Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

It was my birthday earlier this month and I felt like baking for it (what else is new?!) so we had a small family dinner party which turned into a bit of a potluck/takeout party because the heat was just too much to have the oven on all day. I did, however, manage to make a few things and of course a birthday cake (well, cupcakes)...24-Karat Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Icing from Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions (page 239). These cupcakes were wonderful! They were moist and flavorful and topped with a delicious citrusy cream cheese frosting.

The roasted carrots pictures are actually from a few months ago but I stumbled on them when sorting through some pictures and thought they were so pretty that I wanted to share. I get a vegetable/fruit delivery from Boston Organics every other week but for a while was doing all vegetables on a weekly basis and was getting a TON of carrots, so roasted carrots and onions became my "thing." I love Boston Organics - a shot of the inside of my 2/3 vegetable, 1/3 fruit box is below. They deliver right to my door and I can even add on items like organic strawberries (fav!), other fruit/veg, fresh bread, coffee beans or chocolate bars. Love!

my cats showing their party spirit...I guess it's too hot for them too.

my delivery...oh, yum

carrots and rosemary

chopped and into the pan

salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar go over the top and get stirred in

I roast them at a pretty high temp to get some good caramelizing action going on


this is my new favorite rice - 6 different grains! I get it from the Japanese grocery store

all the different grains

I usually mix in some white sushi rice (1/4-1/3 of the total amount)

my wonderful rice cooker - perfect rice every time!

rinse, add water to the line corresponding to the number of cups of rice, let soak for several hours...
and then the rice cooker does the rest

now on to my birthday cupcakes!

everything mixed together except the carrots and nuts

fold in the carrots and nuts

into their little paper cups and...

...voila, cute little carrot cupcakes

the cream cheese frosting has both lemon and orange was amazing!

frosted and ready to enjoy

moist and delicious!

Bye for now...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sugar-Crusted Popovers

In addition to the buttery-almondy-lemony Gâteau Breton I made in my baking frenzy last weekend, I also made these amazingly addictive, over-the-top yummy, incredible Sugar-Crusted Popovers. The recipe is courtesy of David Lebovitz (his recipe is adapted, in part, from a Maida Heatter popover recipe). The only change I made was to the baking temperature. My usual popover recipe is from Julia Child's Baking with Julia and she calls for baking at a higher temp to start and then lowering the temp to dry out the inside a bit. So that's what I did.

With the dusting of cinnamon sugar, they kind of reminded me of a fresher, moister, eggier fried dough. They were absolutely delicious and I was on a sugar high all day. They'd be wonderful for a brunch party - some baked eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, coffee and, of course, these wonderful sugary popovers.

They were super fast and easy to make - everything except the flour goes into the blender...whirl...add flour...whirl again. Done! I didn't have a popover pan so I baked them in a cupcake pan. Easy! Bake them up, brush with melted butter, dredge in sugar. Delicious!

mise en simple.

giving it a whirl

then the batter is poured into a buttered pan

the melted butter and cinnamon and sugar for the crust

I love popovers


...and incredibly tasty!

Bye for now...

Gâteau Breton (RHC)

I've been taking a little break from weekly baking because it's been a bit of a challenge for me, weight-wise,  to have such delicious treats in the house constantly. Unlike many of my fellow HCB and ABC bakers, I haven't masted the math of dividing the recipes into smaller proportions so I usually end up making the full size called for in the recipe. I think my husband and I need to start having more dinner parties and "book club" meetings so I can share more of these sweets with family and friends.

But, as always, the kitchen beckoned me back and I went a little crazy baking this past weekend. I wanted something quick and easy and light - it's supposed to be 100 degrees today...eek! - so made a Gâteau Breton from Rose's Heavenly Cakes (page 69). I also made some amazing Sugar-Crusted Popovers from a David Lebovitz recipe. I love his blog!

Other than toasting and grinding the nuts - I hate dirtying my food processor just to grind up a bit of nuts! - the Gâteau Breton was really easy to make. It was similar to shortbread but not as buttery or dense. The recipe said it would get more like a shortbread the day after it was made, but I didn't really find that to be true (or maybe I was expecting it to get a lot more dense than it did). Mine stayed pretty much the same as the day it was made with more of a crumbly texture but not cake-like either. I guess it was kind of in between a dense cake and a shortbread. The recipe called for higher fat, European-style butter...I only had a small bit of that type of butter left so I used what I had and then just regular American-style butter. So, perhaps if I had used all higher-fat butter, the texture might have more closely matched the recipe's description. I'll probably make this again for a dinner party since it can be made the morning of and then just sit on the counter, so I'll go for the fancy European-style butter next time and see if it comes out differently.

The flavor was very nice - light with almond and rum undertones...yum. I also added some lemon zest because...well, most things are just better with some lemon zest! It was delicious on its own, but also would have been nice with some lemon or raspberry-flavored whipped cream or even a scoop of ice cream.

mise en place

creaming the butter and sugar - it was gorgeous - fluffy and bright yellow

adding the flour

the finished batter was very thick and dense

the batter is spread into a pie tin, brushed with an egg wash and scored with fork tines

baked to a golden brown. It was gorgeous and smelled wonderful!

now...a bite...yum!

Bye for now...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Avid Baker's Challenge: Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake

July's Avid Baker's Challenge cake was the swirlific Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake on page 100 of Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions. I've been feeling all caked out lately so I was planning to skip this one, but after reading about my fellow ABCers experiences I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did. As always, it was pretty easy to pull together and tasted great. The dough was light in texture and the spices were lovely. Enough to be noticeable but not too overbearing. And then, of course there was the sugary butterscotch topping. Yum.

Based on ABCers recommendations I upped both the spices and the amount of butterscotch topping. I made a couple of other changes by adding some pecans and baking the dough in two 6" rounds instead of one big pan. I had some problems with getting the butterscotch to caramelize properly in the pan (not sure if that was because of the added nuts?) so if I make this one again, I'd probably roll the nuts up in the spiral and then just do straight butterscotch in the pan. This might help keep the layers a little more separated as well.

I had the problem of grainy caramelized topping/butterscotch once before when I made a sweet potato pie with caramelized pecans  for thanksgiving last year, so I think I need to look into this a bit more to see why it's not coming together properly.

mise en place for the easy!

it was super sticky but I was hesitant to add too much flour for fear that it would get tough.
It didn't help that it was super hot and humid the day I made this.

with a little more flour during kneading, it finally came it rises

mise en place for the butterscotch topping...

...which goes into the bottom of my two buttered pans

At this point I realized that having a slab of marble that I could chill would really help me when rolling out dough in the summer. The weather this day was hot and steamy and so the dough was super soft and hard to work with. Rolling it out was mostly fine, but slicing it into strips, lifting the strips and then trying to coil them into the two pans was a nightmare! Things would have gone a lot smoother - and been much prettier - if I was working with chilled dough (or it was winter). But oh all tasted fine in the end.

the dough is rolled out and a butter-spices mixture is brushed on

finally into the pans and ready to rise again

the spices smell amazing


once you flip the rolls out onto a plate their sugary topping is revealed


The dough was light and tender and the topping was was sweet and nutty.
All I need now is a cup of coffee.

Bye for now...