Dienstag, 26. Januar 2010

TWD: Coco-nana bread

This week's TWD pick, the Cocoa-nana bread, came from Steph of Obsessed with baking.
I was pretty excited when I saw her choice, because banana-bread seems to be kind of a "soul-food" in the States, in the sense, that in almost every second TV-series or book, it is used when someone needs a treat to overcome a love-dissapointment, any "the world is mean"-moment, or just to feel comfortable. Characters refer to it is giving them some reminders on parental warmth and childhood memories of a world where everything is perfect, because your world is small and you don't even know that "imperfect" is an option for life...
I never ate, saw, or made it, so I was happy to have an opportunity to try something I have heard a lot of, but wouldn't ever have made without TWD!

Already last week, I was tempted to head to the supermarket in the last minute. Well, more in the last minute -10, as I was already mixing the ingredienst when I recognized that I had no salted peanuts at home.
I am a lazy person, so I took the peanuts I had at home, and roasted them in a pan, and when they were all greasy, I rolled them in salt. And I did add a bit additional salt to the mixture. I didn't miss anything, so I guess it was ok like that.
This week, when I was already ready to go and mix the ingredients, I found out that I have (a) no eggs at home, (b) no buttermilk at home. So, the already fluffy creamy butter had to wait, because these ingredients I really can't substitute - this time I really had to rush to the supermarket at the corner.

My laziness reading the recipe thoroughly is combined with another problem - again my problem with converting the measures... When it was time to put in the cocoa powder, I found out that I had almost only half as much as needed. As I just came back from the store I really wasn't in the mood to go there again. (I have to mention that I am living on the fourth floor of an "Altbau", which means in american counting, the fifth floor. And "Altbau" means an old building with very high ceilings. And no, there is no elevator. What means 105 steps. You understand I had no interest in leaving the house again? So I tried to use more chocolate and cut some of it very very finely. (Now I know, it wasn't enough to offset for the missing cocoa. I should have used more chocolate. And chocolate chips, which I didn't have neither as they are not so commonly available at our stores. Next time I will have to cut bigger chunks.)

(This may give you a little impression of what I have to climb) 

But the real problem was the following: When I converted the amount of buttermilk, I really, really miscalculated. I used 0,25l. Well, when I poured it in, I was already wondering a little bit if this can be right. But I was so sure... I have to tell that, additionally to converting cups into liters, I halved the recipe. So, maybe that added some more confusion.
Big. Problem.
Really big.

My oven usually needs less time than announced in the recipe. So you can imagine my confusion, when the bread didn't get firm in the middle.

The usual, little "master-piece" to taste (the round "cake" you see left and right) was no problem - maybe because I used only a small amount of dough and it was low enough to thicken.

But the "real" bread didn't. Not after 40 min after covering it with foil. Not after 50 mins. Not after an hour. Then I removed the foil, gave it another 10 mins., and finally took it out, because it started to get very dark on the outside.

That was the moment when I started recalculating the amount of buttermilk. What would have been necessary was... 0.09l. Instead my 0.25l. It's like I used 1 cup. Instead of 3/8 cup. Argh!

So, no wonder it didn't work out as announced in the recipe!

Nevertheless - what I got (whatever you may call it...) might not be a cocoa-nana bread, but a cocoa-nana-whatever, with a good taste, just a slight touch of banana flavour, and a very humid center. I like humid centers. It looks like a bar of humid-in-the-middle brownie or muffin, but is not as sweet, and with red jam on it it was pretty good.

I can live with that. :o]

Sonntag, 24. Januar 2010

TWD February Preview

Yeah, the February picks are published! And, tamtamtamtam: here they are:

Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes, Rick Katz’s Brownies for Julia, My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies and Honey-Wheat Cookies.

I will have to do the mini bundts already tomorrow, as I have some buttermilk left from the Cocoa-nana Bread, which won't be useabel forever. They look like an Austrian dessert, the "Mohr im Hemd" (see picture right). It has no swirl but also nuts in the dough, and is served warm. From time to time there is a debate about the political correctness of the name, which I can support, as it would be very very easy to name it differently. (like, "Chocolate Bundt cake"...)

Brownies are adorable. They are relatively new to me, as I cannot remember having seen them before Starbucks invaded (german-speaking) Europe. Which must have been in about 2003 or so. Boy, I really hated Starbucks back in those days... (like, I guess 95% of Austrian, as it is completely against our loooong coffee-house tradition).  Some things never change. And some change by 180°... But Brownies found their way into my heart immediately. I never made any, so I am really looking forward to it!

And we have two kind of Cookies on the list. Cookies are cookies, who could say anything against them? Honey-Wheat sounds very delicious. And I haven't made cookies for a while. And they are mostly easy to make, easy to store, and easy to transport to the office. So - cookies, yay!

Up to now I have been a very regular TWD baker, baking all picks in every week. The upcoming weeks will be different...
I will leave at February 11 and be back on 24th. And when I am back, there will be Lenten season, which is nothing religious or spiritual for me, as I am neither - but still I like to restrain from some things that became kind of "everyday-luxuries" and are not really essential or necessary for life.
I will find a way to deal with these two problems later...

Samstag, 23. Januar 2010

Decisions, choices, options - revisited

I made a decision.
Yeah, really, I am serious, no joke!

And I did not have to flip my "yes-no"-coin. I decided myself. All alone. Like a grown-up girl. Be proud of me...

First I eliminated the tarte, as the text says it is not good to store it. I don't think I will habe time Tuesday or Wednesday to make it. I will have to do it tomorrow. So, no tarte for this week.
Then I thought it's the grandmothers cake, because there is such a long and nice storie with it. But honestly, this is not ment to be made for birthdays.

The last days I was convinced that it should be the apple-cheesecake. But today I granted myself half of a Cadbury's bar I found at home (no idea how I could have forgotten about...). Cadbury's, Hersheyetc.  and all that are not common in my country. Some can be bought at very expansive luxury-supermarkets in the inner-city. But most can only be found at special stores serving the american/english community in Vienny. That's to say, at the only of such stores we have... (despite you work for the UN, as at the UN headquarter there is a shop where you can get like anything from everywhere in the world. But I don't, so I never so this shop and know it only by mythical stories by former class mates, as my school was not too far away from the UN, and we had many "UN-children"m or by some friends who happened to work there for some time). I had my first Reeses peanutbutter-cup about three weeks ago. Imagine that.

Well, I am deviating from what I wanted to say.
I opened this Cadbury's bar, a "Star Bar", made of a lot of peanut butter with little pieces of peanuts in the center, enrobed with caramel, and finished by milk chocolate. Despite the fact that I usually do not like milk chocolate too much, this was a perfect match. Really.

And at this point I knew, even if I am afraid of making a brownie cake, because I never made brownies before and don't know if I can handle it, I will have to got for it. Chocolate, caramel, peanuts. That's all I need.
(pictures are taken from Chocablog)

Mittwoch, 20. Januar 2010

Decisions, choices, options; or: watching me think

So, soon there will be my birthday. My 27th.
This will be easy, because I am celebrating my 27th birthday for several years now, so I have sort of  routine.

I would like to bake something for this day, and as it is my day, and my recipe-selection for TWD might never come (too many bakers, not enough recipes. ha, that's almost a hiphip-quote!), I will decide what to do for my birthday. It should be something I like myself (of course...), something not too ordinary,  but also not too complex - I want it to be good, delishous, eadible at least.
It has to be possible to store it at least over night, and it should be not too difficult to bring to the office. So, ice-cream is off.

Too easy would be cookies, or muffins or scones, which I all adore, but not for this occasion. Too complex would be Pecan Honey Stick Buns and anything else that contains yeasted and time-consuming dough, and also anything that must be served the moment it's finished.

I like tartes, I like brownies, sometimes I like some cheesecakes. I love peanuts and cashews. Caramel is not too bad, either, and I like chocolate, especially dark one.When it comes to fruits, I like apples, pears, and I adore figs. I don't like bundt cakes, heavy creamy cakes, and peaches. I'm not fond of coffee, walnuts, hazelnuts in my sweets. Berries are also not my favourite. Whipped cream is a no-no.

So I headed to the only cookbooks I am able to use, and had a look how to combine my favourite ingredients. (Everything I ever made from Nigella didn't turn out fine. This is for sure my fault, but I stopped trying her recipes. Maybe we do just not match. And the other cookbooks I own are some of the "Basic"-series, which are great, but I do not consider appropriate for this cause, asian cookbooks, which do not propose too many desserts, cookie books, and cobbler or ice-cream books - cookies are too simple, cobblers and ice-cream too difficult to bring to the office.)

I lowered the number of possible recipes to 11 from Dorie Greenspan's own book and three from Dorie's book with Pierre Hermé.

The options are (update: and what is left after some serious consideration...):
From Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Dessert book:
Faubourg Pavé (I would like to say, it's too much chocolate. But when I am honest to myself, I am just too cowardly for it)
Macarons (too close to the "cookie-no"; anyways, will have to find an occasion to try this. Maybe my mothers birthday coming up in February.)

Chocolate and part-steeped fig tarte

From Dorie's "Baking: From my home to yours":
Peanuttiest Blondies
Rugelachs (see "Macarons")
Fig Cake
Brown-Sugar Apple Cheescake
Caramel Peanut Brownie Cake
Peanut Butter Torte (Peanuts are great, peanutbutter is incredible. But a cake more or less only made of peanutbutter is maybe too much peanutbutter. Even for me. If this is possible...)
Normandy Apple Tarte (No special reason. Just got the feeling that there are plenty of other occasions where this one will be useful. I will find another easily.)
Russian Grandmother Apple-Pie cake
Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Honey Almond Fig Tart
Raspberry Blanc-Manger (In fact, I have no idea what a blanc-manger should be. Iit sounds like sort of a cheese cake. Anyways, I like to find it out, but not this time. It's not raspberry season anyways, and usually I prefer using what can be bought at the market at the moment - or what I have in my bio-basket...)

So, what to do, what to do?
As a next step, I decided to play it save and limit the options to what was already on the TWD recipe rotation. Some hints, pictures and P&Q couldn't harm my low baking skills.
So, here is what is left:
Russian Grandmother Apple-Pie cake (this looks so melow, lush and sweet and the same time)
Brown-Sugar Apple Cheescake (because it really challenges me to combine one of my favourite fruits with cheesecake, and I have never thought of combining these two flavours before; additinally, cheeseckaes are not too sophisticated to create)
Caramel Peanut Brownie Cake (Brownies with a lot of chocolate! Peanuts! Caramel! This one combines everything I like...)
Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart (ever since I saw the picture I thought and still think everytime I flip to this page: Must. Make. Soon)
(The Pierre Hermé tarte is off. I am too timid...)

But: Is the grandmother-pie not too odd? Is a cheesecake appropriate for birthday? For my birthday? Do apples really go with cheesecake? I never made brownies, so maybe the brownie cake won't turn out fine - and I want to have a perfect birthday-whatever! And a tarte? For birthday? And Maybe the caramel gets too hard when I store it overnight?

I guess I have to give it a rest. And decide tomorrow. Or Friday. Or Saturday. Or...

(yes, I do have problems with decision taking :o])

Dienstag, 19. Januar 2010

TWD: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

For this week, Lillian of Confectiona’s Realm picked Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars. I highly welcomed this choice as I have no idea of bars. Bars are something bought at the supermarket when you have to wait too long in line at the cass. But doin it yourself? Sounds almost as crazy as doin Marshmallows yourself...

But I really do enjoy trying new things. (And there are a lot of new things to be tried out for me as a complete baker novice...)

The bar is made of three layers: two oat-layers on the bottom and on the top, and a chocolate-raisin layer in the middle. Preparing the two different "doughs" was not too difficult. I used spelt instead of oat, merely because I have spelt at home and don't want to have too many cereals at home. I don't need them very often, so they would just stand in the cupboard, and in the worst case attract moths.
I guess it didn't make a big difference. At least it was easy to work with it and I like the taste of spelt.
For the chocolate, I used 50g of 99% Lindt chocolate and ordinary milk chocolate for the rest, as I didn't find semi-sweet chocolate drops. In the end I guess I got something like about 75% chocolate, and I got to say I like this mixture very much. For the rest, I did as the recipe says. (despite that I halved it)

As always I have this cup-problem, as cup measures do not exist here. (maybe I get an imported cup measure for birthday....) So I had no idea how much of the oat/spelt-layer I should put aside. 
I took about 1/3 and it turned out that this was not enough. I had problems covering the chocolate layer, so when I had spread all the remaining spelt-paste in little crumbs over the chocolate-layer, I scattered some more spelt over it, so the chocolate was at least covered slightly everywhere.
My short-fall of the top-layer was compensated by too much chocolate sauce.

I don't know how it happened, but my chocolate layer turned out to be much too much. 

So, what I got is a strange kind of a chocolate bar, that is way too high for a "bar". Anyways, it tasted absolutely delicious!

Recently, the TWD recipes didn't overwhelm me too much. They were ok, but this one I will definitely re-make, not at least because they are so easy to bring to the office and just a perfect treat for the coffee-break!!

Sonntag, 17. Januar 2010

Galette des Rois

Tomorrow is my first French lesson after the holidays (at least for me, because I skipped the last week due to a New Years party at the office), and I as I didn't arrive to make a Buche de Noel for the last session before Christmas, at least I wanted to ry a Galette/Gateau des Rois for the first session afterwards. The galette is a traditional French "cake" with some regional differences (in the region around Lyon it is just a Brioche, in the south it is brioche with candied fruits, in the Ile the France around Paris it is puff pastry, mostly with a Frangipane cream). One of the folks at the course once stated that she loves Frangipane, so the descision which version to opt for was easy. (It would have been easy anyways, as solely brioche doen's sound too exciting for me, event though I like brioche very much. But a "cake" made of nothing else - no, that's a bit boring. And candied fruits are no favorite of mine and anyways hard to get at a fair price. Some are even impossible to get in Vienna, as candied melons.)
In the cake or galette, a fève ("bean") is baked in. Meanwhile, many bakers use small china figurines, mostly lucky charms. The one who finds the fève in his or her piece of cake is the king of the day.

I found a good recipe here, and rigth at the moment the Galette is in the oven.
But boy, it was a whole mess! My frangipane didn't get thick enough (the pastry cream was ok, but when I mixed it with the other stuff, it got liquid again and didn't thicken anymore. Maybe I should have chilled it longer?)
So I had serious trouble with assembling the cake. Finally I put the first layer of dough into a small tarte pan, so I was able to spread the liquid frangipane and flap over the overlapping dough. Then I took the second layer to make a cover. That was a very finicking and delicate act, but finally abd after some troubles Iarrived to stick together the two layers, took the galette out of the pan (I used one with a removable bottom) and transferred it to the baking rack.
And what I forgot was the most important part - the fève...
So, lift the top again, put in the fève and close it again.

Puh. So, done. 10 min are over. One recipe told me to bake 30-40 mins. another one calls for 10-12 mins. Well. I'll have a look now!

Update: And that's what I got out of the oven...

 I didn't arrive to make a nice design into the cover layer, but nevertheless, at least from the outside it looks very well! I am doing some sample pieces right now, log-shaped ones, because I don't want to bring the galette to the French course without knowing that it is at least esculent!

But I have no idea what to make with the rest of the Frangipane, because I have almost the half still in the pot...

Mittwoch, 13. Januar 2010

(belated) TDW: Mrs. Vogel's Scherben

When I read what we should bake for this week I was excited and more than happy to see that. When I first flipped through Dorie's book I was immediately caught by this recipe. Well, not so much by the recipe as such, but by the name. And also by the picture!

(I borrowed a picture from Stephanie from "A whisk and a spoon" because I coldln't find the original picture from the book in a reasonable time. Hope it's ok!! Stephanie's Scherben look really absolutely perfect, far away from mine, but I wanted to let everybody see why I was so attracted by the looks of the Scherben!)

What I didn't realize was, that Mrs. Vogel's Scherben include frying. I have no fryer and never fried anything before. So I was prepared to skip this one. Honestly, I was just to milquetoasty. (A big sorry goes to Tianna of Spork or Foon?, who chose the recipe - yes, I am also one of the fraidy-cats. But  and I can absolutely understand why she opted for them. Honestely, I had similar considerations despite the fact that counting the recipes left and TWD-participants, it will never be my turn...)
But than Caitlin of Law of the Kitchen came up with the idea of baking the Scherben instead of frying them, and that's just what I did!

The dough is really easy, so easy that it did not even take me more than 10 minutes. If you knew me, you would know that's really, really fast!
I was concerned of the amount of dough. As you can see here, my dough-ball seemed to very small. (see left how small it was. And no, that's not an enourmus gigantic Starbucks-like pot, just an ordinary herb-tea pot)

But the recipe calls for rolling out the dough very thin, so I guess the amount was just right.

As (almost) always, I used spelt-flour and I never had problems with it. (At least I do not think that for my "difficulties"  a.k.a. clumsiness the spelt can be blamed for)

For baking I brushed half of the Scherben with olive oil and the other half with walnut oil. Both are fine, but the pieces with walnut oil taste much better! I thought the slight walnut taste would do no harm, as in the end the Scherben are dusted in cinnamon-sugar, so walnut seemed to me as a good taste-match. And it was.

My first baking sheet was slightly too long in the oven, but the second turned out fine. They just didn't get many of the bubbles dough gets when fried. But that didn't really catch me by surprise... :o]

Tomorrow will be the litmus test, when I bring them to the office, where more or less all my baking-experiments end up. I hope they will survive the night...

Just one last word to the name of the "cookies". Some of my fellow bakers discussed the word "Scherben". I was surprised of the name, but obviously this kind of fried dough (something not very usual in my country; obviously it seems to be an ordinary sweet at fairies and things like that in the US) is regularily called Scherben in Germany. In the book, Dorie tells the story of the Scherben, and it seems like Mrs. Vogel, who "invented" the recipe, used to call them Schneball. Schneball is something I know from the years I was living in Germany.

Unfortunately, I remember them as looking pretty good, and tasting awfully boring, even when they were dusted in cinnamon and sugar or coated with chocolate.

(pictures taken from wikimedia and http://philipp1112.wordpress.com)
After two bites you have enough, because there is nothing interesting more to discover. But in fact, the Scherben do not look like a "snowball" (what is the translation for Schneeball) at all, it seems that just the dough and preparation sis the same. They also do not look like "Scherben", but never mind. In this (compared to the Schnebälle) homeopathic dosis, this sweet is not too bad.

You already guess it - I am not too excited about them. But let'swait for the judgement by the crowd omorrow!

Update: When I had a look at the plate I placed in the common room after coffe-break time I thought: "Well, now it happened. I spoiled them. Simple fried baked dough with cinnamon and sugar is nothing to write home about anymore. One year, even three months ago, my colleagues would have been impressed what I was able to create. But now? They are used to oppulent three-layer cakes, colourful tartes and sophisticated cheesckaes. I spoiled them with too much chocolate, butter and eggs. They don't know the value of the simple things anymore."
You guess it - they left on the plate a lot of the Scherben.

But, today, late in the afternoon, I wanted to go for the rest of the Scherben for a colleague who needed urgently some solace (and what can bring more solance than sweets). But they were all gone!

I don't know what happened. Maybe the Scherben did (contrary to what the recipe says) improve over night (what I doubt, because despite the one or the other gramm of butter or sugar that could possibly be left out, Dorie is always right with her recipes, recommendations and tips and tricks). Maybe yesterday nobody had time for a coffee break (I do mostly not participate because it is an old institution for some of my colleagues who work in my department for several years, and they have their coffee at 1.30 pm, what is way too early for the afternoon break for me!). Maybe they were frantically looking for a treat, and the Scherben were all they found. Maybe my colleagues discovered their humble side over night.
What ever might have been the real reason. By 4 pm the Scherben were all gone, so I guess they were not too bad!

Mittwoch, 6. Januar 2010

TWD: Tarte Tatin - Happy Birthday, TWD!

Before I present you my result of theTarte Tatinwhich we all did choose together for TWDs 2nd birthday, I would like to thank the founder (Laurie of Quirky Cupcake) of and all the people supporting TWD for having the nice idea to bake together trough Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours, to run the homepage, and to put so much effort into it!
Thanks a lot, and lets head forward to a new year of exiting baking adventures!

For the second birthday, Laurie asked everybody to vote for a recipe, and in the end the match was made by Tarte Tatin (which I heavily opted for myself) and the Coconut-Buttermilk Birthday Cake. Coconut is fine, buttermilk is fine, Birthday cakes are fine - but creamy cakes are not my favourite. And I brought a Tarte Tatin pan back from my last trip to Paris, so I was happy to use it!
Furthermore, Tarte Tatin did appear to me as the perfect choice. Because Dorie Greenspan lives (at least part of her life) in Paris and this tarte is for me one of the most typical french sweets, and her recipes are sometimes very classic/classy, as is this tarte, too.

To spoil the end: I didn't arrive to make a Tarte Tatin. I won't say I made a bad cake (does something like a "bad" cake exist?), but whatever it turned out, it didn't turn out to be a Tatin.
Tant pis.

My Tarte Tatin Pan                                                                                 before baking

and after baking
 I took too many apples, made too high layers, didn't turn the dough deep enough into the pan.

So, what I made is a, uhm, strange kind of an apple tarte. Not too bad, anyways, as caramel sauce and cooked apples are never too bad. But I will have to retry it.