Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gingered Carrot Cookies, Crostata, Semolina Cake!

I am waaaaaay behind schedule this week. Not only did we host Thanksgiving dinner, but my parents came to visit (yeah!) and we also had my son's birthday party (I won't bother showing you a picture of the 12 brownies (from a box) with candles in each one.... boring).

So anyway, I'm going to get caught up on the sweets and treats I made last week.

We did a "rewind" (i.e. previous recipe) for Tuesday's with Dorie this week. I picked the Gingered Carrot Cookies that were chosen by Natalia from gatti fili e farina in August of this year. I didn't make them the first time around and figured I'd serve them on Thanksgiving.

These were a moist, spicy cookie that didn't really scream "carrot cake" but they had a great texture due to the coconut, carrots, raisins and nuts. I decided to pump them up a notch with a little cream cheese frosting on top. It seemed like an obvious choice. These were a big hit with the T-day crowd.

Next up is the Crostata we were challenged to make for the Daring Bakers. I chose to fill my crostata with the most lovely and delicious butterscotch pudding we made a couple of years ago for TWD. It's so good I want to hide it and not share with anyone.

OK, go ahead and say it, I won't get my feelings hurt... this is one of the most boring, drab, dull, tan desserts ever photographed and posted on the web.

This was another Thanksgiving dessert and I was lucky to get a picture.

The crostata crust was cookie like thanks to the inclusion of egg in the recipe and held up very well even after several days. A winner in my book, for sure.

Now a word from our sponsor... The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Last but not least is the Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake for French Fridays with Dorie.

This was a unique dessert. Honestly, I think it would have been perfect for brunch because it almost seemed like sweetened breakfast food. Not surprising since the ingredient list includes farina, which can be substituted with Cream of Wheat hot cereal.

Here's the thing, though. I do NOT like Cream of Wheat. And farina? Searching for that unusual ingredient was not going to happen during Thanksgiving week. Fortunately, I discovered that Malt-O-Meal hot cereal is also made with farina, and I just happen to love the stuff. So that's what I used.

It was quite tasty and had a very moist, dense texture. Almost like Italian polenta, if you've ever had that. But again, I would be more tempted to eat it for a weekend breakfast than serve it as dessert.

OK, that's about it! Now I can try to get caught up on this week's recipes for TWD and FFwD.

You can find the cookie recipe at Natalia's site. The Semolina Cake recipe isn't available, sadly, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan's book "Around my French Table". As for the crostata, I used the this version of the crust recipe...

Pasta Frolla

•1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
•1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
•a pinch of salt
•1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
•grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
•1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.

Making pasta frolla by hand:

1. Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
3. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
4. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
5. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
6. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
7. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Making pasta frolla with a food processor:

1. Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
2. Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
3. Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface
4. See step 3 above and continue as explained in the following steps (minus the lemon zest, which you have already added).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FFwD: Potato Gratin

I have to admit that 99% of the potato gratin I've eaten in my life came from a box. I might as well get this out of the way and admit too, that I really liked those boxed potatoes. A lot.

So I was both excited and curious how these would compare when I approached this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Potato Gratin.

Since it's too early as I type this and I'm half asleep, I'm going to get right to the punchline here... honestly, I didn't love the scratch version of this as much as the boxed. (I know, I know, not too classy.) I would have liked for it to be more, well, "cheesy" throughout. However, it was still quite tasty and I really liked the garlic infused cream. I think the cheese-factor could easily be remedied by sprinkling in cheese as the potatoes were layered in the dish, rather than saving it all for the topping.

So there you go! If you'd like to see the recipe, find yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Around my French Table". It's an absolutely lovely book and perfect for a Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TWD: Cranberry Lime Galette

Whitney, April, and Elizabeth of Celestial Confections chose the Cranberry Lime Galette for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

Perfect for November, wouldn't you say? Heaping full of cranberries, apple, and brown sugar, and accented with ginger and lime...

I don't know why I don't make more galettes. They couldn't be much simpler.

And the smell? If I could bottle that smell and sell it, I'd make millions.

This galette had the makings of the perfect Thanksgiving dessert. I just wish, wish, WISH it hadn't been too tart for my taste buds. I loved the flavors of the ginger and lime. I'm thinking if half of the cranberries were swapped out for apples or pears, this would have been perfect.

I did manage to nibble happily on the crust area, where there was less fruit. It was fantastic.

FYI, I followed the recipe exactly, but cut all of the ingredients down to 1/3 of the recipe.

OK, folks, Laurie has wisely and graciously given us a break from TWD next week, or we have the option of doing a rewind (a previous choice). So I might see you or might not. If not, have a fabulous Thanksgiving! For this week's recipe, please check out Whitney, April, and Elizabeth's blog, or Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Almost Perfect) Pumpkin Pie

Perfection is such an elusive thing, isn't it? Especially when it comes to baking. And pumpkin pie.

When I say "almost perfect" about this pie, I mean 98% of the way toward perfect. My 2% of criticism is a minor point, really. Easily fixed. I thought it needed a little more cinnamon. That's all. Throw in another teaspoon and yes, this would be THE perfect pumpkin pie (at least according to my tastebuds). Maybe the folks who aren't quite as enthusiastic about cinnamon would think it was 100% perfect as-is.

Of course the recipe came from Cook's Illustrated. Of course! The folks who make it their life's work to tinker with recipes over and over and over and over and over and over.... (multiply that times about 10) until they get it just right.

Thank you, Cook's Illustrated. This pie is definitely Thanksgiving table worthy.

Oh, and just for fun, I'll show you my "photo shoot" from when I made this last winter. Ready for snow yet?

Baking Notes:

This recipe has some unique steps. For example -

- the recipe uses a 50:50 mixture of pumpkin and canned sweet potatoes. What? I know. Sweet potatoes give a surprisingly nice depth of flavor and no of my tasters guessed the substitution.

- the pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and spices are cooked on the stovetop first to drive off moisture and concentrate flavor

- the filling is strained, giving a super smooth and creamy filling.

Happy baking! Hope you enjoy this and if you try it, I'd love to hear what you thought.

Makes one 9-inch pie. Published November 1, 2008, Cook's Illustrated magazine. Thanks so much to Cook's Illustrated for permission to include the recipe here.

If candied yams are unavailable, regular canned yams can be substituted. The best way to judge doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. The center 2 inches of the pie should look firm but jiggle slightly. The pie finishes cooking with residual heat; to ensure that the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator. To ensure accurate cooking times and a crisp crust, the filling should be added to the prebaked crust when both the crust and filling are warm. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.



1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup vegetable shortening , cold, cut into two pieces
2 tablespoons vodka , cold (see note)
2 tablespoons cold water

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

1. For the Crust: Process 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
4. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 10 additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove pie plate and baking sheet from oven.
6. For the Filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Technique - Cooking the Filling

Simmering the filling for pumpkin pie is an unusual step, but its benefits are threefold. First, cooking the pumpkin and sweet potatoes drives off moisture and concentrates their taste. Second, cooking the spices along with the pumpkin allows their flavors to bloom. Third, heating the filling allows it to firm up quickly in the oven, rather than soaking into the pastry and causing the crust to become soggy.

FFwD: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

This week, for French Fridays with Dorie, I made the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux. (Les Paresseux means "lazy people".)

In keeping with the theme, I think I will be one of those "les paresseux" and make this a short and sweet post. In a word, the chicken was delicious. It was also moist and full of taste from the variety of spices, garlic, and of course, salt and pepper. Dorie definitely has the roasting of chickens down to a "T".

If you'd like to see the recipe, you won't find it posted (sorry, them's the rules) but you can turn to Dorie Greenspan's book "Around my French Table".

Later, alligator!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TWD: Not-Just-for Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen chose Not-Just-for Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

Think "Giant Soft Sandwich Sugar Cookie with Fruit Filling". That pretty much sums it up.

A layer of shortbread is pressed into a spring-form pan. Or maybe grated into a spring-form pan.

Some of the TWD crowd were discussing a method of first freezing the shortbread dough and then grating it into the pan rather than rolling or pressing it in. I guess the thinking is that minimal fussing with the dough would result in a lighter, softer crust.

I figured I'd give it a try. Here's the bottom layer.

Rather than making the cranberry jam filling, I went the lazy route and used ready-made strawberry rhubarb filling. I then grated my top crust on.

It made for a light and tender "cake", er, giant fruit-filled sugar cookie.

I really enjoyed this. I would like to try it again sometime with the cranberry filling.

My only problem was that I underbaked it and the center was a little gooey, but that was no big deal really. (I made 1/2 batch and baked it in a 6" pan. )

Thanks so much to Jessica for picking this tasty dessert. If you'd like to see the recipe, please stop by Jessica's blog, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Friday, November 5, 2010

FFwD: Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

November is going to be an interesting month at French Fridays with Dorie. The members voted on a number of recipes and the top four vote-getters are the recipes for the month. The twist is that members get to pick the order in which they bake the chosen recipes.

One of the more intriguing recipes of the month is the one I chose for the week, Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans.

A savory flan, it has few ingredients but is long on taste.

Pumpkin, eggs, and cream are whizzed in the food processor and poured into the awaiting ramekins. The mixture is topped with chunks of Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, then baked in a water bath.

And how was it? If you like Gorgonzola, you'll like this, like my husband did. However, if you don't like Gorgonzola... well, yea, you're gonna like it... not so much.

I didn't know I didn't like Gorgonzola. I don't like it. A lot. Sadly, I didn't like this dish. BUT, I'm guessing a change-out of the type of cheese and I would have liked this just fine. The pumpkin custard was tasty and light, from what I could tell with my one bite.

OK, that's it for this week. Head on over to the FFwD site if you'd like to see the rest of the month's line-up or check out other member's dishes.

For the recipe, get ahold of a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, Around my French Table.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TWD: Peanuttiest Blondies

Nicole of Bakeologie chose Peanuttiest Blondies for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

This was basically a peanut butter chocolate chip bar cookie, with a little cinnamon thrown in for good measure.

Did you every watch Sesame Street as a kid? There was the "Which One of These is Not Like the Others?" segment that I remember liking.

I was reminded of it when I tried these blondies.

Chocolate chip cookie type base?


Chocolate chips?


Peanut butter?



(* * * buzzer sound * * *)

I don't know why I added the cinnamon. I knew I wouldn't like it.

Cinnamon just doesn't GO with chocolate and peanut butter. In my humble (or not so humble) opinion.

Oh well, these would have been perfect and well worth the effort without the cinnamon. I'll definitely try them again someday without it. (Don't get me wrong, I do love cinnamon. Just not when it's not coupled with chocolate.)

Thanks to Nicole for this promising pick. Check out her blog for the recipe, or Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".