Sunday, November 30, 2008

Linzer Cookies -Tuesdays with Dorie

These attractive cookies were chosen for us this week by Noskos of Living the Life. I take a quick look at the trusty Wikipedia - the cookies are of Austrian/Hungarian origin. They are mini-versions of the Linzer Torte, a tart with a lattice design on top of the pastry. The oldest recipe for the Torte was discovered in the town of Linz and dates back to the 1600's. Right, good, I've learned something today.

Making the Cookies

The dough was quite easy to get together and my rolling out skills are improving slightly. I'm also one of the bakers who thinks the dough should be rolled thinner to say, 1/8 inch, as 1/4 inch is too heavy. Well, it's done now so it's too late this time. I experimented with Dorie's cooking time, first with 15 minutes, then 13 minutes, then 11 minutes. The 15 min. batch was overdone of course, the 13 min. okay but still a bit brownie and the 11 mins. was just fine. (Sounds like The Three Bears and their porridge.)

However, I don't care for the dough very much. I have tasted Linzer cookies before and they are usually quite sweet and buttery and the dough is soft. It's probably me but this dough is hard and quite tough and it does not have anywhere near enough sugar. Also too much cinnamon for my taste. Surely the powdered sugar will make it sweeter, but I still won't use this cookie dough again.

I like the jam filling - I chose Rose Jam, imported from Turkey. I got it at the Turkish deli about 1/2 mile from me. It has a unique, scented, delicate flavor and is quite runny, so I did not add any water to it. It's also a pretty Turkish Delight pink color. Goodness, I hope the guys at work like it, but I know the gals will.

I got 26 doubled-up cookies out of the recipe, even with the dough being a bit thick. Does anyone use those rubber measuring bands on the rolling pin? - I hear they are supposed to give a perfectly even height to the pastry.

Nice creative cookie idea with the jam and the little cut-outs. Noskos has the recipe on website - Living the Life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Caramel Cake - Daring Bakers

This is the most absolutely wonderful cake. I whined and worried all the way through the making but in the end it turned out fine. The result - a delicious caramel flavored dense-crumb cake, with a frosting that becomes increasingly addictive the more you taste it.

Many thanks to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity for so graciously hosting our challenge this month; also to co-hosts Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food. This was probably my favorite challenge. And of course thank you, thank you to Chef Shuna Fish Lydon for her wonderful Caramel Cake Recipe . Shuna's blog is Eggbeater. I am still dreaming and drooling, even though we ate it two weeks ago.

The Cake Experience
I started off with the syrup and ended up making it twice as I thought it was supposed to taste like caramel - even though it was a nice amber color it tasted like barley sugar. Thank goodness for our Forum as I got good advice from a fellow DB'er that it's not supposed to taste like caramel - it's only sugar and water; it's butter that gives it a caramel flavor. I also got the tip on the Forum to whisk the syrup mix for 10 minutes before dousing it with the cold water - the recipe did not give us a time span.

I was alarmed to see the syrup set like a firm jelly while I dithered around taking breaks, then getting the other ingredients together. I microwaved it for about 15 seconds but it wouldn't liquify, so I had to add gelatinous blobs to the batter and the frosting. NEXT TIME - must work more quickly so as to catch the syrup before it gels - Syrup first; wait until just cooled, then make the batter.

The cake came out beautifully, giving off a divine aroma. I baked it for 25 minutes after turning; it probably would have been fine at just over 20 minutes as my cake developed rather brownie edges.

For the frosting I played by the rules, even though I was so tempted to try something less sweet (even made a beautiful Swiss meringue buttercream for the cake, which I will freeze as I didn't use it). I don't usually make frosting with confectioners' sugar - it is just too cloying and grainy but as it was part of our Challenge I had to use it if I wanted to play fair (and get credit, of course!).

This frosting is admittedly very sweet indeed, but the browned butter and the 2 Tbs. of caramel syrup give it a wonderfully exotic flavor, heightened by about a half-teasp. of sea salt crystals - pretty sophisticated.

I halved the portion of frosting as I wasn't sure I was going to use it at first. It's an ample quantity to cover the top of the cake, but as I spred it I couldn't help wishing I could make nice puffy creamy swirls with more frosting.

The Verdict: My co-workers loved it and so did I. It is a really special cake. There was such a demand for slices that I had to cut small slivers so people could get a taste. with the full amount of frosting now. This cake is like poetry - it has the power to uplift the spirit and change ones mood. "Cake Day" Tuesday was at work was very upbeat. Will definitely make again for a special occasion, with the full amount of frosting.

Here's Shuna's recipe:Caramel Cake

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie - Tuesdays with Dorie

Vibi of La Casserole Carrie made this week's pick - it looks like a wonderful choice for Thanksgiving dinner. Vibi has the recipe on her blog, in French first and then translated into English.

However, for me not a very happy evening. I had such great plans to make individual 4" tartlettes, each decorated with a rosette of stabilized cream. But this was not to be. I made a double portion of the "Good for Almost Anything Pie Dough" which was sitting nicely chilled in the fridge when I got back from my physical therapy session (for a conked in knee).

Quite fulfilling - this time my dough rolled out pretty well, with the help of a King Arthur Flour silpat that has circles drawn on it. So feeling confident I cut out nine 4" rounds and placed them carefully in the tartlette pans. While watching how they were doing at 400 degrees I realized the pans were too large for the pastry - I had simply formed dough pancakes.

Attempt no. 2: Rolled out the next batch of cold dough and placed it in a 9 inch Pyrex pie plate; no trouble. I sprinkled some dried navy beans over the base and did the 10 minute thing again. After 10 minutes I was dismayed to see part of the sides had fallen in and then I spent quite a while digging out navy beans from the base as I forgot to cover it with foil. I hope I didn't miss any beans or someone might break a tooth. I really don't know why my dough shrunk in the glass plate; it hasn't happened before.

Another 20 mins. will tell if I have made something halfway edible or not but gone are my visions of producing little French looking tartlettes. There will at best be a crumpled pie. But onward and upward - this Pollyanna says it's a good learning experience and to forge ahead with making Christmas mincemeat pies from Dorie's pie dough.

The taste test remains but it took almost an hour for my pie to bake at 300 degrees. It looks, well, just like a rather ordinary pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kugelhopf - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tuesday morning, Veterans Day, and I'm ready to tackle the Kugelhopf, chosen by Yolanda of All Purpose Girl. The Kugelhopf is certainly a full day cake, going into the evening. I won't have time to let it sit in the fridge overnight so a couple of hours will have to do.

I have made the dough - it is a lovely, soft, elastic, sticky dough but much moister I think than the other brioche dough recipes Dorie has given us. After reading the P&Q section, I let mine get beaten up for 15 minutes, instead of the prescribed 10 minutes. Finally it did curl up around the hook. So now I wait for the first rise, with fingers crossed.

Much later, like 9:00PM and after two L--O--N--G rises and some slap downs, my dough was almost at the top of the kugelhopf pan and ready to bake. It felt as light as a feather as I put it in the oven and did the 10 minute/foil tent thing. Now I'm waiting, holding my breath and having heart palpitations (seriously) while it bakes for another 15 minutes.

So now?! What's this - a hat that someone has sat on! Why doesn't it look like a proper kugelhopf like some of you other TWD'ers have made? I'm wondering what could have made it turn into a pork pie. It was so beautiful when I first took it out of the oven. It had better taste good tomorrow! Oh well, next time maybe it'll look nice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rugelach - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's baking pick, Rugelach, comes to us from Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal. It was an exciting bake - I have never made anything like this before.

I find these pastries to be very European, not Brit or American. My neighbor Mitka, who is from Bosnia, often brings over delicious pastries that usually have fruity, nutty fillings - the Rugelach remind me of her baking. We sit around looking at pictures in baking books, drinking Turkish coffee. A nice little break from the humdrum.

The pastry was a pleasure to make in the food processor (seems Dorie likes the food processor a lot). When it came to rolling the dough however my confidence dimished somewhat as the pastry would not form a circle, rather a map of Spain in the first batch and a distorted rectangle in the second. So the roll-ups are a bit wonky but they have held together and my office consumers will not be not looking for symmetry.

I used three different kinds of jam fillings - raspberry jam, apricot jam and guava jelly, then sprinkled either walnuts or pecans on them, followed by raisins plumped by steeping them in boiled water. Could not get currants anywhere near me. My first batch stayed in the fridge overnight and was a lot easier to handle than the second batch which started getting too soft and tricky to roll - I kept these in the fridge for only 1-1/2 hours. The pastries look as if they'll taste good; I'm looking forward to doing my own taste test tomorrow.

Thank you Piggy for this pick - I think it will be a "make again."