Monday, February 29, 2016

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart

I love a recipe that makes you look like you're a star in the kitchen but doesn't require that much expertise from you.  This tart is such a recipe.  Tarts always look fancy, assuming that you can get the tart out of the pan without ruining it.  If that happens, it no longer looks fancy.

When searching for hazelnut paste, I passed right by this brand at first because of the 'n in its brand name.  I hate 'n' words, like Shake 'n' Bake (which is objectionable for other reasons).  Is it really that hard to say and?  And this one is even worse because it only has one apostrophe.  Love'n Bake.  What does that mean?  Lovein Bake?  Love an Bake?  But then I saw that it was made by the brand that Rose recommends:  American Almond.  So I put aside my apostrophe grumpiness and ordered the Love'n Bake.  (I won't even get started on how much I dislike hearts used as fake punctuation marks.)

The American Almond hazelnut paste was perfectly fine.  The tart dough was a little sticky, but a sprinkle of flour and some plastic wrap kept it under control.  The flat-bottomed measuring cup works much better than my fingers at flattening the crust.

Too bad I didn't get a picture of the crust when it came out of the oven.  Rose warns you that the crust puffs up, but I didn't envision how puffy it would get.  It puffed up so that the bottom was nearly even with the top, looking like a giant puffy cookie.  It pressed right back down, though, so it was nothing to worry about.

Then the hazelnut mousse.  Really easy.  Just whip everything together ("everything" being hazelnut paste, cream cheese, egg, and vanilla), and then fold in some whipped cream.  When I looked at the recipe, I saw that it had 3/4 cup of cream in one place and 1/4 of cream in another.  One cup, I said to myself, using one of my usual lightning-fast math calculations.  That means I only need a cup of cream.  Oops.  I missed the "plus two tablespoons" part, so I was two tablespoons short.  I don't think it made a big difference.

And then the ganache.  Since it was such a small amount, I decided I wasn't going to grate the chocolate, so I just broke up the pieces and melted it in hot cream.  I think there should be a National Ganache Day, both because it's fun to say and because we should all pause and be thankful for the person who figured out that melting chocolate in cream gives you a rich, delicious, icing.  I didn't add the Fra Angelico, but that would have been lovely.

I took it to my daughter's house for dinner.  She eyed it suspiciously, and asked for a small piece.  She took a bite and said, "I'll have more."  Music to my ears.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Flavor is Wonderful!"

Photo by Peggy (Faithy)
The Amateur Baker

Faithy has been traveling a lot lately, and coming down with various illnesses, and having dental work done.  So she has gotten out of the habit of rushing to her kitchen at all hours to whip up whatever's next for Alpha Bakers, as well as other huge projects that would fell a normal mortal.  So before she tried to make these, she wanted assurance that they were better than just "good."  Vicki assured her that they were, and so she went to work.  Not having a mini-brioche pan (imagine that!), she made do with a large Nordicware pan with various miniature shapes.  She took them out of the oven, decided they weren't brown enough, and popped them back in.  Baked the proper amount of time (enough to get them golden brown) they are "delicious!"

Aimee used the same pan that Faithy used, and had just as sweet a result.  She did discover that if you don't press the dough into the pan (and she used the end of a whisk instead of her finger), the pan's design won't be as clear.  Still cute though.  But next time she will double the recipe, and maybe dip them in chocolate (how can that possibly be a bad idea?), and maybe use almond meal instead of grinding the almonds.  Saving time is usually a good idea too.

Rachel made these a few weeks ago--the same weekend that she tackled the Pink Pearl Lady Cake.  Compared to the cake, these were "standard issue cookie simple."  Just like Faithy, Rachel was lacking in the mini-brioche pan department, so she used mini muffin pans, which made them look "a tad dull."  But the taste wasn't dull!  "There was butter, and almonds, and the outside was just slightly crunchy, making a delightful contrast with the soft and cakey inside."

To Kristina, making the mini gateaux was like a trip in the way-back machine, in this case, way back in 2010 (is that possible?) when she made the Gateau Breton from Heavenly Cakes.  Again, no mini brioche pans, but mini-muffin pans, which made the cake/cookies look like little discs.  "And tasting yummy.  Can't go wrong with almonds, butter, sugar, and Kirsch."  It's hard to argue with that.

Jenn also remembered her first Gateau Breton from over 5 years ago, and recalled that it was the first time she learned that "gateau" was just French for "cake."  No mini-brioche pans in the Knitty Baker cupboards either, but she did have some adorable silicone daisy pans, so she halved the recipe and made seven daisy gateaux.  (Because who knows when you're going to have an occasion where you need seven cookies).  These daisies where a little bigger than the mini brioches, so she let them bake longer, and would have liked them browner still.  "Hubby gave them a thumbs up."

Vicki's husband also loved them, thus preventing Vicki from serving them at a children's tea party, which is a wonderful idea.  (But sometimes husbands need nourishing too).  Vicki searched high and low for the mini brioche pans, and found a few--"ridiculously expensive" and not quite the right size--so she used a combination of her new pans and a mini muffin pan lined with mini muffin liners.  "Definitely on the make-again list," next time with "a bit of orange oil or Amaretto."

For Catherine, these biscuits were a little "ho-hum."  "Tasty, but unimpressive looking."  For some reasons, her gateaux, instead of having bottoms replicating the pretty design of her baking pan, came out just looking "fluffy" on the bottom.  She made two batches, but both turned out with the same fluff.  They actually look very sweet, especially those in the mini cupcake liners, but still!  When one has an idea about how something is supposed to look, one wants it to turn out the proper way.  

At least two other Alphas baked these, but didn't blog about them.  Jamila made a lovely batch that she posted on Facebook, and Katya made some, but forgot to take pictures.  She used a combo of almonds, pecans, and cacao nibs, for something completely different.

Next week:  Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart:  the only thing you must make sure you have is hazelnut praline paste, easily available online, if not at your local grocery or baking supply store.  If you love Nutella, you'll love this tart.  Oh, if you want it to be heart-shaped, you'll need a heart-shaped tart pan, but it looks quite lovely in a round pan.  And if you really want to gild the lily, you can caramelize some blanched hazelnuts.  But this lily doesn't need gilding.

And the following week:  Coconut Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache.  One of my favorites so far.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mini Gateaux Breton

I don't really have too much to say about these rich, buttery little cake/cookies.  They're ridiculously easy to make, taste mostly of butter and rum (if you used rum, of course), and are quite nice to have around.

My mise en place shot shows that I used some imported butter from Normandy, Beurre d'Isigny, which is 82% butterfat rather than either the 80% or 86% options discussed in the recipe.  Of course, the Gateaux Breton are from Brittany, but Normandy and Brittany are next-door neighbors, so I thought it was close enough.  (Definitely closer than Wisconsin).

Is it the step of toasting and then grinding the almonds that bans the recipe from the Q&E list?  Because, honestly, that step is not long and hard.

This is the pretty French butter.  Its color is exactly what you think of when you think of "butter yellow."  It's also almost exactly the color of my kitchen walls.

The step of rummaging through my odd liquor cabinet with an ordinate number of fruit-flavored liqueur bottles (shades of Heavenly Cakes) was time-consuming, but only because the bottle of dark rum that we brought back from St. John years ago was hiding in the back.  There was almost exactly a tablespoon of rum left in the bottle.  I think our cat raids the liquor cabinet when we're gone.

Such a tiny amount of cookie dough!  Should I have doubled the recipe?

Maybe it's weighing the little balls of dough and tapping them down with your pinkie finger that stops these gateaux from being quick and easy.

I had enough dough left to make five more gateaux, but I didn't have another mini-brioche pan, so I used one of my financier pans.  Also shades of Heavenly Cakes!

Oddly, the brioche-shaped gateaux took another ten minutes past the recommended baking time to finish baking.  The ones in the financier pan finished right on time.  I can only guess that my pan produced smaller but taller gateaux, and it just took them a while longer to bake all the way through.  My pans have more and smaller scallops, and the finished product is not quite as cute as the picture in the book (although they're still plenty cute).  And fun to eat too--at least they were.  Definitely on the Q&E list for eating!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "So good! And pretty too"

Photo by Rachel
Cooking and Thinking

This was probably the most difficult project we've run into so far (or maybe I'm just projecting my hostility toward fondant on everyone else), but there are a bunch of good-looking cakes out there!

Oh well, it's not just me.  Here's what Rachel said when she started working with her fondant:  "Doesn't look promising, if I say so myself.  I was worried that instead of having a smooth covering for my cake, I'd produce something lumpy and ugly."  But--and here is another theme of the week--she next says, "I persevered, and I'm glad I did."  Of course, Rachel did have the help of a teenage sous-chef (Great movie title:  "I Was A Teenage Sous-Chef"), who made the pearls and placed them artistically on the cake.  Rachel thought this task was too "precision-oriented" for her, but I bet she could have done it too.  

Kristina made hers to celebrate "Unrelated Childless Couples Day," AKA Valentine's Day, and actually this week Kristina's blog is less about cakes and more about friends, which, when you come right down to it, are more important than cake, even a beautiful, heart-shaped Pink Lady cake.  Somewhere, somehow, Kristina found a jar of pink pearls, so she didn't have to make her own (but she didn't get to play with the luster dust either).  

Now Kim did not feel at all apprehensive about the fondant because she's made it before.  I looked at the picture of her beautiful cake and I read that she's a fondant maven (no, she didn't say that about herself), and I thought this would be a boring, everything-went-swimmingly blog.  But guess what?  She forgot to add water to the fondant.  If you forget the water, the fondant is too stiff to handle.  She read the directions again, and realized the omission, so she just gradually added water until she could roll it out.  From there, it was all perfection, including tinting her fondant pink, adding "disco dust" to it, and topping with gold dragees.  Very festive!

Catherine called her cake "epic."  I hoped that didn't mean that it took her two weeks to make it.  Fortunately, she just meant that it was a "cake for a special occasion."  Especially because of the fondant.  She doesn't really care for fondant and has been known to just "peel it off" the cake, "little did [she] know that the fondant would turn out to be the easy part of the cake."  Much worse was the 
" !@#$%^! sugar syrup."  And worse still was length of the recipe.  Midway through the cake, Catherine finally scrolled to the end of her e-book recipe, and realized she might be at this for a while.  Despite all the bad-mouthing of the cake, Catherine's pretty pink princess cake turned out just beautiful.

As did Vicki's.  Vicki, like Catherine, is not a fan of fondant, a fact she discovered when she was taste-testing wedding cakes with her daughter.  Yes, they looked beautiful, but the taste?  One bakery told her, "Oh, people never eat it.  They peel it off."  Which made Vicki ask herself why they were considering paying hundreds of dollars for an inedible cake. So really you have to congratulate Vicki for even giving it a go.  Even Rose's white chocolate didn't "make [[her] a convert," and her husband asked her why the frosting tasted like clay.  But the mousseline!  That's another story, and a good one.  She's going to make it again--without the clay.  I mean fondant.

Katya was the one who really had a handle on the fondant.  She bought it.  Having made it once, she decided once was enough.  She did make the white chocolate plastique, however, and the mousseline, and the cake, so she was really no slouch.  And the luster dust!  Katya became such a fan of luster dust that she invited her friend over the next day to do more decorations, which got increasingly "fanciful."  And she already has a name for her glam-rock band:  Luster Dust, of course!  

All of you bakers who slogged through this week's nine-page recipe will be rewarded next week with little butter cookies that are a cinch to make (I'm not sure why they're not on the Q&E list).  Even though they have a French name (Gateaux Breton), they're as easy as an American cake mix.  The hard part is finding miniature brioche pans in just the size specified in the recipe.  (I couldn't find them myself, so I wish you better luck than I had).  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pink Pearl Lady Cake

The first (and only) time I made fondant was when Rose's Heavenly Bakers made a Chocolate Pinecone Cake.  It was extremely traumatic.  Since that day, Jim and I have referred to fondant as "frickin' fondant."  Putting together this cake was somewhat less traumatic, if only because I had a better idea what to expect, but the truth is that I really don't like the taste of fondant, and I don't think it's as lovely as a smooth, expertly swirled buttercream, and definitely not as tasty.  But I loved the way the luster dust turned the "pearls" an iridescent pink, even though my pearls were rather lumpish looking.

Would I make it again?  No.  In fact, my biggest concern was that my daughter would decide that the cake would be perfect for my granddaughter's first birthday.  A pink cake, topped with 12 pink pearls, one pearl for each of her first 12 months of life.  No worries, as it turned out.  When I showed her the cake, her reaction was, "Mom, that's hideous!"  She's not one for artificially boosting one's self-esteem.

Why do I say I wouldn't make it again?  Well, first there's the frickin fondant:  a multi-step process fraught with possibilities of major errors.  You can see that I waited to long to do the final mixing of the white chocolate plastique, and so there are still many bits of unmelted white chocolate.  I was able to knead most, but not all, of these pieces out, and I carefully picked out other pieces, but the fondant never got perfectly smooth.  And isn't that the whole point of fondant?

Second, it was a pain to acquire all the ingredients.  I don't keep glucose or glycerine on hand, and I'd long since tossed out the stuff I bought for the pinecone cake.  (Woody told me I needn't have thrown it out--it keeps forever, he says, but surely there's a time limit even for "forever.")  And I forgot to get the strawberry butter, which I would have had to order for $10 a jar, plus shipping.

The cake itself was easy to make, and the only thing that you might not have on hand is red food coloring, but I had some left over from the last Red Velvet Rose Cake I made.  As you can see, I baked it in a round pan instead of a heart pan because I foresaw difficulties shaping the fondant over the heart-shaped pan.  I wish I were as good at cake decorating as I am at foreseeing difficulties in making cakes.

The mousseline was kind of touchy.  Beating the high-fat butter?  No problem.

Whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks?  No problem.

The sugar syrup?  Now that was a problem.  Fortunately, Rose, in this nine-page recipe, foresees the possible difficulties as well as you do, and gives you the tools to solve them.  My last pour of sugar syrup was rock-like when I tried to add it.  I threw the rock into the egg whites, hoping that the problem would somehow right itself when I mixed the meringue into the butter.  Not surprisingly, mousseline has no auto-correct.  So I fished the sugar rock out, microwaved it, and then put the bowl of mousseline in an ice water bath, just as Rose told me to do in the first place.

It actually ended up to be pretty good, although there were small bits of jelly that weren't quite incorporated (no jars of tart strawberry butter to be had in any of the places I looked).

The moment of truth.  Actually the second moment.  It fell apart at the first one, leading Jim to remind me about frickin fondant.  You can see how pock-marked the fondant looked.

How sad that my Pink Pearl Lady Cake is suffering from a bad case of acne!  Oh well.  I can always cover the worst pocks with the pink pearls.

Jim was reading the instructions.  "How big are the pearls supposed to be?"  "1/3 to 1/2-inch balls," he said.  "No, no.  How much should they weigh?"  "It doesn't say."  Doesn't say?  How can they all be the same size if I can't weigh them?  I decided on 3.5 grams, which, as I look at the cake, seem a little too large.  I should have made them 3 grams.  

I love how my fingers turned all sparkly and pink!  There must be some occasion that would call for me to rub the luster dust onto my face so I'd have a pink and sparkly face.  I can't think of what that occasion might be, but it must exist!  The pearls stuck to the fondant pretty well, but they lost a little of their roundness as I attached them.  Luckily for me, I knew before I started this cake that there was no hope of perfection.

Aargh!  My words when I saw that I'd forgotten to use my fondant spreader.  I was thrilled when I found this fondant spreader in a box of miscellaneous stuff that I'd never used.  Woody must have given it to me because I'm positive that a fondant spreader is not something that I would 1) run into or 2) think that I needed.  I was Jonesing to try my newly-discovered fondant spreader, and I had it on the counter, but then forgot to use it.  Now I'll never know what it might have done.

This was the dessert for our makeshift family Super Bowl party.  Can you think of a dessert that's less appropriate for the Super Bowl?  I brought JJ a chocolate chip cookie because I figured he'd be suspicious of this cake.  "It looks kinda weird, Lulu," was his reaction.  Does no one care about my feelings?  He did eat a pearl, though, and said it was pretty good.  

The unanimous verdict was that the cake and the mousseline filling were very good.  I took a bite of the fondant and decided that I'd rather have two slices of cake without fondant than one piece with fondant.  The white chocolate gave it richness and flavor that a plain fondant wouldn't have, but it wasn't enough to turn me into a fondant fan.  The luster dust, though--that's a different story.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Pizza Rustica - Yay!"

Photo by Jenn
Knitty Baker

It turns out that Jenn has been yearning to bake this pie since she first got her copy of The Baking Bible.  She couldn't tell you why, because she's normally "not a big fan of things with a lot of cheese," and if there's one thing Pizza Rustica has, it's a lot of cheese.  No, she wanted to make it because it looked cool.  And it does (see above).  Luckily, though, she also liked it quite a lot, and so did the lucky person who got 1/4 of the pie and begged Jenn to please bake it again.

Tony also sounds like he'd like to bake it again--maybe tomorrow.  He thought that "every bite" was "comforting to your heart and your soul."  He described the dish as "delicate" despite the "boldness" of the sopprassata and the "rich Italian cheese custard."  He also has a very complete tutorial with plenty of pictures, so if you had doubts about making this, Tony will see you through it, step by step.

I must say that it would never occurred to me to try to make this a vegetarian dish (seeing as how one of its nicknames is "ham pie," and it's traditionally served as a last hurrah to meat before Lent).  Orin doesn't eat cheese and meat together, so she used Baby Bella mushrooms in place of the sausage.  She also made individual tarts, and plated them with a tomato "rose" with stem and leaves made with a basil-cilantro pesto.  You'd never know from looking at this beautiful plate that she had so much trouble rolling out the dough that she ended up just pressing it in the pan.

Like Orin, Vicki made her pizza rustica with mushrooms, along with artichoke hearts and fresh basil--at least half of it.  The other half, for the non-spicy meat-eaters in her house, (dinners must get complicated sometimes!) was filled with ham.  Although Vicki confessed that she was really "dragging her feet" about making this, she was glad she did.  Glad enough to promise to make it again, next time with no ham at all and with more mushrooms.  Let them eat mushrooms!

I suppose we should talk a bit about the crust, since some people had trouble rolling it out and some people, especially Catherine, did not like the sweetness of the crust one little bit.  In fact, she wouldn't have put any sugar in the crust at all except that she trusted the doofus who wrote the foreword to the book, and who insisted that sugar in a savory crust would be just fine.  Catherine ended up eating some of the pie (without the crust) and liked the filling, which she called "certainly tasty."

Rachel, faced with the "to sausage or not to sausage" question, also opted to divide the pie in half, with one half as a cheese pizza and one half sausage.  (She wisely decided that fake sausage crumbles would not be a good option for the meatless side).  She was very pleased with herself for actually weaving the lattice top herself (and this is an impressive-looking dish, isn't it?).  Although the vegetarian liked her side of the pie, the meat eaters "uniformly preferred the sopprassata side."

Despite protests from a friend that Katya was making a quiche, and not a pizza, Katya decided that "the tart's appeal isn't up for debate, as long as you are craving a solid rich hit of cheese, sausage, and flaky crust."  Katya altered the recipe only to add a few bits of leftover cheese that she routinely freezes for later use, and added a little gruyere and a little goat cheese to the cheese mixture.  "Hearty and sturdy" is Katya's description of her pizza/quicihe, and she promises that it will show up in her kitchen in other iterations.

Kim was pretty worried about how her pie was going to turn out.  The crust rolled out nicely, but it "cracked too much" and she "barely had enough dough to make the lattice."  She also didn't think she had enough ricotta filling.  And she was afraid that the whole thing would be "heavy and gummy."  Still, brave soul that she is, she made it for a dinner party and, like several others, divided it into vegetarian and non-vegetarian sides.  To her surprise, it turned out to be "not heavy at all," with plenty of filling, and the pastry was "super crunchy."

As Aimee was rolling out the pasta frolla, she liked to think about her (imaginary) Italian grandmother, who made this (imaginary) pizza rustica, and how she made all the (imaginary) grandchildren beg her to make it, but she only made it on special occasions.  And without a food processor!  A pretty story, but, luckily, Aimee doesn't have to rely on her grandmother to make pizza rustica, now that she can make it herself.  "Great warm, cool, or cold," Aimee served this on Super Bowl Sunday and was disappointed with the outcome of the game, but not with the pie.

Next week:  If you haven't done so already, read the directions and ingredient list for the Pink Pearl Lady Cake, and start planning your weekend.  This cake is not on the quick and easy list.

The following week, we're baking Mini Gateaux Breton,  French butter cookies that are made in mini brioche pans, which are not that easy to locate.  I ordered some months ago from somewhere in Asia, and they got lost in shipping.  I then ordered some silicone molds that aren't quite the right dimensions, but they'll have to do.  Good luck on your search (or your substitution).

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pizza Rustica

According to my Google research, Pizza Rustica is an Italian-American dish that is also known as Carnival Pie, Easter Pie, or Pizzagaina.  Although Rose first ate it at a Christmas dinner, it's more often served either just before or just after Lent, which is why it's stuffed with meats and cheeses.  So you can eat it now, and again around Easter, or any other time when you feel like going for broke.  I don't think there's any way to make this a diet dish.

In my searches, I found no other recipes that featured this herbed pasta frolla, which is a basic Italian
sweet pastry dough.  It's this buttery, sweet/savory dough, even more than the salami and cheese, that makes this dish so memorable.  I ran out of dried thyme (which means that the jar has probably been around for a decade or two), but fortunately, I had fresh thyme in my refrigerator.

I splurged, and went to a very good (and expensive) Italian deli for the meat and cheeses.  The ricotta was rich, creamy, and not at all watery, so the strainer step turned out not to be necessary.

The mozzarella was delicious--not the gummy, elastic cheese-like thing that you usually find in grocery stores.

And the soprasatta was peppery and robust, although quite salty.  I almost regretted salting the ricotta mixture, but at least I did it with a light hand.

Some of the recipes I saw also had additional cured sausage, such as pepperoni, and ham or Italian sausage.  Oh, and Pizza Rustica is also sometimes known as Ham Pie.  I expect that's only when it has ham in it.  Somehow Ham Pie doesn't sound as appetizing as Pizza Rustica.

I thought I was going to have to find the page that tells you how to make a lattice topping, but then I saw that Rose said you could also just place them on top of the pie without overlapping.  If there's a shortcut given, I'm probably going to take it.  Oops, I just saw that I was supposed to place the strips at a 45-degree angle.  That's fine, though, because it's supposed to be rustic.

The egg glaze imparts a wonderful shine and color.  I always think I'm being very thorough in my glazing, but baking always reveals the bare spots.  Rustic, I keep repeating to myself.  It's supposed to be rustic.  As in, "The rustic Italian nonna was carrying her grandchildren around while she was trying to cook for the whole family.  And her cataracts were acting up again."

But look at this picture.  It looks pretty delectable, doesn't it?  I don't think that the Italian nonna (or the German-American grandmother who's trying to channel her) has anything to apologize for.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Delicious and Ultra-Easy"

Photo By Catherine
PhyllisCaroline Blog

I'll repeat Catherine's assessment:  "Delicious and ultra-easy to make."  I think that was a pretty unanimous view--I'll find out as I re-read each blog.  And not just "easy by Rose's standards," but flat-out easy, even if you've never made a scone before.  That's because there's no worry about working the butter into pea-size pieces because there's no butter to mix in.  Butterless scones, you say?  A bad idea, you say?  Read on.

Because these scones use all cream instead of butter, Catherine "just threw it all into the bowl and mixed it with my trusty bone-handled knife which reminds me of my grandmother."  It "came together very easily."  Despite my warnings not to miss the raspberry caramel sauce, Catherine missed it, although she admitted it sounded delicious because, to her, "the whole attraction of scones ... is the maximum 20 minutes from getting out the bowl to putting scones on the baking rack."  She's fast, isn't she?

Katya called these scones a "miracle of simplicity."  "Just a quick batter, a quick rest, and a quick bake."  Although she didn't exactly make the raspberry caramel drizzle, she "used a bit of a Thanksgiving leftover ... a bag of chunky bits from [a] cranberry ginger jelly experiment."  A person has to clean out her refrigerator somehow, right?

Vicki "never thought the day would come" when she could "make a decent scone."  Despite her British roots, the skill had somehow "eluded" her--until now, when she made a scone "better than any tea room scone I have ever had."  And a wonderful topping to boot!  But next time, she will at least double the sauce because it is "amazing."  Can you tell that Vicki is one happy baker?

Although Jay (the raisin hater) was not happy, Kristina was.  Cream scones = "less fuss, less muss, and just as good of a finished product."  She ate three scones over the weekend, and planned to bring the rest of them to work, to serve to her lucky colleagues with some apple butter and grape jelly she'd brought to work earlier.  She only wished she had been able to locate some "fancy pants" local cream, to see if it really did make a difference.

These scones would have been a lot easier for Kim if she hadn't run out of bread flour.  Rather than making do with all-purpose flour, she ran to the grocery store to pick up more bread flour.  This unplanned excursion put her enough off her game that she then forgot to add the baking powder!  (And she'd been hoping for extra high-rising scones!)  I have to say--and maybe it's just due to her skill as a photographer--that her scones look great.  And, "sliced in half, dropped in the toaster," and buttered, they were "perfect."  So apparently you can make a great scone even without an essential ingredient!

Orin also ran out of bread flour, but she opted to substitute all-purpose flour, knowing her scones wouldn't reach maximum height.  But, also like Kim, her scones came out beautifully:  "a pleasure to make and a delight to serve."  Orin's big discovery came in the making of the raspberry topping.  She had frozen raspberries, but had not defrosted them.  It suddenly occurred to her to use her dehydrator, set at 105 degrees F.  In just 15 minutes, her raspberries were thawed and ready to go.  I wonder if my bread-rising gadget would do the same thing?

Aimee loved that these were quick and easy enough to make in the morning and take to work,  even if she had to substitute sour cream for part of the heavy cream (and currants for the raisins, but that was a planned substitution).  And thus was born a new holiday:  Take Your Scones to Work.  And how her office mates loved her for it!  Can't you do this every day, they begged?  Well, that might be a little excessive, even in a workplace that houses a toaster oven large enough to bake these scones fresh in the break room.

Jenn says that she is "beginning to realize that the easier the recipe, the more disorganized I become." Is it disorganized just because you don't have any lemons or honey on hand and are a few ounces short of cream?  Well, you can't have everything on hand, and it's true that honey always seems to appear as a hard, crystallized mass just when you need it.  (To distract us from her lack of honey, Jenn also included pictures of some of her latest knitting projects--amazing!).  And as for the scones, they turned out well anyway.  "Okay, let's count how many mistakes Jenn has made this time....  6 mistakes.  And yet this recipe still comes out good and was wolfed down by my knitting group."  And Jenn, if you're disorganized for the easy recipes, it stands to reason that you're super-organized for the hard ones.  In that case, have I got a recipe for you!  Be sure to make the Pink Pearl Lady Cake, coming up in less than two weeks!

Before we get to the Pink Lady cake, we have Pizza Rustica--not a traditional "pizza," but a meat-and-cheese rich pie, and the only recipe in this book that will serve as a main course (for several meals, by the way.  Jim and I were both sorry when we finally ate the last slices).  Rose told us on the Facebook page that the dough should be rolled out to one-eighth inch, not one-fourth inch.  I made the pie before seeing this note, and mine was probably somewhat thicker than 1/8 inch, but the crust is so delicious that you really don't care.

And the week after that, the project that, along with the meringue twigs, has caused me the most angst.  I have already made the fondant, which can, conveniently, hang around on your counter for a month, giving you ample opportunities to put off baking and assembling the cake itself.  Read the recipe carefully!  You will need glycerine, glucose, white chocolate, luster dust and other, more ordinary, things.  If you love cake decorating (I don't), please try this recipe.  I can see that it has the potential to be show-stopping in appearance, and I hope that some of you skilled decorators will pull out all the stops--I'd love to see pictures of this cake done right!