Sunday, January 31, 2016

Irish Cream Scones with Raspberry Butterscotch Lace Topping

Sometimes Rose surprises me.  After baking through two and one-half of her cookbooks, I think I have a pretty good idea of what will appeal to her.  But I nearly missed the recipe for the raspberry butterscotch sauce, seemingly just a little throwaway recipe that you can make if you want to gild the lily.  I love scones in their natural state--I don't need more butter or jam to enjoy them, so I almost didn't make this sauce.  Now I want to eat it every day.

But first, the scones.  As instructed, I used a mixture of bread and all-purpose flour (both King Arthur, whose bread flour has a higher protein content than General Mills).  These are the easiest scones you'll ever make because you don't have to work the butter into the flour.

Just mix a lot of cream in with the dry ingredients.  That's it!  You don't even have to knead it.

Besides having no butter, the only thing that makes these scones slightly unusual is that a few grams of honey are in the dough.  I couldn't taste honey in the final product, but I'm not a super taster.

I'm showing these pictures in reverse chronological order, since I made the sauce on Friday night and the scones early Saturday morning.  A cup or so of good-looking frozen raspberries first had to thaw and then give up some of their juices.

Oh, another reason I almost skipped this sauce--it requires mashing and straining of raspberries to get a few tablespoons of juice and puree, leaving the mashed-up raspberries pretty useless.  An expensive sauce, too--the small bag of organic raspberries cost nearly $5.  But although these are very good reasons to skip this sauce, please don't!

Just a small amount of caramel-y sauce magic, made with butter, cream, and Muscovado sugar.  More expensive ingredients.  Is this a $10 sauce yet?

And here we are.  This innocent-looking sauce will make you want to forget the scones and just scoop up the sauce.  And remember, this is coming from an aficionada of The Naked Scone.  When people showed up for their doughnuts, coffee, and scones, I was torn between hospitality ("Don't forget the raspberry sauce for your scone!") and selfishness ("Oh, the red stuff--it's just ketchup.")  Even though the good angel won out, there was still some sauce left, which I'm doling out to myself in small amounts to make it last.  I've discovered that one of the best things in the world is Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries, and this raspberry butterscotch sauce.  (I never got to the lacy part of it).

The sauce is perfectly balanced, with just enough sweetness to tame the raspberries, but enough tartness from the berries to make it fresh, and a rich depth of flavor from the Muscovado sugar.  Make the scones--they're very good (although probably not quite as good as the cream cheese scones, their ease of execution puts them at the top of the list for a quick treat), but please don't ignore the raspberry sauce.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Remarkably Light and Airyish"

Photo by Patricia
ButterYum Blog

I think that the main reaction to this week's baking project was surprise (or awe, or even a little disappointment) at the combination of the massive amounts of rich, heavy, ingredients, and the, as Patricia says, the "remarkably light and airyish" texture.  

Although Patricia loved the "beautiful lemon curd glaze," she decided that the texture was almost "too wet," when compared with traditional heavy cheesecakes.  She was also not crazy about the texture of the ground almonds and could not detect the flavor of the almond extract.  (Patricia omitted the cake base and used a "push pan" instead of a springform pan.

On the other hand, Rachel was crazy about the texture, and called the cheesecake "the cake for you if you like light AND creamy cheesecake."   She says she's had light cheesecakes, "but the tend to the crumbly."  And she's had "super creamy cheesecakes, but they're usually also dense."  This combination of light and creamy makes a just-about-perfect cake.  She took her cheesecake to a New Year's Eve party, "where it was a hit."  Mine shared the same fate, Rachel.

Kim had a little trouble with excess moisture in her cheesecake, although not enough to keep her from describing it as "lovely" and "fluffy."  She was "VERY CAREFUL" with the heavy-duty and "VERY CAREFUL" walking the pan to the oven, but still thought it wept a bit, and was moist enough that she ended up not being able to discern the cake base.  She served it with grappa--an unexpected but probably excellent choice, and people were so impressed with the cake's lightness that they had seconds.  (The grappa may have lowered some inhibitions).

After making the super-tart tart a few weeks ago, Aimee was wary of the lemon curd topping, so she decided just to skip it, and ended up with a "5-star restaurant dessert."  This made her (and her friends) very happy.  She made mini-cheesecakes, using some small brioche paper wrappers that she'd purchased years ago, figuring she'd eventually find the right time to use them.  And so she did.  Without the curd, she topped some mini-cheesecakes with lemon yogurt and some with whipped cream (the whipped cream ones were best!).  She had plenty to give away, and nobody complained that this lemon dessert was too tart!

Catherine started out so cheerfully when writing about the cheesecake:  "The Lemon Almond Cheesecake is completely delicious and well worth the effort."  But then she fades:  "But Oh what an effort."  First, there was the fuss of making the cake, which turned out too brown anyway.  (This is why some of us took the easy way out and bought ladyfingers.)  Also, "I remember zesting a lot of lemons and weighing out my own body weight in cream cheese and sour cream."  Finally, almost done:  "Oh, good God, there's a Step Five!!??"  She was tired when she finished, but, fortunately, never too tired to eat.

Neither was Vicki, in part because she used "a package of store-bought lovely lady finger cookies."  This purchase allowed Vicki to describe it as a "fairly easy recipe,"  She also had no water problems, since she "found the longest roll possible of extra strength foil which encased the entire pan."  Finally, she topped the lemon curd topping with Devonshire cream, which made goodness "even better."

Just Added:

Evil Cake Lady


Next week:  Irish Cream Scones - from the Q&E list!  Hooray!  Don't miss the sauce, which is technically optional, but too spectacular to omit.

And better give a glance to the Pink Pearl Lady Cake, which is coming up for Valentine's Day, or just because.  Many pages of instructions and ingredients you aren't likely to have even in the back of your cupboard, at least if you're like me.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lemon Almond Cheesecake

How can a dessert containing a pound of cheese, 3 cups of sour cream, 14 egg yolks, not to mention butter and nuts, be greeted with cries of, "It's so light!"  "Most cheesecakes are heavy; how did you get this one so light and fluffy?" and "It's so light I could have seconds"?  I took this to an impromptu bon voyage party for neighbors who've rented a house in Denver for a few months, and people just gobbled it up.

Once again, I failed to notice the "PLAN AHEAD" note:  "Make the cheesecake at least 1 day ahead," and I started the morning of the party.  When I finally read the full recipe, I said, "Jim, I may have to come late to the party with dessert because I don't see how I'm going to finish it on time unless I bring a cheesecake puddle."  He made soothing sounds, but I wasn't soothed.  Fortunately, Rose and Woody appear to have built in idiocy periods in all the stop-and-chill times because I think it turned out perfectly.  (Unless it wasn't supposed to be as light and fluffy and it turned out to be, but if that's the case, I'm glad I did it wrong.)

After I'd read the directions, you can imagine how happy I was that I'd already bought a package of lady fingers just in case I didn't have time to make the cake base.  If I'd made the cake layer, I'd have had to buy dessert for the party or bring the dessert a day late and claim that I was sure that it was the night of the party.

I had just finished trimming the lady fingers when JJ came over to play.  I told him he could have a bite.  He looked doubtful.  I told him they were fine, and I was going to give whatever I had left to the squirrels (we have extraordinarily portly squirrels in our back yard), and JJ relented and tried one. Then 2 and more.  "Yummy," he said.  Did he think I'd steer him wrong?  (The squirrels still got their daily fix of leftovers).

JJ wasn't particularly interested in helping me build the ladyfinger base, mostly because we had about six inches of new snow, so he wanted to go outside.  Jim got play in the snow duty while I got to stay in the kitchen.  I took a few pictures with my phone, but most of the making of the cheesecake went undocumented.

It is, however, documented that Meyer lemons are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges.  It says so, right on the bag.  I used regular lemons for the cheesecake and Meyer lemons for the lemon curd, even though that's not what's specified.  Notice that Sunkist, an American company, I believe, wrote the description of Meyer lemons in French.  To make them sound fancier, I suppose.

Jim came back inside in time to get a shot of the cheesecake in the oven.

And coming out of the oven.  This is where I had to start fudging on the wait times.  50 minutes instead of one hour in the turned-off oven.  Cooling on the wire cake rack for 45 minutes instead of one to two hours.  Refrigerate the cheesecake for 2 1/2 hours instead of from 4 hours to overnight.

The lemon curd glaze recipe makes just a wee bit of curd--about 3/4 of a cup.  My cheesecake is missing a spot on top because it came off with the paper towel.  Maybe if I'd waited the full time, it wouldn't have.  Glaze is good for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it covers any cheesecake bald spots.

As Rose warns, the glaze firms up quickly, making it not as easy as you think it will be to get a smooth top.

When it comes out of the refrigerator for the last time, and I'm loosening the sides with my little blow torch, I notice that there's a spot on the cheesecake that didn't quite get covered with glaze.

No problem.  I'll just cut a thin slice of lemon (Meyer) and cover the spot with the slide.  It'll look like I intended to do it.

Although it's only meant to serve 10 to 12 people, we got 20 decent-size pieces out of it.  People loved this cheesecake!  Even accounting for the fact that this was the only dessert for a crowd of healthy eaters (not counting everyone's leftover Christmas cookies), they were all highly enthusiastic. The woman who's spending the winter in Denver (imagine wanting to leave Minnesota in the winter!) thanked me for not making an overly-sweet dessert.  And a number of people were intrigued by the ground walnuts in the cheesecake.

If you want to impress a crowd of people, there are apparently few better ways to do it than to bring a lemon almond cheesecake.  You should probably read the recipe, though, and start baking it the day before the party.  It's much less stressful.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup: "The BEST chocolate chip cookie of my whole life!"

Photo by Kim
The Finer Cookie

Whenever we do cookies, I'm always interested in getting Kim's opinion.  Not that she's the only baker who likes cookies--with a few exceptions, most of us look forward to the cookie weeks.  But her blog is the only one with "Cookie" in the title, and "the finer cookie" at that.  This week Kim surprised me by announcing that Famous Amos cookies used to be, in her mind, the ne plus ultra of chocolate chip cookies.  But by the time I got to the end of her blog, I realized that she was no longer holding poor Amos up as the cookie master.  He is now "child's play," whereas Rose's "improvements" played to Kim's more mature and sophisticated palate.  After all, did (Wally) Amos brown his butter?  Use Muscovado sugar?  I think not.

Jen has "cake," not cookies, in the title of her blog, but she loves chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade ones, and especially ones made with Guittard chocolate wafers instead of chocolate chips. So hers are actually chocolate wafer cookies, but let's not quibble over small things.  Being the lady of science that she is, she baked half the dough after it had been in the refrigerator for the minimum 30 minutes and baked some after an all-nighter in the refrigerator.  No contest:  the 24-hour cookie was "pillowy, cakey, and delicious," which sounds like the way to go.

Vicki intended to buy chocolate chips for her CC cookies, but picked up a bag of chocolate chunks instead, a move she described as a "lucky accident."  Another "lucky accident" was forgetting to flatten the unbaked cookies, which resulted in "nice and cakey" cookies--just the way she likes them, with "great flavor" to boot.

Nancy is "not much of a chocolate-chip cookie baker," although she'll eat them if she runs into them, and especially likes a "crispy-chewy" version "with melty chocolan'te."  Although this version was crispy-chewy, it didn't quite have the "buttery mouth-feel" that she likes, although the browned butter "added flavor."  By the way, I think these cookies have forced us to try to come up with adjectives to describe our ideal CC cookie:  crispy?  cakey?  chewy?  some combination of the above?

I don't think Rachel's kids asked themselves what word they'd use to describe these cookies--they just ate them. And Rachel was feeling bad about adding the walnuts to the dough, thinking for sure that the addition would cause her kids to turn up their noses at these cookies.  She needn't have wasted her sympathy, though.  As she was pondering what photo might show off the cookies to best advantage, the kidlets were gobbling up the cookies--and Rachel was left with a picture of an empty platter.   No word on whether any of the children told maman they loved her beurre noisette!

Kristina - always in search of the perfect cookie - had already made these chocolate chip cookies, so she tried the "Melt-in-the-Mouth" variation, which is made with grated chocolate.  Very finely grated chocolate, in fact, so that what she "ended up with was basically double chocolate cookies,"--"fine, but not what I was expecting."  But Kristina, who grinds her own flour, also reminded us that "you haven't had a perfect chocolate chip cookie until you've had one with freshly ground flour."

For Jenn, also always in search of the perfect cookie, this recipe means "the search is over."  Jenn usually likes to cut the recipes in half (or thirds, or fifths), but this time she made the whole recipe, freezing half of it to bake on another day--just too "dangerous" to have "so many chocolate chip cookies lying around the house."  These cookies are "best eaten warm when the chocolate chips are oozing."

Did I mention that these cookies are on the Quick & Easy list?  For Orin, they were so quick and easy that she "caught [herself] checking the recipe several times making sure [she] didn't skip any of the steps or ingredients."  Just to make things a little more complicated, Orin used three different kinds of chocolate:  46% and  63% chips, as well as 100 grams of unsweetened grated chocolate.  "Knowing these were not going to be gas station morning cookies," she doubled the recipe.  "Melt in your mouth chocolate heaven!"

Catherine was also a bit suspicious of the "Q & E" designation, especially when she realized that the recipe called both for making beurre noisette and skinning walnuts--"two baking tasks which require the baker to exercise the highest degree of zen."  Omitting the walnuts required Catherine to undertake only one zen chore.  She did very well at browning the butter, maintaining an admirable in-the-moment patience.  Unfortunately, the zen butter spilled all over the kitchen.  She had to make a second batch, which turned out neither as brown nor as zen.  After all this, she liked the biccies, but "wasn't wowed by them."

Tony, unusually for him, made only one change to the recipe--adding a teaspoon of walnut oil to the recipe.  Although his bad angels were whispering to him that he should have added some dried cherries soaked in his favorite raspberry liqueur, he managed to ignore them.  Tony has developed a bartender-like technique for skinning the walnuts.  Rather than rolling them around in a dish towel, he puts them in a clean glass jar and shakes the living daylights out of them.  This dislodges all but the most stubborn skins.  He doesn't mention whether this technique requires "the highest degree of zen."

Next week is "a week of rest," or, alternatively, a makeup week.  I had a few requests for such a week, and I am to please.  I'll be cruising along and through Panama and Costa Rica, so I won't do a roundup (and there may be nothing to round up anyway).  The following week, the Lemon Almond Cheesecake is featured.  I made this for a party a few weeks ago, and people were begging for seconds.  It's very, very good.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Chocolate Chip Cookies

By "my" chocolate chip cookies, I mean Rose's, of course.  But they're called "My," not "Rose's" in The Book, so that's what I called them.  I think I'm stalling here to keep from confessing that I don't like chocolate chip cookies.  I've just never seen the charm in them.  When my mother made a batch of them, she'd always make a few without chocolate chips for me.  (With nuts, though, definitely with nuts--still my favorite way to enjoy America's favorite cookie).  But I made Rose's version without nuts and with chips because that's how my favorite grandson likes them.

They're on the Quick and Easy list, and they certainly are easy, although the steps of browning the butter, toasting and skinning the walnuts, and refrigerating the dough probably takes them out of a literal reading of a "quick" category.  (J. Kenji Lopez, whom think of as home cooking's mad scientist) also agrees that chocolate chip cookie dough should be refrigerated overnight to amp up the flavors).

The photo of the browned butter doesn't look as brown as it did in real life, and maybe the brown bits weren't "deep brown," but just regular brown.  My fear of burning the butter always trumps my desire to get that intense color.

This is the mixture of sugar, eggs, vanilla, and the browned butter--weird texture, isn't it?  It looks like some kind of jelly.

But it comes together into a normal-looking, if soft, dough after adding the dry ingredients.  See, it really is easy!   Of course, omitting the walnuts made it even easier, even if it also eliminated the best part of the cookie.

Divide the dough in two pieces, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Relatively big pieces of cookie dough are rolled, then flattened.  I weighed the first one, and then tried to make the rest of them feel the same.  I must have come close, because each large piece of dough turned into 10 cookies, just as it was supposed to.

And there they are.  Plain old chocolate chip cookies with no nuts.  I tasted one just to see if I liked them any better than I thought I did.  The answer was yes and no.  I still don't like chocolate chip cookies, but I love the caramely, buttery cookies without the chocolate chips, just as I did when I was six years old.  I thought about it some more and realized that every attempt to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie focuses on the cookie part, not the chip part.  What the experimenters are looking for, I think, is a cookie that will stand up to the overwhelming flavor of pure chocolate.  I love chocolate as much as the next person, but the unsubtle chocolate chip takes over from any competiing flavors.  Now if this dough just had toasted, chopped walnuts in it, I could really go for it.

I'm clearly in the minority here.  These cookies got scarfed up faster than almost anything else I've ever baked.  And I'm willing to bake anything that the little boy in the first picture likes to eat.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Two Mouth-Puckering Ingredients in a Tart"

Photo by Nancy
Bread & Cakes & More

How tart is too tart?  That was the question on the bakers' minds this week, as they baked Roses's Lemon Cranberry Tart Tart--a name that drove her editors up the wall, as they kept trying to delete one of the "tarts," and Rose insisting that "tart tart" was not a typo.

Nancy made this dessert for her Christmas dinner, along with the Cranberry-Pecan Christmas Bread, for a 2-Rose dinner.  Because it was a small group, she halved the recipe, and took a few other liberties with the recipe as well.  With the recipe already so small, she didn't want to make an even smaller amount of cranberry filling, so she improvised, using leftover cranberry relish from Thanksgiving.  She also lightened the lemon curd, using more egg whites than yolks, and firming the curd with the optional gelatin.  (You can see from the photo that the lemon curd is not as brilliantly yellow as normal, but it's nice to know about this version of lemon curd).

No short cuts on the lemon curd for Rachel:  "I made the lemon curd and it was good."  Sounds like a biblical pronouncement, doesn't it?  Rachel spelled out one of the delights of "the alchemy of baking"--in this case, the transformation of an "unlikely-looking mix" of ingredients into a "smooth and lemony concoction."  Rachel also noted how "festive" this dessert was, even though it was completely unlike the equally festive looking White Christmas cake.  There are all sorts of ways to get to Festive.

Catherine also commented on how beautiful this tart is--the photo "is one of the prettiest in the book," she said--so pretty that it almost daunted a baker with "cack-handed decoration skills."  (Another new word!)  But Catherine's lovely mini-tarts do not look like they've been in the vicinity of a cack-handed baker.  Even though she didn't have quite enough lemon curd or enough cranberries to make a full recipe, she cleverly made small tarts that were pretty enough to be a cover photo.

Katya, baking in her parents' kitchen, was missing a few essentials (scale and strainer) and had to improvise.  Still, even losing a little lemon curd while using a coffee filter as a strainer, she ended up with something more than presentible.  Her parents were very supportive.  From Mom:  "Tres tasty.  Melts in your mouth.  Very festive."  From Dad:  "You've outdone yourself."  And there's that word "festive" again.  I suppose no one made this tart for Festivus.

Aimee describes this tart as "super tart, lemony, and creamy."  Sounds good, right?  But note that "super tart."  That, I'm afraid, is not a compliment.  First, Aimee doesn't like cranberries (which her roommate dubs "bogberries," and even though she substituted blueberries, I think the aura of cranberries still contaminated this tart.  Second, she overcooked the tart and the curd took forever to make and the blueberries just "blopped" on top of the curd.  (Another new word!)  Perhaps this tart was just not meant to be.  On the plus side, and it was a big plus, Aimee thought the almond crust was amazingly delicious and would happily have gobbled it all up, without bothering with either lemon or bogberries.

Jen put her finger right on the button.  "This is a very delicious tart, but it is a bit tart.  I like that!  You need to love lemon curd to enjoy this pie.  And tart things."  And because that said it all, that says it all.  Anyway, Jen was watching Downton Abbey (last season!), so she said her comments would be brief.

"This saucy little tart" exhausted Vicki.  She thought it was going to be easy--it's just "an almond butter crust shell filled with lemon curd and cranberry sauce,"  So how could it take all day?  Rose's recipes are sometimes deceptive like that--you think it's as easy as 1,2,3, but then you realize that 1, 2, and 3 each take 3 hours.  (To be fair, sometimes they're deceptive the other way--they look terribly complicated, but when you break down the steps, they're not hard at all).  Vicki was too tired to write much, but she did note that these would make fabulous mini-tarts, with the ratio of sweet almond pastry to tart fruits being a little higher that way.

After a few big and complicated things, I think you'll be happy to see an entry from the Quick and Easy list next week.  And not only is it quick and easy--it's plain old chocolate chip cookies.  Now what will Rose do to up the flavor ante with this cookie?  Tune in next week and see.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart

You know how sometimes you have a day when nothing goes quite right?  And then you realize that the things that are going wrong all have to do with something you've been bragging about mastering? Well, that would be pie dough and me.  Of course, technically this is not pie crust--it's pate brisee, a French-like, cookie-like pastry dough.

A tart being a tart, AKA a pie, it starts out with dough; in this case with almonds, which I thought would go beautifully with the lemon tart filling.

It's pretty easy to make the pate brisee.  It's just whirling the sugar and walnuts together, and adding flour, butter, egg yolk, and cream.  Then, of course, it gets refrigerated--for longer than it took to bring it together.

Here, I'm sorry to say, is where I got cocky.

And this is where I yelled at Jim, "Don't take any more pictures!  It's falling apart."  So he backed away, and I gathered up the dough, slammed it back together (not in a loving way, I must add), and put it back in the refrigerator.  People are always saying that food tastes better if it's made with love.  It's a nice sentiment, but I really can't believe it.  Isn't it just chemical?  Are science experiments better if they're done lovingly?  I guess I'm open to being convinced, but it doesn't make sense to me.

The second time I rolled it out, it wasn't done with love either.  In fact, I would have been better off if I'd just patted the dough in the pan to begin with and not even bothered to try rolling it out.

But I did roll it out and finally managed to get it in the pan and in the oven, weighted down.  I was feeling a little weighted down myself.  And no pictures of the cranberries either.  I think Jim was afraid to come back into the kitchen with his camera, even though this was an easy part and I was back to my old easy-going self.

Lemon curd:  Just lemon juice,

Egg yolks, and butter.  And gelatin (optional, but I had some) and sugar.  Rose gave us permission to use extra sugar if you have a real sweet tooth.  I was glad to hear that because I was making this for my younger daughter who always thinks that Rose's recipes could do with a bit more sugar.  So I added the optional two extra tablespoons of sugar, then thought about it, and added another.  (I'd already added extra sugar to the cranberries).

So, not that bad looking, for something not made with a lot of love.  Maybe it's more accurate to say it was made with a lot of fatigue.  I wasn't really feeling hate-filled.  Fortunately.

And then I always feel better when my lovable grandson comes over and helps me with the whipped cream.  (We played Super Heroes for a while after dessert.  I wanted to be Wonder Woman, but had to be The Green Lantern instead.  No fair).

To a super hero, a lemon tart is finger food.  He liked the cookie (the crust) the best, then the white stuff, then the yellow stuff, and not the red stuff.  Good thing I added the extra sugar.  My daughter thought the red stuff was going to be raspberries, so she was a little shocked when she realized it was cranberries.  I guess she didn't like the red stuff either.  I think she only likes cranberries in Cosmopolitans.