Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rye crackers!

So blah blah I've been really busy and blah blah blah haven't baked blah blah I suck etc.

But it's true! I've had classes from 9-5 for two weeks (I'd like to thank sudoku and electronic scrabble from keeping me from killing myself) and when I wasn't in class I was either doing homework, napping or watching trashy reality television. Very important things, obviously. But things have settled down a lot recently and I finally had time to ask Joe what he would like me to bake. And he had very specific ideas: Crackers. Rye crackers.



Rye crackers? Sure. Google is my friend and I found a recipe pretty quickly. Seriously, what did people do before the internet? I already don't remember my life before my iPhone, a dark age in which I couldn't access celebrity gossip at every moment of every day. How did I live?


INGREDIENTS:

• 1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) whole rye (pumpernickel) flour
• 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter
• 3 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) caraway seeds
• 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
• 1 tablespoon molasses
• Additional salt for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Combine the flours, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly, using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork or a mixer. Add the caraway seeds and toss to mix.

Combine the water and molasses in a measuring cup and stir to mix. Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients, mixing till you can gather the dough into a cohesive ball.

TO SHAPE AND BAKE THE CRACKERS: Divide the dough into 3 pieces; roll it out, one piece at a time, till it's 1/16, inch thick, being sure to flour underneath when necessary so the dough doesn't stick to the work surface.

Use a baker's bench knife, a sharp knife, a pizza wheel or a square cookie cutter to cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to prepared baking sheets.

Bake the crackers until they begin to brown and smell toasty, 18 to 23 minutes. Remove the crackers from the oven, transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving. Store in airtight containers.
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If you like rye and caraway then you'll like these. The only issue I had with them was that since the dough was pretty dark, it was hard to tell when they were done and I ended up under baking a bunch of them. In my oven, these needed at least 25 minutes.

I would tell you that I'll have another post up soon about the apple crisp I made the other day but Joe ate all of it before I could take a picture of it. However, Brian came over for dinner and I am currently quietly moving the bowl of tiramisu I made today closer and closer to his chair in hopes he'll eat thirds. He lost 13 lbs since he moved out, I can't imagine why.

In other news, let's talk about what else has been consuming my life and that is BABIES. I've always known vaguely that I wanted to have kids some day but that changed last year I was doing my pediatric rotation. It confirmed my desire to have kids someday until one day I took care of an infant whose parents were at a class learning how to take care of one of his medical devices. So I was with him a lot to give him his feedings. And while I was coaxing him to finish one of his bottles, his big blue eyes looked into mine and a small bomb went off in my uterus and said, "OH HELLO. LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF. MY NAME IS BIOLOGICAL CLOCK, MAY I SUGGEST YOU HAVE BABIES IMMEDIATELY?" and I was all, "Shut up, ovaries, I cannot have babies anytime soon!" Hormones reply with, "No problem, maybe you can just take this little guy home? I'm sure nobody will notice."

Obviously I didn't steal the baby but now whenever I saw children my ovaries go, "HELLO WE CAN'T HELP BUT NOTICE YOU ARE NOT YET PREGNANT. PLEASE REMEDY THIS SITUATION ASAP."

It's very distracting, I wasn't aware that you turn 21 and then have sudden urges to have litters of babies. Joe tolerates it now but I'm sure he'll get weary of it when he finds the darling bassinet I bought.

Just kidding.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Baker's August Challenge: Cake! Cake! Cake!

Look at me, I actually did the Daring Baker's Challenge on time this month!

Blurb-o-the-month: The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

What is a dobos torte? It's a fancy chocolate cake, basically. It has a trillion layers of cake stacked and smothered in buttercream and covered with crushed nuts. Caramel is also worked in but I chose not to do that, as you'll see.

So because Brian doesn't live with us anymore and I can no longer trick him into eating 90% of my baked goods, I decided I would halve the recipe. And then I invited my bestie over to watch Top Chef and force fed her cake.


Still figuring out the lighting in my new apartment!

Except the halving the recipe thing didn't go as plan because I am physically unable to read a recipe all the way through. This is what happened: recipe said to mix egg yolks and sugar together. No problem. La la la, sugar and egg yolks beat together. Next step says: add the rest of the sugar... and I go, "What do you mean the REST of the sugar?! I just added all of the sugar to the egg yolks!" and so to even things out I had to make the full recipe. Thank god I tried to halve the recipe otherwise I would've had to make nine dozen cakes to even things out.

Rebel that I am, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. This torta things calls for you to make caramel and drench wedges cake in caramel for decoration. But this thing already looked so rich that I couldn't bring myself to do it. Oh, plus I'm lazy. I also didn't make the buttercream recipe because I saw a lot of Daring Bakers were having trouble with it. Plus, I have a long standing love affair with French buttercream, which just beats the pants off of all other frostings. So obviously I had to make French buttercream (I based my chocolate version off of this version). I also threw in some raspberries in between the layers of cake for extra deliciousness. You can see from the photos that I ran out of raspberries about half way through but its the thought that counts. Or something.

This recipe is about 800 pages long so I won't post it. I'm really sleepy.

This cake wasn't too hard, just time consuming. It probably wouldn't has taken so long if I had common sense. I decided to decorate the top of the cake with melted chocolate. The chocolate didn't temper right so it wasn't drizzling very well. So I thought I would be clever and just pour the chocolate over the top of the cake. And I did. And then all my beautiful chilled frosting immediatly melted under the chocolate. Commence panicked noises while my brain shut down and Joe frantically told me to put it in the freezer and I was able to salvage it after the frosting and chocolate set up again.

Anyways, this isn't something I would make too often because it takes awhile and as a college student, I don't have many reasons to bake a 900 layer cake. It would be good as a special occasion cake though, I liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would so I'm glad I tried it.

Stay tuned for a few more recipes I've yet to post!

Monday, August 10, 2009

July's Daring Baking Challenge + I'm Back!

So I’m WAY late for this Daring Bakers Challenge but I have all sorts of good excuses. I was planning on making these towards the end of July and had all of the supplies ready. And then I got the killer flu from hell.

I haven’t had the flu in years and this one hit me like a ton of bricks. I almost said a ton of steel bricks but those don’t exist, do they? I obviously have suffered from permanent brain damage from my fever. I was basically incapacitated for a week, slumped in one of Joe’s armchairs, possibly drooling a tad. I spent most of my time watching awful television because shows like Bridezillas require no brain activity and with my 102 degree fever, I couldn’t spare any strength. I know y’all are just waiting for your own excuse to watch such glorious monstrosities without judgment.

I finished the challenge when I was done dying but by that time I was already late to post. Then I had to move back to school. Then I had to move in to a new apartment that didn’t have internet yet. I almost died of withdrawal but my sanity was saved by my iPhone.
So at this point are you like, “JESUS WOMAN, JUST TELL US WHAT YOU MADE”? Because I’m sort of sick of myself at this point. So here’s the blurb-o-the-month:The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We had the option of making milanos, the marshmallow cookies or both. I had originally planned on making both but since I ran out of time, I decided on the milanos only. I’ve made marshmallows before so I didn’t feel a burning urge to make them again.



Recipe:

Milan Cookies

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

INGREDIENTS:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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These were easier to make than I had thought: I was mostly worried about the cookie dough. To shape the cookies, you have to pipe the dough (batter?) onto the cookie sheet. I don’t have much piping experience and my piping set was back at school. Snipping the tip off a ziplock bag ended up working just fine though.



I liked these alright, they looked a lot like milanos and tasted good to boot. The only issue I had with them is that the texture of the cookies was different from the Pepperidge Farm milanos, which have two crunchy cookies sandwiched between a dark chocolate ganache filling. This recipe yielded much softer cookies, more like a crisper madeleine. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but not exactly Milano-like. My teenage brother ate most of them, which is always a plus.
So now I’m back in Cleveland, braving the ungodly heat wave and thunderstorms. School started and when I stop dying of heat stroke I’ll start baking again.

Brian has graduated and moved on from living with Joe and I but we’ll still see him around. We spent the past weekend with Brian and his childhood friend, Sam, at Sam’s cottage. I met Sam’s pugs for the first time, one of which is the saddest example of a dog I’ve ever seen. The thing must be approximately 200 years old in dog years because she can barely walk from arthritis, can barely see from cataracts and can barely breath from… being an ancient pug. The poor thing sounds like a broken lawnmower, she is constantly like GRUNTGRUNTGRUNT-WHEEZE-GRUNTYGRUNTGRUNT-WHEEEEEEZE. I eventually decided that she was trying to navigate through echolocation.

The cottage is on Lake Eerie, which apparently is a giant tourist destination because there is a giant touristy boardwalk full of weird stores, arcades and bars. At one arcade I won a stuffed triceratops. And by ‘won’ I mean the stoned teenager at the prize desk thought I was cute and gave me a 600-ticket prize for my 12 tickets. Being cute has its advantages, like collecting all the sweatshop made stuffed animals your heart could ever desire.

At one creepy store they sold a variety of things ranging from leather goods, plastic mythical creatures to illegal weapons. Which of course means that Brian bought a switchblade he promptly christened Knifey. I spent most of the rest of the weekend pleading with Brian not to play with Knifey, which of course didn’t stop him from dueling a rose bush late at night on Saturday after a few beers.

Sunday we all headed to a local medieval fair, which was fun in an awkward sort of way. Some of the people working at the medieval fair are genuinely SO INTO the experience that it makes us semi-sane vaguely uncomfortable. Also, it seems that many people are convinced that in medieval times, fairies and dragons lived aside people and ate such delicacies as deep-fried pickles and cheesecake on sticks. It was fun though, except for the part where it was nine million degrees outside.

Another fun challenge, milanos are something I probably wouldn’t have thought to make these cookies on my own. This month’s challenge will be even more difficult so check back to see how I fare!