energetic group. The one "bake" I do wears me out.

I am always inspired by everyones' posts -- this is a talented group of people. The pictures are great and posts look like they were taken right out of a magazine. It's one thing to share what you bake with others as at treat for them -- very satisfying. But sharing with other bakers is a whole different experience and I look forward to it every week (even before I joined).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

These past few weeks participating in TWD have been so much fun. Even though everything is not successful, I look forward to the weekly baking and posting of the pictures. The comments are so encouraging and I'm thankful for every one of them. Of course, the recipes are wonderful. I was shopping at a nearby Ross store this last week and found Dorie's book on sale for $9.99!!! I snatched it right up. I'm sure it'll make a great gift for someone, if I can bring myself to part with it.

On to the sticky buns. Although they don't look so great, they taste wonderful (they looked magnificent the first time I took them out of the pan -- I had to put them back in the pan and the oven for another 10 minutes because they weren't quite done). The house smells delicious also.

Working with this dough was like working with stretchy butter, it melted at the least touch. In spite of seeming totally fragile, the dough held up and made incredibly delicious and tender sticky buns.


For the Glaze:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces) (I used closer to 2-1/2 cups - some broken up some whole halves)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (spreadable)

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dought for Golden Brioche Loaves (page 48 of book), chilled and ready to shape

Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze evenly into the buttered pan. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the glaze.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bar on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.

With a chef's knive, using a gentle sawing motion, trip just a tiny bit from the roll, to make the ends even. Cut the remaining log into one-inch slices. Fit buns into pan, cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Getting ready to bake: When the uns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes.

Buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. Careful -- the glaze is super hot and super sticky.

Monday, May 19, 2008

TWD: Madeleines

Well, I had just a slight problem -- they didn't want to come out of the pan. I made the classic lemon and for a second batch, I made brown sugar with pecans. These are the "brown sugar" madeleines. The lemon looked even worse.

I'm sure that part of the problem is that I overfilled the little shells.

Refrigerating overnight didn't produce the "characteristic hump". If I recall, when I tried Julia Child's recipe many, many years ago, the hump failed to appear also.

Well, they taste okay. If I put enough powdered sugar on them, probably no one will notice the missing pieces.


2/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
2 teasppons pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Confectioners sugar for dusting

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines.

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds and dust insides with flour and tap out excess.

Spoon batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until golden and tops spring back when touched. Remove pan from oven and release the madeleines from the molds b rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers ofr a butter knife. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

Monday, May 12, 2008

TWD: Florida Pie

Pretty nice looking meringue for my first time making one. Surprisingly, to make it, the egg whites are heated up with the sugar, before being beaten.

Tastes like yummy (to quote my grand-nephew) -- didn't think I'd like the coconut, but it's good. Love the meringue, although I normally don't. Could be because I misread the amount of sugar and used 1/2 cup instead of 1/4 cup.

Pie recipe:

1 9-inch graham cracker crust
1-1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, separated
1 14-ounce sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar

Center rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Coconut cream: Put cream and 1 cup of coconut in saucepan and ring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue until cream is reduced by half and mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape cream mixture into a bowl and set aside while preparing lime filling.

Lime filling: Using a mixer, beat egg youlks on high speed until thick and pale. Reduce speed to low and beat in condensed milk. Add half of the lime juice. Mix until incorporated, Add remaining juice, and continue mixing until incorporated.

Pie: Spread coconut cream on bottom of pie crust and pour over lime filling. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool.

Meringue: Preheat broiler. Head egg whites and sugar in saucepan over medium low heat, whisking continually, until hot to the touch. Transfer to mixer bowl and beat on high speed until they cool down to room temperature. Spread over pie and place under broiler until browned.

Refrigerate or freeze pie until serving time. Thaw before serving.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I love Paris part 2

Sainte Chapelle -- it's difficult to take in. All the walls are tall, narrow stained glass windows.

As the sun moves across the sky, different panels light up . . .

all telling stories from the Bible. Sainte Chapelle was a reliquary, built to house what is thought to be the original crown of thorns and a piece of the cross. These items are now in the possession of Notre Dame.

And, as with all good gothic churches, it has its rose window.

Sainte Chapelle is just blocks away from Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite.

I wasn't going to visit Notre Dame on this trip, but the parents of the two-year-old waiting in line in front of me mentioned that there was a Nativity set up for the Christmas season (on seeing the donkey in the Nativity the boy had asked his parents, "Where's Shrek?" ) Because it was Christmastime, services were being conducted throughout the day. The Nativity was about half of life-size and photos of desert scenes were projected on mini-screens behind the figures. Visitors passed through in respectful silence.

The day I arrived, I visited Les Halles. My plan was to see the famous cooking store where Julia Child bought her cooking equipment -- Dehillerin. Although I did browse the store, other sights in the area included Eglise St Eustache (I believe that in the foreground is the Fontaine de la Paix) . . .

with its unusual sculpture in front.

The Centre Georges Pompidou, housing modern art.

And around the corner, the Stravinsky fountain with all its unusual sculptures . . .

And although I took loads of pictures of apartment buildings because of all the chimneys, I couldn't resist including this building because it looked like it had been cut in half.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I love Paris

Who doesn't??? Well, I know there are some who don't but, vive la difference, n'est-ce pas?

I was fortunate enough to go this past December, by myself, not on a tour. It was the third time. First time -- 1977, tour. Second time -- 2006, tour. Just a couple of days both times. But this time I stayed almost a week. I have decided I need to do this much more often.

Although I did visit some of the "must sees", I decided I had to go to some of the places that weren't on the tours the previous trips -- mainly, the Musee D'Orsay, Saint Chapelle, and the famous department stores that I had never visited -- Galeries Lafayette, Au Printemps, and Bon Marche.

I also was able to attend a pastry class for amateurs at the Pavillon Elysee of the famous patisserie Le Notre (that these are available I found on the wonderful blog "Paris Breakfasts").

This is the place. All decked out for Christmas with pink lights!!! As its name suggests, it's right on the Champs Elysees.

Laduree, also on the Champs Elysees, had purple lights, although it's hard to tell from this picture.

Since it was raining (it rained practically the whole trip, but, I told myself, my feet are wet in Paris), I stopped in and had a coffee and a chocolate cream puff.

Walking down the Champs Elysees is another thing I did this time that I had never done before. The Hotel Georges V, which apparently merits its own metro stop, is halfway between the Arc de Triomphe and the Jardin de Tuileries.

The Georges V was featured in one of my favorite movies for Paris scenes -- French Kiss starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. Another great movie for scenes of Paris is American Dreamer with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti. And the Crillon was the starring hotel of that movie.

But back to MY trip . . .

I really wanted to see the inside of the Musee D'Orsay. I had viewed the outside of the museum on the previous visit on a trip up and down the Seine on a bateau mouche.

Once a train station, the museum houses a magnificent collection of impressionist art. The two clocks on the facade are backlit once you are inside the building . . .

And although the location behind this one has yet to be put to use, the other is the focal point of the cafe. The ornate station clock inside speaks of the grandeur of rail travel in the past . . .

The impressionist works are housed on the top floor and although I wasn't able photograph the artwork, the views of the city are living art.

A gorgeous time of year.

Next posting . . .

Sainte Chapelle and other pics of Paris.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Plastic Bag Soapbox

I was delighted by some pastel string shopping bags that were spotlighted in one of my favorite magazines -- Romantic Homes (April 2008 issue, theme: French Style, ooh, la, la!).

These are the fiesta-colored bags and I like them even better. And, although I love to shop, and I love pretty things, the website where these are for sale -- Reusable Bags -- is disturbing. This website, in addition to selling attractive, reusable shopping bags, is devoted to informing the public about the environmental dangers of plastic bags. At the top of the web page, there is a counter of the plastic bags being consumed this year and about 100,000 are added each 30 seconds or so. I was feeling pretty smug about my plastic bag usage, because, after all, I recycle. Or so I thought . . . recycling these flimsy plastic bags is not economically lucrative and, instead of recycling, many are sent to third world countries to be incinerated.

I have been carting my water to work in a reusable plastic bottle, taking my sandwiches in reusable plastic containers, but ditching the shopping bags was something to do in the future, when it became a priority, when I wasn't busy with other things. Well, after reading this, it has become a priority.

It's hard. Stores have set up check out stations to be efficient and immediately on scanning your purchases, cashiers automatically put them into a plastic bag. I have to ask them to remove them because "See, I have my own reusable bag . . .that you sold me . . .with your store's logo on it."

We need to become aware of what we are doing to the Earth. Check the website, check your conscience. Buy some pretty string bags (made of organic cotton -- but that's another story).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A visit to the conservatory

I was talking to a couple of fellow commuters the other morning who are avid gardeners. Anticipating Spring, talking about what is coming up in their gardens and what inspires them, the discussion turned to Bartholdi Park's riot of colors last spring. So, I visited the park today to see if it had anything to offer in February.

Nope, pretty bare. Yes, that is the US Capitol dome in the background. Bartholdi Park is on the Capitol grounds.

The beautiful fountain is dry. And in spite of the blue skies, the wind is blowing and it's cold -- my jacket is not up to the task. But across the street, there is refuge . . .

the conservatory, aka the United States Botanical Garden. It, too, is part of the Capitol grounds. It's warm inside, even steamy . . .

Misters for the jungle keep it humid

If you prefer dry heat, they also have a desert.

And they even have a riot of color because right now there's a special display of orchids -- "an alphbet garden of orchids"

Pretty Miltonias with their pansy-like faces . . .

f - is for fragrance,

and these cattleyas are right at home in the "fragrance" display . . .

Orchids can take unexpected forms like this Dendrochilum . . .

Lady slipper orchids, like these, are my favorites . . .

The front gallery where this show is taking place has two rectangular pools lined with orchids

There's nothing like phalenopsis for a variety of color . . .
and they're easy to grow, too.

And while the park seems pretty dismal in February, a foretase of the spring display to come -- Snowdrops in bloom.