Tuesday, December 30, 2008

French Yule Log - Daring Bakers

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry
and Marion from Il el faut peu pour etre hereau.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Whew! Finally, done! I started way late - on Thursday, New Years Day, and it's taken me up until Saturday night to get to the stage of putting it in the fridge until it gets the icing Sunday morning. A lot of work!

Sunday morning - did the icing - lovely - I always wanted to know how to do plastic icing. I loved the praline crisp, the vanilla mousse, and chocolate ganache. That leaves only two elements I wasn't happy with - the creme brulee and the dacquoise, but I think I messed up there (used a tall pan for the dacquoise so it took a long time to bake and got a bit rubbery; I beat the creme brulee instead of just stirring it so I think that's why it came out a bit spongy.) Ran out of mousse and icing, so had to leave out some mousse layers and could only ice part of the log. It would have been fine in an 8x4 pan instead of a 9X5.

Would I make this again, like the opera cake? I'm not sure, but I would certainly make individual elements to put in other creations. Now that I have tasted the completed product, I shiver with delight, in spite of some of my construction faults. It is a real fancy French restaurant dessert. I think it would be perfect cut up into petit four sizes too.

Thank you kind hosts - it was a very challenging and worthwhile experience.

Vanilla Apple Cake - Sweet and Simple Bakes

This is a most delicious cake, perfect for that morning or afternoon tea or coffee break or for a more formal teaparty. It's from the Brit site Sweet and Simple Bakes (a wonderful site for British cakes). The more I think of my already eaten apple cake the more I can almost taste it; it has a nice sweet, but not overly sweet, crust that forms on the top.

Here's the recipe:

Vanilla Apple Cake

250g/9oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
250g/9oz golden caster sugar (or normal caster sugar)
4 eggs, beaten
250g/9oz self-raising flour
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds removed and reserved (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 small Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (or any other type of cooking apple, if not apple of your choice)
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4/350F. Butter a 20cm/8inch springform tin, then line the base with baking paper.

Beat the caster sugar and butter together until the mixture turns pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour and vanilla seeds, then beat together quickly to make a smooth batter. Tip into the prepared tin, then lay the apple wedges on top, poking them halfway into the mix. Don’t worry if the apples appear crowded – they’ll shrink as they cook. Sprinkle with the Demerara and cinnamon, then bake for 1 hour 5 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the sponge is risen and golden.

Leave to cool for a few mins, then release the tin and cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

I put regular sugar in the coffee grinder to get "caster sugar" - much less expensive and just as good; actually bought some Demerara sugar but a running brown sugar (not the packed kind) will do just as well. Also used Golden Delicious apples.

Definitely worth making again and then again.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

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Anne of Anne Strawberry has chosen a wonderful cheesecake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. (Please excuse the pic of the cake in its pan still - it was about to go on the subway and I was afraid it would get all squished if I took it out.)

Speaking of pics, todays blog is also starring my little girl cat, Phoebe,who is on show for her Holiday photograph.

I think the cake could well have been named Tall and "Dreamy" Cheesecake - it's a winner, the kind of cake that one is proud to serve to guests after a nice dinner. It is totally delicious and has quite a light consistency (I have had some cheesecake clunkers at times). It is rich - 4 packets of cream cheese, 4 eggs and a generous amount of cream and sour cream give it a melt-in-the mouth flavor, and it's easy to bake! No fuss, no anxiously peering through the oven door glass, just follow Dorie's time instructions exactly and after 2-1/2 hours the cheesecake will be on the table, gradually cooling.

I let mine sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours, drizzled some caramel sauce on and then took it to work. It was a great success and a very nice treat for the Christmas/New Year Holiday period. I could cut 12 generous portions (none of that sliver business) and they disappeared very quickly.

The recipe for the Tall and Creamy Cheesecake is up on Anne's blog. Bake and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Morning Muffins - Sweet and Simple Bakes

As well as delicious muffins my great, big beautiful cat "Mystery" is featured in this post, taking his ease in his kitty condo. He is truly the master and commander in my house and posed for a special Holiday pic.

Sweet and Simple Bakes is one of my favorite blogs, with a great recipe to enter every month. For December we could vote on one out of four Christmas recipes and Nigella Lawson's "Christmas Morning Muffins" won. (I was one of the folks who voted for the muffins recipe).

I have just consumed a Christmas Morning Muffin. It's 9:15PM on December 16th but that doesn't matter does it? - I think Nigella will allow me some poetic licence. They were not quite cooled on the rack when I reached out and grabbed one - oh my, delicious! It's all those plump dried cranberries (1/2 lb.) in the mix that did the trick, I think.

Some of the ingredients are true British and a bit difficult to get here in the States, but it's nothing that can't be resolved. For caster sugar just pulse some regular sugar in the coffee grinder a few times and presto, it's caster sugar. Demerara sugar can be substituted with "Sugar in the Raw." It's not as sparkly as Demerara sugar but it will taste good. I got fresh dried cranberries at Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn - just so much better than the dry shrivelled stuff one gets in a packet at the supermarket.

I took them to work (all 10 of them as I ate two before work) and placed them alongside the "Buttery Jam Cookies" I had baked for "Tuesdays with Dorie." They were quite the rave (as well as the cookies). An excellent recipe for Christmas time and so easy to put together. Here's the recipe:

Christmas Morning Muffins ~ adapted from Nigella Christmas Book

Makes 12

250g (9 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g (4 oz) caster (super fine) sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Good grating of fresh nutmeg (or ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
2 Clementine’s or Satsuma’s *see notes*
Approx 125ml (4 fl oz) full-fat milk
75g 3 oz) vegetable oil (or melted butter, left to cool slightly)
1 egg
175g (6 oz) dried cranberries
For The Topping
3 tsp Demerara sugar *see notes*


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin paper cases.

Measure the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl; grate the zest of the Clementine’s/Satsuma’s over and combine.
Squeeze the juice of the Clementine’s/Satsuma’s into a measuring jug, and pour in the milk until it comes up to the 200ml (7 fl oz) mark.

Add the oil (or slightly cooled, melted butter) and egg, and lightly beat until just combined.

Pour this liquid mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir until everything is more or less combined, remembering that a well-beaten mixture makes for heavy muffins; a lumpy batter is a good here.

Fold in the cranberries, then spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The muffins are ready to eat now either plain or broken up and smeared with butter and marmalade.

* Notes*

*Cranberries could also be replaced with another dried fruit of choice*

* Clementine’s/Satsuma’s*

If you’re unable to source Clementine’s or Satsuma’s, 1 orange of zest and juice would be adequate.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buttery Jam Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. What a nice easy cookie to whip up - just imagine guests coming for tea and there's nothing to eat - just bake a batch of these Buttery Jam Cookies and you're all organized.

I used my delicious Turkish rose jam so the cookies have a lightly scented flavor and you can really taste the butter in them. Also baked them one tray at a time on the middle rung - seems to work just as well as switching trays around from top to bottom. They have quite a chewy texture with the jam. But aren't they tiny! About three of these would make a normal size cookie.

I think they need prettying up a bit so I have given mine some frosting with a bit of Rose water flavoring, topped with toasted almond pieces. Just right for tea.

Thank you Heather for your choice - they are on my "make again" list.

Operation Baking GALS - Christmas Package

This is my Christmas mailing package for a brave soldier in Quatar and for a brave nurse in Iraq(two boxes for each recipient). I picked Team Your Place Gourmet to work on - Kim Onstott's a great team leader and gives lots of encouragement and support.

Had a real good time baking and tasting this weekend and now everything is all packed up and ready to go. My pics. show(top)Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies ; (middle) Coconut Oatmeal Cookies and (bottom)Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (with some candy packs).

*****Five Stars for the Peanut Butter Cookies - the recipe is from one of my favorite blogs, Alpineberry. If you're looking for a special peanut butter cookie, make these - they are divine!

Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies
(makes about 50 cookies)

1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse sea salt (like fleur de sel)(I used 1/2 teasp.)
4 ounces (8 tbsp/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup firmly light packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
[Be sure to stir PB well to blend in the oil before measuring]
1 cup (5 ounces) toffee peanuts, coarsely chopped (I used Honey Roasted Peanuts)

Preheat oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in peanut butter. Add the flour mixture and mix until the flour is incorporated.

Pour the chopped toffee peanuts in a shallow bowl. Scoop 2 level teaspoons of dough for each cookie and shape into a 1-inch ball. Roll the ball in the chopped peanuts to coat heavily, pressing any bits that fall off. Place the coated balls 2 inches apart on the line cookie sheets.

Bake the cookies until they are lightly colored on top, about 14-17 minutes. The cookies will seem soft to the touch but will firm up as they cool.

I also liked the Coconut Oatmeal Cookies which I got from
Friends Bookclub, a really good site which, altho' no longer active, has retained hundreds of lovely recipes.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
1 Cup Butter or margarine
1 Cup Brown sugar, firmly packedCornstarch
1 Cup Granulated sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tsps. Vanilla extract
2 Cups Sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tsp. Baking soda
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Baking powder
1 Cup Rolled oats, quick cooking
2 Cups Coconut

Cream butter, add sugar slowly and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

Sift together flour, salt, soda and baking powder; add (stir in) 4 parts. Mix in oats and coconut. Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

YIELD: Approx. 5 dozen

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are from the top of the Quaker Oats box, so I won't be posting the recipe for them. I was not crazy about these by comparison with the other two.

So mailing is early tomorrow, Monday morning. Of course I'm hoping it all gets there intact. So far all my packages have arrived at their destinations and I have received some very nice Thank You cards from the recipients - they write me that it is very touching to see the happiness in the eyes of the soldiers when they distribute the cookies to their troops, mainly to those who do not get mail or packages from home. Next month - Round Six. If you would like to send cookie boxes to our Troops, just check out the Operation BakingGALS site.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Ulrike of Kuchenlaten has made a wonderful Christmassy choice for us this week - sugar cookies - Yum! I'm making this a real quick post - it's already the evening of Tuesday and I have just put the oven on and taken the butter and eggs out. Two festive days of going to Handel's Messiah and a Langlais Mass (followed by a nice glass of Merlot last night) have put me out of commission for leisurely baking and blogging. However, I'm determined to get this post in before my carriage turns into a pumpkin.

Done - The cookies are quite cute; a bit small (I used the roll and slice method as it's quick and easy) and they taste rather good. I decorated them with glace cherries and colored sugar. My second batch tastes very good - I baked them for 15 mins. at 350 degrees; the first batch for 11 minutes. The shorter time gave rather a bland cookie, slightly soft. I do have a preference for a nice crisp "biscuit;" nevertheless I think Dorie is sometimes out on her timing - usually under.

If you are looking for a pretty cookie to put out on the Christmas dessert table, you can get the recipe on Ulrike's blog. Next week we will have another cookie recipe suitable for Christmas fare - Buttery Jam Cookies.