September 29, 2008

TWD Rewind: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

This week's official recipe for TWD is Creme Brulee. You can find the recipe on the blog of this week's host, Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake.

I was so happy to see the offer for a rewind as I'm not a big fan of creme brulee. It's a bit rich for me and there was no way I could justify making it for just me and kittydad. Now, I don't seem to have a problem with making ice cream for just the two of us...and I know it's essentially the same ingredients but still, I couldn't do creme brulee this week. Finally, I don't own a torch so that sealed the deal to go for a rewind. (For non-TWD'ers, this means making a recipe that was already made in the past but you missed).

Feeling a bit over-sated and over-sweetened this weekend from all the baking of weeks prior, I opted for the least sweet thing I could find on the list: pecan sour cream biscuits. I've been wanting to make these for a while. I L-O-V-E biscuits. It has taken me a lot of practice to get the hang of biscuits - flaky, light, tender is the goal but it's harder than you might think to perfect it.

Chock full of crunchy pecans.

I didn't have sour cream in the house (well, I did, actually but it was a putrid shade of green), so I decided to sub 0% Greek yogurt. It worked great, and kept the fat content down. I made mine a little smaller and a little taller than Dorie calls for - they sort of fell over a bit on the side, rather charming, don't you think?

Leaning tower of biscuit!
Check out those flaky layers!

These are really yummy biscuits. I love the crunchy pecans and the slightly tangy taste.

Yum. If you want the recipe, just leave me a comment and I'll email it to you.

September 27, 2008

A Great Loss

Paul Newman was a terrific actor, a true humanitarian and a major philanthropist who gave much of his wealth to good causes. He was also an early leader in the organic food movement, bringing organic packaged goods to grocery store shelves before many people embraced the idea.

As I live not far from his hometown, I have heard many stories from people who met him and apparently he was a very friendly, humble and funny man.

He will be missed.

September 23, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake

After not loving the last two cookies we made for TWD, I was happy to have a success in our house this week. Today's recipe was Dimply Plum Cake, chosen by fellow blogger Bake-En. You can find the recipe on her blog.

I had made the plum cake about a year ago and wrote a note in my book that said, "Don't overbake - a little bland." So this time, I added some sliced almonds to the top, a bit of almond extract to the batter and sprinkled the plums with cinnamon sugar before baking. Then I made sure to start checking the cake after only 30 minutes and I took it out at 35 mintues, instead of Dorie's stated 40 minutes. I thought it was perfect this go-round!

This plum cake reminds me of the famous New York Times Plum Torte, which definitely dates me as a baker and devotee of the NYT's food section (I started both hobbies at a very young age - really, I did!). To learn more, go here for an article and recipe. It's a delicious cake, too. I think baked plums are soooo yummy - much better than when they're raw. Baking them concentrates their jammy quality and turns them into a whole other fruit.

I love simple cakes with fruit. Especially because they take so well to adding a dollop of something else. In this case, I decided to try out Dorie's Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. Man, is that a good ice cream! The unchurned mixture tastes like melted caramel candies. Once churned, the ice cream has a fabulous "finish" (as they say in the wine world) of rich, dark caramel flavor that will make you really, really happy.

I used, once again, my method of replacing 1/4 cup of the sugar with 2 Tbs light corn syrup stirred in at the end. This guarantees a very smooth, scoopable ice cream -- I highly recommend trying it if you churn your own. Ever since I discovered this trick, I have become a bit obsessed with making ice cream. It's getting to be a bit of a problem in the house in terms of calorie intake, but I have to say there's nothing like digesting depressing economic news while ingesting a scoop of perfect caramel ice cream. A spoonful of ice cream helps the bad news go down, as I say.

September 16, 2008

TWD: Two for One Post

First, just to catch myself up with the TWD schedule, I finally baked the malted whopper drops. I can't say I loved these. Maybe I would have enjoyed them more if I used Chocolate Ovaltine? Or if they had chocolate chunks only and no chewy, sweet Whoppers in them? Hard to say, and I'll probably never know as I don't feel inclined to make them again. BUT, it was fun to experiment and I now own real malted milk powder which I will need to use again, perhaps for ice cream.

As for this week's recipe, I did make them on time! Chocolate Chunkers were this week's challenge and I managed to bang them out on Sunday, despite being in a state of complete exhaustion from 14 hours of hard work on Saturday, combined with very little sleep for the previous few days. What better way to reward yourself for working hard than with chocolate cookies?
Unfortunately, this was another cookie that I liked but wouldn't go out of my way to make again. I'm not normally so finicky about cookies but these just had too much going on. I made mine with bittersweet chunks, white chocolate chunks, dried apricots and peanuts.

I personally prefer a cookie with a higher ratio of dough to chip or nut. I get the idea that these are supposed to be chockablock-filling cookies but I thought all the flavors competed and got in each other's way. Plus, talk about an expensive cookie! Sheesh, I could have made 3 batches of an ordinary cookie for what I spent on the additions for this one.

Thank you to Claudia of Fool For Food for choosing these. You can find the recipe on her blog.

Stay tuned for next week: Dimply Plum Cake. I've made it once already and am looking forward to it a second time.

September 9, 2008

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops: Coming Soon!

I bought the whoppers. I have plenty of cocoa, chocolate and butter. But I could not find malted milk powder (other than Ovaltine, which I don't like...) to save my life. I ended up ordering it online from King Arthur Flour so I'm hoping it arrives this week. I'm going to make this week's TWD goodie, I swear I am, but it may need to wait until the weekend.

In the meantime, I leave my fellow baker-bloggers and faithful readers with a really funny video chock-full of two of my favorite things, cake and cats. I double-dare you not to bounce your head and tap your foot along to this, with a big smile on your face.

September 1, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster-wiches!

Dorie said these cookies are great with ice cream. Um, no...sorry Dorie, you're wrong on this one. These cookies are INCREDIBLE with ice cream and make outstanding ice cream sandwiches. These are ice cream sandwiches that could change the course of human history. If everyone in the world could just eat one of these, they would lay down their arms, shed their prejudices and sing kumbaya all day long. Because there's no way you can hate anyone if you've had Dorie's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters sandwiched with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. And if you eat one once a day, you might be a little chunky yourself but boy, will you be at peace with the world.

I made the recipe using Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter and Trader Joe's 72% bittersweet chocolate. The cookies came together in a flash. I rested the batter in the refrigerator for 24 hours, which I now regularly do with every cookie dough if I have time, based on my ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. The cookies on their own are great. I love the oatmeal combined with the peanut butter, and the hint of cinnamon is nice, too. They are perfect for ice cream sandwiches because they are chewy and won't become too hard when frozen.

After baking, I let the cookies cool thoroughly. In the meantime, I made vanilla bean ice cream, using Melissa Murphy's recipe from my second favorite baking book. Melissa's trick is to incorporate powdered skim milk powder, which absorbs some of the water in the milk and cream (reminiscent of Dorie's preference for lining pie doughs with bread crumbs to absorb fruit juices). Reducing the water in the base means that there will be fewer ice crystals, making the ice cream softer and creamier.

I also made a batch of chocolate chip-chocolate ice cream sandwiches, using a new cookie recipe that is great, along with my own variation of chocolate ice cream, inspired by David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop recipe and Lori Longbotham's one in Luscious Chocolate Desserts (a very fine book!). I am madly in love with this chocolate ice cream. Tom could barely tear himself away from the ice cream bowl after I made it. It is really, really good.

You certainly don't have to make your own ice cream, but it really makes a difference and it's nice to skip out on all the additives and preservatives in commercial brands. Plus, if you make the sandwiches on the same day that you churn the ice cream and time things properly, you will have ice cream at the perfect consistency for spreading without needing to wait for defrosting.

Most recipes call for wrapping the sandwiches in saran wrap. That sounded messy and unattractive to me (saran is so slimy when wet), so I used squares of parchment paper which struck me as very Martha. The parchment is great because you can just fold it down and use it to keep your fingers dry while you march down the path to world peace, one bite after another.

Ice cream sandwiches are a great dessert for a party. I made mine a full week before our Labor Day BBQ and loved not having to bake something while doing all my other preparations. They are a real crowd pleaser for both kids and adults and your guests will swoon when you tell them what's for dessert. Plus, they don't require plates or forks!

You can get the cookie recipe on Stefany's blog, Proceed with Caution, and my ice cream recipes are below. Thanks Stefany for choosing this recipe, which inspired me to finally try making ice cream sandwiches!

Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream
From The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (whole, skim or 2%)
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup dry skim milk powder
5 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Fill a large pot with 3 inches of water and bring to simmer. Set a large bowl over the top, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
Remove the bowl. In this bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, sugar, salt, skim milk powder, yolks, seeds from vanilla bean and bean, and vanilla extract.
Place bowl on top of simmering pot. Cook, stirring, until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula or approx 180 degrees on candy thermometer. This may take as long as 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use same ingredients to make a classic custard).
Cool custard in a larger bowl of ice water. Strain and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
Churn in ice cream maker.
Makes about 1 quart.

Really Rich Chocolate Ice Cream
Inspired by David Lebovitz & Lori Longbotham

2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbs Dutch cocoa powder
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to blend. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer at very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Then stir in remaining 1 cup of cream. Pour into a large bowl, scraping saucepan thoroughly, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Warm the milk, brown sugar and salt in same saucepan. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through strainer into the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth, then add the vanilla and corn syrup. Put the bowl into a large bowl filled with ice water, and stir until cool.

Chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight and then churn in ice cream maker.

(The corn syrup helps keep the ice cream creamy and prevents it from becoming rock hard. I am not generally a fan of corn syrup but a little here & there is not too awful and you're still eating much fewer additives than if you eat commercial ice cream.)