Dienstag, 27. April 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

This last TWD-month was a month of incredible simpliness and fastness. All the recipe where to be completed in less time than the one the week before. "Comes together in a snap" must have been one of the most often cited phrases by TWD'ers. Some even reported that their ovens had not even finished preheating by the time the dough was ready to be baked. But when I learnt anything about baking in the last months since I stepped into the big gloomy world of pastry, cakes and brownies, it is that the simpliest things never are that simple. Easiness also shows your limits, as with these recipes it is not so much the mere procedure itself that is challenging, but perfecting it.

And I'm lousy when it comes to perfection. Maybe that's one reason why I have "chosen" baking as a new hobby - I need this challenge. I need a task that is a bit demanding.

In this respect, the Chockablock Cookies, chosen by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet where you can also find the recipe (or, even better, buy the book and have a look at page 86) are a perfect April-recipe.
The real question for these cookies is: What did you use? It is not exactly like with Composte/Amnesty Cookies, that are made of almost anything you can find in your kitchen. But even though mostly more than 100 people are participating in TWD weekly, I guess we won't see many identical cookies. There is the nut-question (you are free to use any sort - me, I took the easy way with a nut mix), and the dried-fruit-question (again: anything possible; I decided on dried apricots). I thought about including raisins and figues, because I ADORE figues, but ended up with the decision that it's better not to overload them in taste.
But: I heavily doubted the amount of chocolate. I used less (100g/3 ounces of 86% chocolate and 30g/1 ounce milk chocolate - instead of 180 g/6 ounces in total, as I made only half the recipe). And I'm glad I did, because there was much too much chocolate even with the cut back .

I don't know what went wrong. I read and re-read the recipe, but the chocolate amount was rigth. My cookies just ran out. They didn't really firm. The chocolate ran to the bottom of the cookies, where it almost burnt. Transferring them to a cooling rack was a complete mess.

Sure, taste beats looks. And my colleagues didn't seem to mind at all. But they didn't look a tad as cookies should.

I am obviously physically not able to produce proper specimens of cookies. Project Perfection goes on...

(And now - up to a new TWD-month full of less-fast recipes, where my unableness to perfection doesn't stand out that much ;o])

Dienstag, 20. April 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

During Lenten Season I became almost an expert for baking scones and biscuits, as they can mostly be made without sugar. So when I read that Melissa of Love At First Bite chose Sweet Cream Biscuits (p. 23 in Dories book) for this weeks TWD-session, I was excited  on the one side ("Juhu, something I CAN do! Something I am not a complete novice about!"), but a bit dissappointed on the other side ("Oh no, not biscuits - again. I made soooo many of them the weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter").
After considering all the ups and downs I decided that in the end I do love baking savory things, I do love eating biscuits, and I enjoyed the routine I was going through during Lenten Season (waking up, jogging for 50-60 mins, bathroom, baking, having a big, big breakfast/brunch with fresh baked quick breads). So - hooray for this pick!!

The category "quick breads" is more than appropriate. Because you use heavy cream instead of butter, you don't even have to think about cutting and freezing the fat (what I usually would do for about half an hour to make sure the butter is really, really cold). Just mix the few ingredienst, and you are ready to go!

As I made so many breakfast treats recently, I was in the mood for playing around. I have a lot of ramson because it is the season for it and whole Vienna (or at least its parks and gardens) smells for it. And the restaurants will use it in the weeks to come in so many variants, that in the end, no matter how much you like it, we will all be completely fed up with it and glad the season is over, so we get a whole year to recover. For sure, before next February ends, most Viennese will crave for their ramson risotto, ramson sauces of all kinds, ramson patties ...
I really love it, and as I am allergic to garlic, this is a perfect substitute. (For the allergy: Very long, very sad story... I used to like garlic a lot and didn't find out until some years ago. Well, let's face it, there are worse allergies than this. It's in my own hands to avoid it. But I very often forget to ask in restaurants, and sometimes don't recognize it, when it is not too dominant. And then the rest of the day/evening is to be forgotten, and it's best to go home....)
(Btw.: Is ramson really the right word? It is a herb that smells like garlic, but is botanically something completely different. I also found the translation "bears garlic" or "wild garlic", what might be wrong because what I am talking about has nothing do to with garlic?)

Since I made my first biscuits I found out what biscuit cutters are, but as they are not to be found round here, I just used high cookie cutters shaped like stars.
Additionally to some finely chopped ramson I mixed in a tiny little bit of Parmesan. I have no idea how much I used, I just went with my intuition.

For the ramson - I am a big fan! The parmesan would maybe not have been necessary, but after all I didn't really taste it anyways.
The ramson makes the biscuits look very pretty on the plate (on the pictures below you can indeed only see the little test piece with ramson and one of the plain Sweet Cream Biscuits), and the taste is wonderful.

Sure, this only works if you don't eat your biscuits with jam or other sweet spreads :o]

(Breakfast as I like it most - mixed vegetable salad, ham, some excellent cheese (buffalo brie), the newspaper - and homemade, still slightly warm biscuits)

Sonntag, 18. April 2010

TWD rewind and May preview - Dulche de Leche Duos

I still have to catch up with some of the group's recipes I tweaked during Lenten season. As everybody was so excited about the Dulche de Leche Duos and I was so excited about the possibility of making it yourself I went for it some weeks ago. I didn't find enough time to bake the cookies themselves, but the DDLcan be stored for up to two month. Well, I didn't wait that long. But recently I got fed up with having a bowl of DDL in my fridge. I need the space. I need the bowl. I don't like to have left-overs for a long time. (I am still kind of in "lenten-mode": Before Easter, I start cleaning my stocks and cupboards).

So. Dulche de Leche Duos. Honestly, during making them I constantly thought "Never. Again. Ne-ver".

My kitchen was a mess. I had a hard time measuring the needed amount of DDL. Additionally, I was not well prepared. When I was ready to measure out the needed flour, I already had the DDL in my cup-measure, so I couldn't use it anymore. When I was ready to toss in the baking soda, I found out that I ran out of it. When I had mixed the dry ingredients in the only bowl actually available in my kitchen, I saw that I would have needed this one for beating the butter. I needed three tours for baking away all the batter (and I even made only the half amount), because I have only one baking sheet. So it took much longer to make the cookies than planed. And I thought about the long, long time for baking the DDL. I have no quick or rice cooker, condensed milk doesn't come in cans in Austria, and I know only one store where they sell DDL. An extremely, extremely high-end pricey shop. So, doing it myself the David-Labovitz-way was the only option.

But once they cooled down, and I tried a cookie, I was taken. Still, I am not sure if I will do them again because I know me - I am a lazy little person. But I hope when Christmas time comes, I remember how tasty these little caramel cookies are, and that they are a welcome change to all the chocolate and gingerbread. I can also imagine them to be a wonderful base for icecream-sandwich. Mabye with some caramel icecream?
(You know what I like most about these pictures? It's not that you can follow the DDL running down. It's the twin that is mirrored in the plate :o])

And that brings me to the other topic today - the May-TWD-preview is here!!

Four great bakers have opted for four great recipes with icecream and fresh fruits:

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream  chosen by Becky of Project Domestication
Quick Classic Berry Tart May picked by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine 
Apple-Apple Bread Pudding elected by Elizabeth of Cake or Death?, and finally
Spike of spikebakes decided on the Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie.

I am excited about the Icecream. I love doing icecream since I got "The perfect scoop". I have no machine, but David Lebovitz gives great directions about how to make icrecream by hand. I just decided to fridge some of the Dulche de Leche Duos-cookies and make DDL/Caramel Icecream Sandwiches with them!

The Berry Tarte is perfect for the season and I am so much looking forward to buying fresh berries on the market that week.

I have some brioche left from the Easter brunch, and planned to used it for a recipe proposed by Isa of  Les Gourmandises d'Isa (Apple and Pear Brioche Pudding), but in the very last moment I saw the May preview and the apple-bread pudding is a welcome use for the brioche.

The only thing troubling me is the Pie. Don't get me wrong - this sounds great. This sounds terrific. This sounds like a Pie I could slurp in one piece. But how the heck can I bring that to work? How can I store it there until afternoon? Usually, my co-workers scuff by the kitchen whenever during the day they feel like needing some sugar. I don't see how the icecream could survive that...
But lets see. Maybe I will have a better idea than bringing it to work, because - let's get serious. Icecream, coconut, bananas - I HAVE to try that!

Dienstag, 13. April 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

When I was at university I took a swedish class for a year. I was interested in the language because I generally think of Sweden as a very interesting country. I mostly like how things are run there, and always thought that we can learn a lot from them. I like that politicians and top-managers are never seen as irreplaceable and VIPs. You can bump into them on Friday evening when they are at the movies with their friends and family. (Unfortunately, this also leeds to unwanted consequences, as things like this or that would not be possible in most other countries, due to big security entourages.)  like their way dealing with female participation in the workforce and the involvement of fathers in child-raising and homework-duties. And I am convinced that their open-mindness towards income and wealth transparency is a role-model.

And I think that it sounds funny when Swedish people speak. :o]

So I learned Swedish, but by chance, after the summer-holidays that year I went to Strasbourg, France, for an exchange semester, that ultimately became an exchange year and the basis of my love of France (which was the complete opposite before - my mother's a french teacher. You can imagine all the rest about teenage rebellion against parents...).

But the topic here is Sweden. So, to make it short, I forgot all my Swedish (read: the little bit Swedish I lernt in this one year), and almost all I can say is "min mor är en kassörska", what means "my mother is a till girl" - what is not even true (I seriously have  no idea why I did remind that!), and the most simple things like hello, good bye and thanks.

Samstag, 10. April 2010

Amnesty Cookies a.k.a. Compost Cookies

There are these projects, I am sure everybody knows them, that pend above your head since ages. This is one of mine. The idea sounds too tempting not to make them:

Take 1,5 cups of all the baking rest that did amass over time in your cupboard. If you have more (I bet you do!), just take your favourites.
Then, take 1,5 cups of savory snacks, preferably also rests and leftovers you want to get rid of.
Mix a very simple cookie dough (butter, sugar, eggs - the classics), chop the mentioned leftovers  in. Cool the dough, put them in the oven and that's it.
The recipe can be found here. Originally, they are Momofuku's Compost Cookies. David L. calls them Amnesty Cookies - and idea I find hilarious.

I halfed the recipe, and found out that I had to limit myself indeed. 3/4 leftovers are not that much at all. In the end, I mixed up some chocolates (a very small piece milk chocolate, a very small piece white lemon chocolate, some pure white chocolate, some mini milk-chocolate-nougat easter eggs, a bit of dark ginger chocolate), mascarpone nougat, shredded coconut, and a little piece of merengue that was left from icecream-making last week. I didn't really have savory snacks at home, so I tricked a bit and took cookie crumbles from various projects (at least I can claim that some of them came from vary salty batches...), which I filled up with pumkin seeds and sesame, and I was very liberal with the amount of salt.

Dienstag, 6. April 2010

TWD: Coconut Tea Cake

After many, many weeks, Lenten season has come to an end and so here comes an almost-in-time "Tuesdays with Dorie"-post! (Actually, this tea cake was due last week, but we were allowed to switch weeks.)
I had a coconut in my bio-basket the other week, so I decided to use it. Mary of Mary Mary Culinary gave me some hints how to transfer it into something I could bake with. And she was caring enough to take the time to have a look how it turned out. Thanks so much! (Btw.: What a great blog name! Is it just me or are there also other people who love blogs just for their name? Don't get me wrong - Mary's blog is also a delight for her pictures and all the wonderful stuff she creates in the kitchen. But I like words (does this sound odd?) and playing with language. So this is one of my absolute favourite TWD-blogs!)

I am not 100% convinced that that's what the shredded, toasted coconut should look like. Turning from white to brown just went in a second, so I missed the point when I should have taken them out. But they still didn't taste bad, so I used them nevertheless.

I opted for including some lime juice. The bio farmers at the market didn't have lime or lemons so I only used the juice from a store-bought, don't-use-the-zest-lime. I decided to take a bit more, to guarantee for the taste, because other bloggers wrote about a not very strong taste. And I decided to frost the cake with some white lime chocolate. I also opted for the rum, took a bit less sugar, and included a bit more of the shredded coconuts, not at least because my batter seemed to be very, very liquid. The recipe calls for 3/4 cups, and although I made only half the batter, I used the whole amount of coconut.
I made a small bundt and six minis. It would not have mattered to have a bit more batter, but it was ok like that, too.

Sonntag, 4. April 2010

Easter Menu (the sweet part) and TWD catch-up: Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

Like on Christmas I opted for bringing the sweets for the Easter Brunch. (As in the meantime desserts became the only course I might manage to make not too bad, this was an easy decision for everybody involved. What is, like me and my mom.) And, contrary to Christmas, when I made the Christmas Muffins I found at Laws of the Kitchen , David Lebovitz' Roquefort Icecream with a Shiraz poached pear and  goat cheese custards - and forgot to picture them!!, this time I took pictures...