January 26, 2009

Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread (with pears)

This week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie is a dark, chocolately gingerbread. Many gingerbread recipes rely simply on powdered ginger and molasses for their spiciness, but this one calls for a handful of chopped fresh ginger as well. Dorie recommends adding some stem ginger in syrup or candied ginger but I decided to add some poached pear chunks instead, just for something different. I had saved the poaching liquid from the French Pear Tart, which quickly sweetened and softened a couple of pears.

Dorie's gingerbread incorporates chocolate in two forms - melted and chunked. I loved the chunks - ginger and chocolate are such a great combination. I skipped the chocolate frosting that she also recommends, as it just didn't seem necessary to me (and I was being lazy).

As for the cake itself, I found mine to be almost too molasses-y - it verged on a licorice flavor that was just a bit too strong for me, even though I like licorice. Mine also looks darker than Dorie's and some other bloggers'. I wonder if my organic molasses was too dark, perhaps. But nevertheless, I liked it and it was a hit with my taste-testers.

I made Dorie's ginger-infused whipped cream as well -it was fantastic! You just steep some fresh ginger into heavy cream, let it cool, then whip with some sugar. I have added maple syrup, vanilla beans and other flavors to whipped cream before but the ginger was so good. I can't wait to try it with pumpkin pie. I really think gingerbread calls for whipped cream - the cream provides a nice contrast to the spices and makes the whole experience much more divine than just a piece of spicy cake.

Thank you to Sherry of Sherry Trifle for choosing this week's recipe and reminding me how much I love gingerbread, especially when it's "mitt schlag." You can find the recipe on Sherry's blog.

I'd like to leave you with a recent picture of one of my kitties, Go Go Boots. I just love this picture (and its subject, too!).

January 13, 2009

Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins (TWD)

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake chose Dorie's Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins. I have talked about my love for all things corn before, so I was really happy to try a new corn muffin. These are yummm-eeeee. They are studded with corn, cilantro, jalapeno & red pepper which adds such a great kick and tons of flavor. The crumb is tender and they are really buttery.

A lot has been written about the Southern/Northern debate over sweet vs unsweetened cornbread. Personally, I like it both ways, according to the menu and my mood. I love it baked in cast iron so it gets a nice crust and I generally like to add a bit of honey or maple syrup, but I sometimes prefer it unsweetened too -- despite my Northeastern origins.

In these muffins, I think the small amount of sugar works, because they have a lot of spiciness from the hot peppers and it balances out. I love how colorful they are and that they're a nice change from straight-up cornbread. We had them one night with chili and another night with an orange-chipotle pork stew -- they were great with both, or on their own in the morning.

If you'd like to see the recipe, go to Rebecca's blog. You can also see what all the other TWD bakers thought by checking out the blogroll.

January 5, 2009

TWD: French Pear Tart

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection is the French Pear Tart chosen by our patron saint of baking herself, Ms. Dorie Greenspan.

I was excited to write this post until I realized that I actually have some critiques of the recipe and I soooo don't want to offend Dorie, especially on a week when she might actually read all 200+ posts. So Dorie, if you're here, if you made it to the letter K in the alphabetical listing, I just first want to say how much I admire and respect your work (and you). I love the book, I have at least 10 pounds of Dorie baking weight now added to my frame and many happy friends who enjoy the treats I bring them weekly. I have learned so much from the book!

Nevertheless.....oh and I so hate to go here but....I have to say that this recipe had me more confused than most.

So, Dorie, here are my questions: Was I supposed to knead that tart dough or leave it crumbly? It seemed like a contradiction in terms to me.

Was I supposed to leave the stem on the pears after halving them - I think you meant that, but I totally didn't get it even after reading the recipe twice and I ended up slicing them entirely. I think that's okay but after the fact, I wished I had left the pear halves intact and then fanning which is what I think you intended us to do (oops).

The almond cream seemed a little bland to me (so sorry, Dorie! just being honest here!). Did it maybe need a dash of salt? I have learned so much about the value of added salt from you Dorie, I really think it was needed here too.

To counter the blandness of the almond filling, I decided to brush my tart shell with some melted bittersweet chocolate after the partial baking. I loved it like that, though my husband thought it ended up too sweet and too rich. I of course had no problem with either of those things, since I am still eating it, 4 days later.

As for the tart filling "browning" in the oven, that never happened. No matter how long I left it in there, it seemed to reach one shade of golden and never go beyond it. I was also worried my pears were too wet as it looked very moist even after baking 15 minutes longer than specified, but I finally just took it out. Then I thought I had overbaked it because when it cooled, the filling had separated a bit from the pears and wasn't so pretty. Nonetheless, it turned out pretty darn yummy.

I loved the idea of poaching the pears first. If we liked alcohol in our desserts at my house, I might try poaching them in red wine & cinnamon next time. Another idea is to try adding some chocolate to the almond cream filling and make it a really chocolatey pear tart. Clearly, I need to make this one again and I know one little boy who might agree...

Bernie enjoying his tart & cake!