Dienstag, 30. März 2010

alternative TWD: Toasted Almond Scones

(Last weekend without the actual TWD-recipe. Im am so much looking forward to baking along with the others again! I love scones and biscuits and savory treats. But there comes the day when you really have had enough of it. Next Weekend it's Easter and I am "allowed" to eat sweets again. I thought about doin the Coconut Tea Cake, chosen by Carmen of  Carmen Cooksand I was almost ready to go for it. I even started shredding and toasting the coco. Because I started to feel like betraying. I was so happy when I finally made it to the blogroll, and for the last weeks I did just not participate. We have  a new "tool", the "Leave your link"-list, which is actually a pretty good idea by Clara from I heart food4thought. And I feel bad about not beeing able to leave my weekly link there. But when I made the Scones this morning I realised I will never, never ever be able to not taste what I made and lick off the spoons. No way. So I better stay away from the TWD-selection for this final week, even if it makes be feel bad. But breaking the Lenten promise in the very last week would make me feel even worse.)
This is it. This is the last recipe I found in Dorie's book where leaving out the sugar shouldn't make a big difference. I like almost all kinds of nuts (hazelnuts are not my favourite), so scones with a lot of almond taste are perfect for my last Lenten week.
 I exchanged the cream for lactose free yoghurt and the whole milk for soy-rice-milk, and it was fine. I took a tad less baking powder, and the scones did not spread a lot - maybe they would have otherwise. As usual, baking time was far less for my oven (about 12 mins for the first, and 10 mins for the second batch).

Funnily, I forgot to toast the almond slices. And that's funny, because I did not find out before I was looking up the accurate name of the scones to put it in this blog-entry :o] So, I guess it would have put the almond taste even more forward, but obviously it didn't matter too much.

I will definitely, definitely do them again, even if I look at all the recipes I first have to catch up with. But from all the Scones/Biscuit-recipes I made recently (Basic Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Apple Cheddar Scones), this is definitely the one I like most and up to now my favourite scones recipe!

(In the bowl they look flatter as they had been. The bowl, by the way, is a bol, a mega-cup without handle for Café au lait, very common in France - and at my house :o] My friend J. made it. She is an awesome comic drawer. Well, not only comics, but comics are definitely her specialisation!)

Montag, 22. März 2010

TWD rewind and forward: Parmesan Sablés and Golden Brioche Loaf

Only 14 more days to go until Easter sunday, and then I will be back on the actual TWD-recipe rotation!! I am already so much looking forward to it...

For the weekend I had a huge programme: Parmesan Sablés, what I wanted to try since I made the pure Sablés back in December. And because I was a bit ill last week and stayed at home Friday I thought that would be a good occasion to take all my guts and try the Golden Brioche Loaf, as I had enough time. (a recipe that has not yet been on the recipe rotation - is it possible??)

Time is really needed to make the Brioche. But in the end it's oh so worth it.... You need time and patience, because first the dough needs to rest and rise for about an hour. Then you have to regularily deflate it every 30 mins for another two hours. Then it has to rest over night in the fridge. Then you shape it, and then, yes, exactly - it has to rest and rise some more. If you think, well ok, but finally then it is over - not quite. After the appropriate baking time you have to wait for 15 mins before you can take the Brioche out of the pans and molds. And then comes the hard part, that needs not only patience but also self-restraint. Because then you have to wait for at least one hour before you are allowed to taste it. Baking can be so cruel...
But afterwards, believe me, you will be glad you invested all this time and effort and self-restriction. I had some the day I made them, and some more the next day, re-warmed for Sunday breakfast. And I put almost the entire loaf in the fridge and will be making Bostock of it on Easter weekend.

Brioche has always been my favourite escape from my Lenten promise, because it is not really a sweet but definitely a treat. But self-made brioche is even better. I made it without any sugar, and missed nothing.

The Parmesan Sablés turned out pretty good. I love baking savory treats! They turned out a lot like the first Sablés I made in autumn, despite this time they didn't spread (what I suppose they shouldn't, so don't ask me what went wrong in December). And I became a little better at shaping them into logs and get them round. Somehow, I still do have too much wholes in the dough. So I have to re-shape them heavily and cut them very carefully, so they don't break due to the holes in the middle of the circles. Don't know what is wrong. The first and the second rack I made where lovely, just the second got almost burned. The problem might have been that I didn't wait long enough to let the baking-rack and the paper cool down completely. So already after about 8 mins baking time they were dark, dark brown. 

I am eager to do both of them again, but when I see how many new recipes I still have to try out, I doubt if I will find the time. Especially as in 10 days I will start a new, very stressy, but also very exciting job...

On the prowl, pt. 3

Finally, in part 3 would like to keep hold of my multitude of wonderful culinaray experiences in DC and NYC.

I know I can claim to be lucky as I had the chance to live the whole last summer in Paris, had some weeks of holidays afterwards in Vietnam, am living in Vienna, a.k.a. a place that claims to have a long and important culinary past and present. (I could speak on that for ages. About how much culinary inheritance matters for the Austrian self-understanding, about how many Austrian chiefs are misunderstood as being German, about how much that hurts Austrians - you can't imagine! - , about the influence it still has on other cuisines and especially on desserts/pastry. I better stop here...) And I am or did profit of all this in the last year in a culinary sense at the fullest.

Americans, on the other side, are in my altitudes not know for being gourmets. For many, that might be still true. I remember the latest Jamie-Oliver-initiative (not that I would be huge fan, and I even think you can be very critical about this project). I remember the US administration's reaction when they found out that children do not eat healthy enough and especially lack vegetables in their school-menus (declaring ketchup as vegetable). I remember lots of asian girls involuntarily slimming during their first time in NY because their stomachs couldn't deal with the huge amount of fat in american dishes. And I often heard Americans wondering that in Europe, yes, big, adipose and fat people also exist, but it is just not as common and as much a problem, especially speaking about kids. And all that did not happen in kind of a mesolithic stone time, aeons away, but just in the last years (except the ketchup story - this was the Reagan administration). But I also have to aknowledge, that limiting American food culture to this:
is far too easy nowadays. Especially when it comes to sweets, I have to say that there are huge ways to learn from them. I can't remember having seen Brownies before the big Starbucks-invasion in 2003/2004. What I associated with American sweets was mostly Donuts (I guess the Simpsons have something to do with that),  and what I have seen in other series (on Friends or Seinfeld they sometimes ate Muffin). But I couldn't name a place where you could have bought them in Vienna, and I had no idea about the almost infinite possibilities for these little "cakes". And, yes, I have to admit, I only know that something called "Cupcakes" exists due to Sex and the City. Donuts did fit my image of american taste very well. Extremely sweet (Still, I think that many american sweets are way too sweet and I guess that is not only my impression. Sweets in Europe are just made with less sugar), fried, very very fat.

Nevertheless, I was excited, curious and forward looking to my trip to Washington and NYC also in culinary way. What happened?

First, since last summer my impression of the food/americans-combo got all mixed up thanks to this dude and this gal. Secondly, over the years I did not only get used to Brownies, Muffins&Co., but integrated them in my eadible favourites. (Double-chocolate muffins at Starbucks, this almost completely black treat with the cheesecream in it's middle and the dark chocolate chunks... oh my goodness, thanks so much for them!) In fact, in Paris I ate a lot more typical american than french patisserie.
And secondly, since I started to bake myself, I am dealing a lot with american sweets, chefs, home-bakers and recipes. And I found out that there is so much to discover, so many people, amateurs and professionals, putting a lot of lot of love and effort in their kitchen-adventures. I follow the mostly american crowd on TWD, and have to admit that they all are far better then the snobbish "I am Austrian - what do you want to tell me about baking?"-me, and they all are very inventive and creative. And, last but not least, I just had to give in that if you start to go into it, you (i.e. me) have to rethink your prejudices...
[I am wandering from the subject.]

In DC, it started with a cupcake from Cakelove at U-Street. There I saw for the first time in my life a Red Velvet Cupcake (believe it or not... that's something that didn't make it over the ocean up to now!). I found an absoultely wonderfil little chooclate shop, Biagio Chocolate on 18th street. The salespersons there where so really interested in what they sell. You could see that they are not just employees but really interested. Besides a whole lot of chocolate, many american brands I never heard of before, they sell pralines, caramels, individual chocolats and truffles from mostly local createurs. They are lovely, perfectly looking, and taste wonderful! And I always like to taste things from local producers.

Arriving in NY, the first thing I did was not to drop of my baggage, but to head from Penn Station to Mizu Salon on Park Avenue - because there Dorie& Josh Greenspan presented the Cookie Bar. My train was very late and my New Yorker friends live in Brooklyn, so the only chance to grab some cookies was to directly go there with my huge suitcase. Must have been a funny picture. Nevertheless, it was so worth it! It was just the week when the group made Dorie's Best Chocolate Chop Cookies, and I was very excited to see how they were ment to be originally. Additionally, I took a Peanut Butter Crisscross, a Chocolate Chunker and a World Peace Cookie. Boy, they were all so good! I never had a World Peace Cookie before and was overwhelmed. How can only one cookie have so many different textures and tastes combined and assemble to one perfectly fitting piece?

I continued my prawl at Junior's with a Chocolate Cheesecake and a Carrot Cake Cheesecake. No, I didn't eat it all on my own. :o] I can't imagine that anyone can eat a slice of them alone. Well maybe one. But for sure not two...

Staying in Brooklyn, I went to Jaques Torres, but I gotta say that I was very, well, maybe not dissappointed, but underwhelmed. I know better shops, especially with a much bigger variety and nicer salespeople, from Paris. A lot of. Generally, I found that all chocolate shops I visited in NY (Vosges Chocolates, L.A. Burdick) where not so special.

Brooklyn Icecream Factory was closed (the pictures might give an explanation... It was the only snow day I had in NY). But I found a very nice coffeeshop on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens instead, the Fall Café. Maybe it's not the most fancy coffee shop with the most extraordinary selection of sweets and beverages, but I liked the atmosphere. I did not especially like the italian bakery on Court Street, (Monteleone), but that was my own fault, as I generally am not so much the Italy-lover. So I headed over to Sweet Melissa (never heard of it before, but when I saw it, I thought there might be a link to Sweet Melissa Sunday?), and had my first Red Velvet Cupcake in my whole life. (This one was slightly too sweet for my taste, but still didn't keep me away from having many more the 10 following days...)

Over in Manhattan, I buyed a huge amount of Bread, Scones and Biscuits whenever I passed by Amy's Bread (or whenever I made it possible to "just by chance" pass by a shop). I have not been at Magnolia, because the only time when I really passed by was on a Sunday afternoon, what might generally be the wrong time, and additionally it was Valentines Day.... The line was out the store, around the corner and a long way down 11th street. Instead I had a cupcake at Billys Bakery  and I had Brownies and Blodnies from Fat Witch. Both were ok, but not overwhelming. For the Brownies: I had only minis, so maybe the normal sized ones are better. I was at the City Bakery, but did not get a Pretzel Croissant, even if that's what they are most famous for. I realized that I think of croissants as the most boring of all Viennoisserie (and I think it is not worth it - with a Brownie or a Muffin you are better of  for mostly even less calories/fat), and I am not a huge Pretzel-lover (I reall can't understand the craze about them in America), so a combination of them might not be the reigth item for me. But I completely liked their Peanutbutter Cookie!
I went into Grandaisy Bakery, but left without buying anything (the italian problem, again). I had two little treats from Minamoto Kitchoan (a Katzukaori and a Forgotthename, a mochi with chestnut, which is pictured right). I went there because in Paris I know at least two  excellent japanese bakeries and wanted to see if this was special for Paris, or if japanese bakeries are just like that. (The ones in Paris are different. They have french pattiserie and chocolates and just happen to be japanese guy who make them. Kazukaori offres real japanese sweets) If you like asian food and sweets (I do!), than this is the right place to loose a big amount of money for a little amount of sweets. (But they are tasty, tasty, tasty)

I did not arrive to get a place at the Clinton Street Baking Company, so I dropped it. Dessert Truck Works, just next door, was always still closed when I was in the street, but I had nice breakfasts at Atlas Café and Café Pedlar on Clinton Street. I arrived to be at Orchard Street once when Il Laboratorio di Gelato was open, but it was the only other day with wheather that was really not made for eating icecream. I had a Frozen Yoghurt from Pinkberry the other day instead (Frozen yoghurt is still not very common in Europe. In Paris, there is an increasingly famous shop ,but I never saw it anywhere else), and I for sure had a coup from Ben&Jerrys (I love Ben&Jerrys! They are just about to try out if other Austrians share this love and started to sell a few sorts at videostores in Vienna. Cross your fingers!!)  I didn't arrive neither to have a look at Bouley Bakery or the Bouchon Bakery and I guess that's really a pitty, nor at William Greenberg, Lady M or Barney Greengrass - ha, I arrived to get the curve away from the sweet side...). I passed by Katz's, but was not inspired to step in, and got a Bagel from Russ and Daughters, topped by a dessert from the Veselka kiosk near by. (Boy, the Lower Eastside is a gourmet everglade I could get lost in forever...)
I spent some time at the Chelsea Market. Ok, to be honest: I spent a lot of time at the Chelsea Market. Not only for the many great food stores, but I also liked the atmosphere there!

I went by Shake Shack, but had no Hot Dog. Mostly because I had something else to do on Madison Square... I had lunch at 11 Madison Park. I really like to go to great restaurants, but in cities like Paris or New York I absolutely cannot afford this, despite I take a lunch prix-fixe menu and limit myself as good as possibly to this. After some research my choice was made for this restaurant. In the end, I am really happy with it. The problem only was, that I did not really understand what I did order for the main course, but I am always willing to try out something I don't know. Yeah. Good thing, very often. I am not so much the pork-parmesan-type. But here, it was a big mistake. Because what I thought could eventually be fish turned out to be kind of a sausage. And if there is something I really do not want to eat at such an expansive and luxury restaurant it is a sausage...
Well, bad luck. But for the rest it was fine. More than that. I was told afterwards that it is typical for american waiters that they feel they have to entertain you. Especially if you are a woman eating alone. Well that's not really my understanding. I had something to read with me and feel intimidated and daunted if somebody is around me all the time. Eating alone is not that funny anyways and if the waiter is standing next to me, trying to make small talk, that doens't improve the situation. However, I guess that's a "cultural differences"-story that can not be solved. After all, they only wanted to be nice and polite. The ambiance was quite impressive (the room is wonderful!), the food was excellent (I would not go further. For its class and price it was good, but not incredible), and I got the feeling that I got a good price-quality-relation out of it. I only regret I did not opt for the dessert, because I wanted to get something at a place called "New York Cake". Yeah, good idea. Unfortunately, New York Cake is a baking supply shop, and not a bakery :o] 

On my very last day (the rainy day, unfortunately), by chance I found Economy Candy, where you can buy all kinds of chocolates, bonbons, chocolate bars, at a moderate price.
But, more excitingliy, I ran into a shop I had read somewhere about but had completely forgotten: Babycakes. They are a vegan and mostly gluten-free, sugra-free, lactose-free bakery specialized on, you already guessed it, cupcakes, muffins and brownies. maybe you are wondering if all this xx-free leads also to tast-free.Without any exaggeration, there I had the best, best, best cupcake (it was a carrot cake cupcake) and the most wonderful brownie of all NY. Maybe it was the fact that they were just not as sweet as the others. Maybe it was because they use a lot of things I often bake with and I am just used to these tastes (spelt flour, agave nectar). Or, maybe they are just amazing...

And this is it. More or less, that's what has been on my list. I found some nice coffee shops, where you might not have expected them (Bread Stuy and Miss Dahlia near Nostrand Avenue stop), a great polish restaurant (Lomzynianka on Manhatten Avenue in Greenpoint, where else), whereby "great" is only a description of the food - the restaurant is very small. And prices are, too, although some friend assured me that they raised over the last years continously. And I was introduced to a wonderful place to brunch in Williamsburg. I know, I know, there are about a million. But Bistro Fada is really nice and special, and very close to french bistros, and it has this wonderful winter garden and terasse! In summer it must be great to sit out there. And they have Sancerre, my favourite wine, at a comparatively modest price compared to what it cost in Vienna.

And so, finally, I found kind of a link back to the beginning of this blog-entry, to Paris and Vienna. :o]
(@ MoMa)

Mittwoch, 17. März 2010

On the prowl, pt. 2

So I was in Washington and New York some weeks ago (already too long, I start missing it!!), and altruistically supported the american recovery by byuing lots and lots of stuff, and not only clothing (as one maybe would expect), or technical items (as would be reasonable), but also various things I need/can use/ don't need but would love to have for my little baking addiction.

Since I bake along with Tuesdays with Dorie, I did not only learn enourmously much about baking and a huge amount of vocabulary, but I also read quite often about some things that do not exist in Europe, or are very unusual over here, and therefore hard to get. So I got curious. And besides my long "where to go and what to see"-list I had another, merely theoretical list in my mind with things to have a look at and see what they actually are (or, where I knew what it should be, have a look at what it costs and decide whether it makes sense to risk taking them back to Europe and having them confiscated at the customs). The list basically consisted of wheat germ, chocolate chips of various kinds, Trader Joe's (boy, I read so much about this store, I was so excited to find out about it!!), variuos baking forms/molds, vegetable shortening, corn syrup, fancy sorts of peanbut butter.

Wheat germ - I should have used it for the Honey-Wheat Cookies some weeks ago. I exchanged it for small spelt. Ok, now I know that that's not actually something similar... anyways, they did taste good, and it brought an even more healthy "I am like breakfast cereals"-touch :o]
Chocolate chips - yes, found them, saw them, bought some. I went home with a pack from Trader Joe's (Lucky me, a Trader Joe's was just nearby my friends' appartment) and a peanutbutter chip pack, where I forgot where I picked it up. I saw a lot more, colourful big chips in a wonderful store in NY specialized in baking, but that was at a point where I already had the first two packs, and I wasn't sure if I would ever use frog-green or crimson red chocolate chips. Today, I regret especially not having buyed the red ones because I guess they are perfect for Red Velvet Cupcakes. Mais - tant pis.
Trader Joe's - yes, been there. Ok, it's a nice shop. But I wanted to bake "European" bread for my friends and really had a tough time finding the flour. In the end a salesperson showed me, encircled by a huge number of premade baking-mix-packs a lonely, single pack of flour. And by "single" I don't speak about "one kind of" flour, no, only one pack. I was really dissappointed. I expected a "bio-grocery-store" to have a big variety of flours, normal and wholemeal, spelt, rye, whatever. And I don't expect to find baking-mixes. Usually, bio goes with "healthy", but that did not really seem to be the primary focus in this shop. Never mind, I got the flour I wanted at another, more pricey wholefood shop (and in the end I couldn't use it anyways because I underestimated the degree of dirtiness a mostly-student-appertment-oven can reach...)

The baking forms - yeah, I found a lot of them, but in the end I went home with something completely else that I intended. I was originally  looking for either 1. a mini-cheesecake mold with removable bottoms, or 2. a brownie pan, possibly this fancy thing with the snake-like-inlay. (pictures show what I was looking for)
I saw them, but hesitated in the end, waking from one shop to another to see if I find anything else that would top these, because I did not want to buy more than one baking item. In the end I went home with a 6-mini-cake mold where the molds are made of silicone but they are integrated in a hard plate, so they are not so wobbly. This is a really good thing, but when I came home, I saw a very similar mold in Vienna, and did really regret I didn't get the Brownie pan, as that's really something typical and definitely not to get over here...

For the rest I can make it short: vegetable shortening - found it, not necessary (nor possibly!) to bring it home, but I now know what it is; corn syrup- somebody informed me what corn syrup is and I must say, I better stick with keeping it out of my kitchen; peanut butter - I found out that Peanutbutter&Co. does not have stores on it's own, so I decided to leave the peanutbutter out. We have creamy and crunchy peanutbutter over here, and even if it is not very customary, you can find it at most supermarkets, and I don't really see the need for other variations. I guess I wouldn't have used it anyhow. And while I adore peanutbutter (actually, I am in love with almost anything made of penuts), I can't imagine mixing it with jelly. Ick! (I guess this disqualifies me from ever getting american in my whole life. Not that I intended to...)

So I added to the chocolates and sweets I brought home some other baking related items. Uh, and I almost forgot, I found some wonderful, pretty spoon measures, and some practical, more or less ugly cup measures and despite I got a cup-measure for birthday, I just had to take them! And I found a cookie cutter that is shaped like a dragon-fly, and one of my friends loves dragon flies, so I had to take it, too. And I found Stevia, of which I had heard a lot, but it is almost impossible to buy it in Austria (in other European countries it is better), because the sugar lobby works against the accreditation. And I had to buy tons of cinnamon chewing gum (don't ask me why they don't sell it in Europe...) and the Lemon-Honey-Halls, which are the best, best, best relief for a slight throat ache (also not available, at least in Austria). And I had to buy some spice at Dean&Deluca because the packing is just too pretty to not take. I have no idea what annatto is. The dictionary tells me that it translates to "Annato" - very helpful... So I have also no idea what to do with it. But I love experiments, and this spice was the only one, I absolutely had not a single idea about what it could be... Someday I will find out.

But now I am finished. That's all. :o]

Dienstag, 16. März 2010

TWD rewind: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Week 2 of the Lenten project completed, three more to go. (I skipped the first week after Mardi Gras because I was on holiday, and renouncing sweets, alcohol and meat in my holdidays is just not on the menu). Two more weeks without the actual TWD-recipe rotation...

The Sweet Potato Biscuits were originally due on October 20 and chosen by Erin of Prudence Pennywise. The recipe (and a wonderful picture-guidance) may be found on her page, or in the book.

I had an enormous sweet potato in my "bio-basket" that is delivered directly to the doorsill of  my appartment every week. So, what would have been more obvious than trying out this recipe, that has been on the schedule just a few days before I started with TWD? Therefore, I used freshly made purree instead of the canned sweet potatos. The introduction-paragraph for the recipe advises to use 3/4 to 1 cup of fresh purree, and I used the higher limit, which is, I think, just perfect. I left out the sugar, and I don't think it would have been necessary.
For the rest, I followed the recipe as it was written (including the nutmeg- but not the cinnamon-option, and, as always, using spelt flour).

They turned out really, really good. This is the second week I bake before I have breakfast, so I can already enjoy a test-piece with my Sunday-breakfast/brunch. Well, or two test-pieces. Or...
I could get used to this procedure :o]
Additonally, these come together so quick, that even me, I don't spend too much time on it.

I have no biscuit cutter (actually, I do not even know what a biscuit cutter is. Possibly it is not much different to a cookie cutter?), so I used silicone molds, 6 for making brioches (but I use them also for muffins) and 6 round ones that are shaped like flowers on the edge and on the bottom. While they were baking (I often need a bit less baking-time then stated in the recipe; here, my baking-time was more like 10-12 mins.), I had just enough time to prepare the rest of my Sunday-breakfast.

Just wonder-ful, really! I don't think that you should use any spread for them, they are just perfect for themselves. They get a pretty slightly orange colour, and they are very airy. It happened that I didn't mash the potatos completely, so a few very small pieces made it into the biscuits, but I found that to be a very marvellous touch.

Liked to make it, liked to eat it - liked it!

(in the right picture you can see the "flower-print" of half of the biscuits, and also a little sweet-potato-piece peeking on the outside)

Dienstag, 9. März 2010

TWD rewind: Cheddar-Apple Scones

This is my first "Sorry, it's Lenten season, I can't bake without tasting so I am not following the right TWD-recipe-rotation"-entry. I found at least five recipes in Dorie's book where omitting the sugar probably won't make a big difference: Corn &Pepper Muffins, Basic Biscuits, Cheddar-Apple Scones , Sweet Potato Biscuits and the Parmesan Sablés. They all have only 2-3 tabelspoons sugar. Some other scones (especially the Toasted Almond Scones and the Cream Scones) also call for very limited teaspoons of sugar, so it should be possible to leave it out. But the latter two sound almost a bit like a sweet treat and I can better imagine pairing them with nut-spread, chocolate chips or honey than with savory spreads. Lucky me, I love, no, I adore scones and biscuits, no matter if more on the sweet or the savory side.
I only need four recipes for the weeks to come until Easter. I recognized that not all of them have already been in the recipe rotation, and I am afraid it only counts when I "catch-up" with somehting all the other eager and gifted bakers made in the almost two years before I joined.

So I started with the Cheddar-Apple Scones. It was originally due for July 1st 2008 and chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron. The recipe can be found on her blog or on page 32 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my home to yours".

When I woke up on Sunday morning I decided to get up and bake them for breakfast. Can a Sunday morning breakfast start better than with fresh, warm scones?

In the end, I dawdled away with whatever stuff, and didn't get started before almost lunch time. (Lunch-time on week-days. I believe there is a different time-zone applying for weekdays and week-ends. So it was still like Brunch-time on a weekend. And can a Sunday Brunch start better than with fresh, warm scones? :o])

I followed the recipe as written except that I used a bit more corn-meal and left out some all-purpose (spelt) flour instead, because I started to like corn-meal. Not that I had ever used it (or heard of it...) before I started with TWD, what is not really long ago, but since I really started to appreciate it for the texture it brings about, and I even have the feeling it slightly influences the colour. I switched only 1/4 cup.

I am a big cheese-in-any-ways lover and cheddar is an all-time favourite. I had some grated cheddar left from, uh, no idea. Just had it.

The scones turned out won-der-ful. I made several batches. For the first batch I used tablespoons to spoon them on the baking sheet. I often need less baking-time than indicated in the recipes, no idea why. I got them out the oven just in the very last minute before they turned dark-brown/black. I saved them, but it was nearly too late. And I found out why the recipe asks for grated or very finely chopped dry apples, for what I was too lazy. I only made medium sized chunks, and the pieces on the surface turned very dark. No, that's not true - they actually turned black.(But it didn't harm the overall picture too much.)

For the second batch I used a silicone mold for six minis with flower-shaped bottoms. The second batch I pulled out the oven too early. Hm, alright, I thought, I even have enough batter for a third batch. For this last rack I used a teaspoon to bring them on the baking sheet, because I thought they could be served as tea-biscuits at the office, and therefore it would be better if the scones were mini-scones.
And, what can I say, the third better turned out just fine.

But the best of all was to eat a first test-piece of the very first batch while the second was in the oven. To brake them up, and see them steam. Per-fect.

(I don't have to speak about the taste, do I? Won-der-ful!! Maybe, I thought, some nuts would not have been too bad. But you know what? They are just perfect without. Combining a lot of tastes can be fun, but it's not always necessary to include everything and all that could possibly also go with it. Sometimes more pureness is just adequate.)

Even more lucky me, I used all the wonderful cup- and spoon-measures I brought home from NYC, so I did not waste this huge amount of time I used to for converting measures into grams. Yeah! Baking is even more fun like that!!

Donnerstag, 4. März 2010

On the prowl (pt. 1)

While I found sort of a compromise for the next month of TWD, I recently found out that I do not only miss baking, but also blogging about my food-related experiences. Actually, during my holidays in Washington and NYC I was very busy following a long, long list of things to do, to see and to buy. And a large extent of this list consisted of food-related stuff. Stores, shops, restaurants, bakeries (a whole lot of bakeries...).

I was able to tick off a lot of them. And for the rest - well, as plan A (meeting a young, aspiring, good-looking, charming, clever, smart heir who ignores the female dominance in this town and the plenty of young, perfectly looking girls and happily gets me a ticket to NY every other week) did fail, I need some other excuse to come back soon anyways. ;o]

My luggage was also full with stuff I brought back to support my new baking-addiction. Here a little view behind the curtain of my haul of desired, not-to-get-in Europe objects, all imported completely illegally :o]

Can you spot all the goodies?

First of all I got myself some sweet treats. Look at this incredibly beautifully wrapped chocolate bars! You can really win me over with nicely wrapped chocolate.

At my frist stop, in In Washington DC, I found just by chance a wonderful little chocolate store, Biagio Fine Chocolates.
It is downstairs, in the basement, and I almost ran by. Additionally, it has an italian name, and I am one of the few people who are not deeply in love with italian food culture. It's not that I absolutely don't like it. I am just always asking myself why I should go to an italian restaurant, as long as there are asians, and why I should go to Italy, as long as there is France. And why I should learn, speak or read italian, as long as there is spanish. Nevertheless, no idea why, but I walked down the few steps and entered a wonderful shop.

They have a lot of fancy chocolate tastes, but also a big variety of origins. And they have a wide range of domestic chocolates, and I believe it is not always necessary to buy things that had to travel thousand of miles only to be eaten by me. (And, to be correct, in this case only to be taken with me some more miles back to Europe... I don't see a lot of sense therein.) They also feature local chocolate-createurs and sell amazing truffles, individual chocolates and caramels.

I bought the two small bars from Vosges Chocolate, as I didn't know they are located in NYC anyways. (Actually, they were on my long list, but I didn't realize the coincidence of names until I saw the signboard when I went to visit their shop in NY.) I decided on the Bacon bars because I heard so much of it and I am a curious person. A lot of savory tastes match perfectly with chocolate and I guess some years ago nobody would have thought so. At least I cannnot remember having heard of the now almost dull and boring combination of chilli/pepper and chocolate until some years ago. (In fact, I don't got a lot for this combination, but I adore the chocolate-salt-combo!) Still, more often than not I think one should not overexaggerate it with the combination of crazy flavours. Many of them sound more exciting than they taste. In Austria we have a (here) very famous chocolate producer I principally like a lot, but they are most famous for producing a wide range of very very fanzy sorts like pink coconut+fish gum, peanut+ketchup or Lemon+polenta. That's all exciting and interesting, somehow, but usually I like the not extremely sensational better. Even though, I often buy special tastes I haven't seen before, but I prefer to reluctantly combine tastes in my phantasy and not to just buy everthing that sounds sensational. But bacon and chocolate might work out well, especially milk chocolate, I imagine, even usually I would prefer the dark sort. But for once, here I think the lighter variant could be better. Let's see. (I will come back to this after Easter!)

As I liked the shop so much and the sales people where extremely nice, supporting, obviously really interested in their products and not pushing at all (I can't understand who really thinks, pushing customers could force them to buy something. Don't salespeople recognize that they actually sell more, when they don't urge the clientel?), I took another bar, because it was just too pretty - the Theo chocolate, which has not only a wonderful drawing on the cover, but is made of dark vegan chocolate with fig, fennel and almond. I am very curious to see how the vegan chocolate turns out! I once tried to bake with lactose-free chocolate, which is, I guess, probably the same as vegan chocolate, and the taste was ok, but don't try to heat it!! Well, I won't heat this bar anyways...

And I took the two mini bars from Newtree, the "Refresh" (dark chocolate with mint) and the "Crave" (milk chocolate with apricot) (Yes, I know. Newtree is indeed belgian, and I have one of their Alpha-bars, the one with thym and flaxseed, at home, waiting for a decent occasion to be opened. But you can't get this series in Europe. And I took the very very little ones. By the way, I like their wrapping design a lot, too. I often go for a clear, not too overloaded design).

In NYC, I went to Dean&Deluca and for an instant I thought "why not just buy everything in here?" But then reality came back to my mind, so besides several coffees (on several days, for sure) and several pieces from their bakery (Almost all wonderful, I love D&D. Only the Angel Food Muffin was a huge, major dissapointment. I never had angel food before, and heard it so far only in the combination with chocolate. But the customer behind me, who was a bit in a hurry, told me that it is just something with a very special texture, so I tried it. I hope, they gave me an old piece from the day before, because otherwise I would be almost shocked how anyone can eat this rubber-like stuff!!), on the sweet side I opted for a chocolate bar from Mast Brothers Chocolate, which is a not too big enterprise based in Brooklyn. The Murray's Cheese HP says about them: "The only bean-to-bar producer in New York City, the Masts have converted a 100-year old factory in the "village" of Williamsburg into a veritable Willy Wonka land for handmade chocolate bars." Sounds good, huh? Here you can see how lovely and wonderful their other bars look like. I am pretty moping that I didn't find out earlier that they have a shop in Williamsburg. Well, as I said, I need some excuse to come back, anyways... My beautiful bar is with (very) dark chocolate (81%) and almonds, sea salt and olive oil. Well, let's see after the end of Lenten season!

I am still a bit sorry that I didn't also get one of the Moo Kids Chocolate Bars (the nice wrap - you remember :o]), but I just couldn't afford to buy all the different chocolates I would have liked to. And the Mast Brothers products are, as wonderful as they look like, pricey, pricey, pricey.
(Still from D&D I got a mini bar of their own chocolate, merely for just having anything by D&D.)

At my very last day I went to Vosges Chocolate and when my surprise, that I actually already had something from Vosges, volatilised, I decided on the box of excotic caramels : Aboriginal anise myrtle+dark chocolate; Mexican guajillo chillies+licorice root+dark chocolate+organic pumpkin seeds; Hawaiian red sea salt+milk chocolate+li hing powder; Brazil nuts+South American cocoa nibs+dark chocolate. (Half of the ingredients I don't know. Ok, that's an exaggeration. But what is guajillo or li hing powder? So much for "I stick with the trivial tastes"). And I took two truffles on the hand. Actually, I have to say that they were a bit of a dissapointment. Maybe it was not the right day, maybe I was not in the right mood. Maybe it was because, about one hour before, I had the best, best, best cupcake ever.

But I realize that this blog entry is already far too long, so I will stop here and write about my restaurant- and bakery-visits next time!

Dienstag, 2. März 2010

TWD March Preview

After a month full of cookies and chocolate, TWD is looking forward to a month full of cookies and ... coconut to come.

There are plenty of things I have no idea about, and ultimately that's what I like most about TWD!
Nevertheless I have to put TWD on a hold. It is Lenten Season, and although I have no religious or spiritual resason to do so, I won't eat any sweets until Easter Sunday (and no meat as well, and I won't drink alcohol). This is an important thing for me. I do so for the third year in a row. And I can't imagine to bake and not taste or lick the batter and dough rests out the bowls. So I see no way to follow TWD without breaking my Lenten promise or betraying myself by pretending "this little itsy bit of batter won't harm."
Sure, it won't.
But I will try to resist some things the weeks to come, try to abstain some not-necessities, and baking would not make it easier. I don't want to cheat on me, so, see you in April, TWD!

But after my trip to D.C. and NYC I found myself some days ago home in my kitchen, very sad, looking at my oven, feeling sorry for myself because I didn't bake for three weeks, and won't do so for the next loooong five weeks, and already miss it now.
(Yes, they had an oven in NYC, and yes, I tried to bake, especially because the friend I visited asked me to bake some "european" bread. But I underestimated the degree of dirtiness of the shared-mostlystudents-appartement oven and, to make it short, we ended up heading to thesmoke detector, trying to shut it down before the fireworkers are alarmed and arrive with two big cars and water hoses and the whole block getting evacuated and provoking a big mes. Me managed it.)

Finally I found a compromise: There are not many savory recipes in Dorie's book (well, in fact, there is not a single one that does not include sugar, but a few that can be easily adapted). I will do some of them instead. Thereby I am still baking, and at least still following Dorie's recipes.

Nevertheless I will try to catch up with at least two of the wonderful picks for this month at the beginning of April on Easter weekend. I guess I already decided on
  • the Dulce de Leche Duos, chosen by Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake (Marvel her incredible cakes! They are awesom!)
  • and the Coconut Tea Cake chosen by Carmen of Carmen Cooks (Go there to see her admirable pictures of what she is creating in the kitchen!)
because both can be stored a while, because they can easily be transported to the office, because I would like to try to do the Dulce de Leche myself, and because I love coconuts.
I am very, very tempted to catch up with the Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart, picked by Beryl of Cinemon Girl (toasted coconuts!! custard!!) as well and the Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart, possibly made with blackberries, picked by Rachelle of Mommy? I’m Hungry!. Combining berries and chocolate is always a winner, and when we are very, very lucky there might be already some regionally grown berries, as the spring is already dawning this weekend in Vienna... maybe not blackberries, but let's see what nature has in it's pocket for us.