Thursday, June 30, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "So beautiful!"

Photo by Orin
Orin's Goodies

As Orin observed, these are very attractive little cookies, although your first glance at the boring-looking brown dough doesn't give much of a hint at how cute they're going to be in the end, with the pretty cracks and sparkly sugar on top.  Orin's tasters "loved the texture," but thought they were too sugary.  When she makes them for the holidays, she plans to "roll them carefully with turbine or brown sugar for a less sugary version."

Catherine had a novel idea for these molasses cookies:  she didn't use molasses.  Which, of course, made them "Not Molasses Cookies."  Caroline was still feeling aggrieved toward the bottle of deep, dark molasses she bought for the molasses cakelets and which tasted a lot like, well, molasses.  (Molasses is not a popular flavor in Australia, so she didn't know until too late that she personally thought it tasted "nasty.")  So she used golden syrup instead, because who doesn't love golden syrup? She clarified the butter, "which Rose says is the key to a squidgy but cooked middle."  They look just like molasses cookies except for being a little lighter in color, but still with the delightful gingerbread-y taste.

Katya really had no time to bake this week, having been in Orlando for the American Library Association's annual convention, drinking tequila shots and comparing hotel swimming pools (she did it so you don't have to!).  Fortunately, she made these cookies many months ago, being a big fan of molasses/ginger cookies, and cleverly saved her photos for just this moment.  "Rose's version has chewy and cracked down pat, and I'll be making these again when NYC isn't a sweaty swamp."

What Rachel liked about these cookies is that "balls of dough enter the oven, cookies exit."  That is, "there's less room for error, or artistic expression, depending on your perspective."  Rachel is now an old hand at making beurre noisette, so that was not a challenge.  Her innovation, with credit to, was to use toasted sugar.  Sounds like a great idea!  Rachel also observed that molasses cookie dough is never used in cookie dough ice cream or cookie dough cupcakes or any of the multitude of products now made with cookie dough.  How about showing molasses cookie dough a little love and pairing it with cinnamon ice cream?  You first heard it from Rachel.  She also learned that if you make the cookies too small, they become hard, not chewy in the middle, which works out pretty well if one household member likes chewy cookies and the other doesn't.  

Phing received a nice compliment on these cookies, which a guest from the UK described as "everything a good cookie should be."  (Although she may have said everything a good biscuit should be).  Why?  Her obliging taster gave her four reason:
  • Appearance--nice uniform colour and size, with sugar sparkles and slight cracks
  • Texture--soft and chewy, moist even though flat
  • Crispy--crunch from the sugar coating on the outside
  • Flavour--wonderful frgrant, similar to gingerbread cookies but not as gingery
And that about sums it up.  But wait--Vicki got her post in just under the wire.  Although she was not feeling great, she wanted to try these cookies because she's a big molasses fan.  And she was rewarded with "the best molasses cookie I have had."  And so easy to make.  As an extra attraction on a hot summer day, Vicki says they make terrific ice cream sandwiches!

Next week:  Blueberry Crumb Party Coffee Cake--perfect to bring along to a July Fourth brunch, or just to make because there's almost nothing better than a moist sour cream cake with fresh blueberries and a cinnamon crumb topping.  The only potential problem, which some people have already noted, is finding baking strips that are big enough for a 9" x 13" pan.  You can't use Rose's wonderful silicone strip--it just won't fit.  I used two strips (the kind that you have to soak in water before you use them) and fit them on the pan with large metal paper clips.  Or just watch the cake carefully and make sure you take it out of the oven before it has a chance to overbrown.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Molasses Butter Cookies

There are about four recipes in The Baking Bible where molasses is a primary flavor.  On a scale of 1 to 10, molasses gets about a 4 from me, so I wasn't particularly looking forward to these cookies.  On the other hand, they were from the Quick and Easy list, which is a point in anything's favor, especially on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

But I thought these cookies were seriously delicious.  And if you make them with shortening, instead of browned butter, they'd be so fast and so simple you'd have a hard time believing they came from a Rose cookbook.  (Well, there is the required cooling-off period.  One hour in the refrigerator.  I suppose if you were really in a hurry, you could ignore that, but I'm not recommending that you ignore any steps).

Besides liking the cookies a lot, I was also inordinately pleased with myself for finally getting the buerre noisette just right.  I cooked the butter the normal amount of time - about 12 minutes - and then forced myself to keep the butter on the stove for another 3 minutes.  It actually turned brown, and I had a whole strainer full of browned bits that I mixed in with the batter.

After the browned butter is cooled, you just mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and that's it!

Bake for four minutes and then turn the cookie pan.  After the first four minutes, they're shaped kind of like an upside-down Reese's peanut butter cup,

They don't look promising at all.  I wondered what I'd done wrong, and also wondered whether the two cute little chipmunks who have taken up residence in our garden would like botched molasses cookies.  But after another four minutes, they looked just as they were supposed to look:  flattened, cracked, and looking slightly underbaked.  I was grateful for the warning that they'd look slightly underbaked.  Otherwise, I'd have baked them a few minutes longer.

There's only a quarter-cup of molasses in these cookies, so that's less than 3 grams of molasses per cookie.  And it's light molasses.  So you're not overwhelmed by that strong, heavy molasses flavor.  And Rose is right--they do have an extraordinary texture, with a delicate, crispy outside and a light but chewy interior.  If you like milk and cookies, these would be very satisfying, I think, but they're even better with a cup of afternoon cappuccino.

The only thing I might change next time would be to try regular granulated sugar to roll the cookie dough in.  The superfine was barely visible and so fine that it didn't add to the textural contrasts.  But that would be a very minor change.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Creamy and delicious"

Photo by Catherine
Phyllis Carolina

Catherine is back, after taking a few weeks off to breathe in renovation dust.  After lamenting that she couldn't find Alphonso mango puree and had to use beautiful frozen mangoes and that she didn't bother to cut the ladyfingers in half, resulting in a too-thick crust, and that her pan was the wrong size, she shows a perfectly lovely piece of cheesecake.  She'd "definitely like to make this again with better mango flavour and more cheesecake," but she acknowledged that the cake is "incredibly cheery-looking with its sunny doona of mango gel."  ("Doona" is Australian slang for a blanket--I had to look it up).  

Vicki also made a beautiful cheesecake, and, although she loved the cake, her real enthusiasm went to the Indian grocery store, where she roamed the aisles, taking pictures of the "vegetables [she'd] never seen," the "rows of pulses," the "jewelry to go with saris," the "Indian DVDs and medicine," and the "amazing ice cream flavors."  All that, and she walked out with one can of canned mango pulp.  And the cheesecake was "mango heaven on a fork!"

Nancy made this cheesecake last summer for her birthday, but still had her photos and notes, so she could blog about it this summer.  Canned mango pulp is a "semi-regular purchase" for Nancy (do you make mango lassis?), so she knew just where to head, and she bought three cans of the recommended brand.  (Eat your heart out, Catherine!)  Nancy didn't think the ladyfinger base added anything, but the cheesecake had "excellent flavor," "with the mango blogs and topping giving a nice flavorful burst.  She served hers with raspberries on the side, but thought it would also "have been wonderful with some of Rose's raspberry sauce."

I think that Rachel gets the prize for the best story this week.  You know the old excuse--the dog ate my homework?  It turns out that dogs eat the genoise too.  Yes, Rachel ambitiously started out by making her own genoise for the base, and then she left the house with the genoise cooling on the counter.  When she returned, there was no genoise, but a very happy-looking dog.  Her Plan B was the ladyfinger aisle at the grocery store.  Rachel had planned ahead and bought mango pulp on Amazon, and she had no more disasters, Everyone liked this "sweet, sweet mango with some lemony tartness set off in creamy cheesecake, with a spongy ladyfinger base."  And a satisfied family (not to mention a satisfied family dog).  

Rosa also made her Mango Bango cheesecake a while ago.  You can always count on Rosa for lovely decoration.  This time she kept her piping equipment in the bag, and decorated with fruit, so not only did her cheesecake have the mango topping, but it was also topped with kiwi, grapes, blueberries, and strawberries.  Rosa thought the fruit just intensified the mango flavor, which was itself intensified by being concentrated "before streaking it through the filling, which then formed lovely stratalike little pools of intense mango flavor."

Kristina either has a lot of natural energy or she's using some amazing drug.  She blogged about three things she'd baked in the past week--not only the mango cheesecake, but also the raisin bread and the sweet cherry pie.  She also announced in said blog that she'd just run her first 5k race and started a new job.  Fortunately, the new workplace also has a designated treat table, and Kristina promptly filled it with the mango cheesecake, which was "definitely a hit."  She used 0% fat yogurt instead of full-fat, so tasters commented that it didn't taste as rich as regular cheesecake, but it sounds like that was a plus, not a minus.  

Like some other bakers, Phing's main difficulties were with the mango search.  Apparently the Alphonso mango season is over (who knew?) and none of the Indian stores Phing went to had canned mango pulp.  She enlisted a mango posse, and ended up with some fresh Banganapalli mangoes. (See what you learn by being an Alpha baker?)  She also baked the sponge cake base instead of going with store-bought ladyfingers, and either she doesn't have a dog or her dog is better behaved than Rachel's, because she was able to use the "velvety" cake as the base.  The result - "every bite was like a mango explosion.  The sharp sweet note of the mango with the mellow taste of the cheese."  Definitely a success.

Next week we're back on the blessed quick and easy list, with molasses butter cookies.  (Jenn, don't make these cookies!  They're molasses, and you hate molasses!)

After the cheesecake, we're on the home stretch!  Only 25 recipes left to bake, so if you've been on the fence about baking, consider getting in on the action while you still can.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mango Bango Cheesecake

I do love Rose's cheesecakes, and this is one of the best (although to be honest, I think I always say that whatever cheesecake I make is one of the best--I've never made a bad cheesecake from one of rose's recipes).  I was a little afraid that the topping would taste like mango baby food, but it didn't.  (Although the almost one-year-old in the house sure did love it).

One thing I think I've learned during the years that I've been baking Rose's recipes is which shortcuts make sense and which do not.  I think it's very sensible to use grocery store ladyfingers instead of making your own sponge cake.  There's no question that homemade sponge cake tastes better than ladyfingers, but once you put cheesecake on top of the cake, there's no point to go to all the trouble to bake a cake.  You can barely taste the cake anyway; it's really more of a sponge to soak up the filling than a layer whose flavor is essential to the cheesecake.  That's my story anyway.

Here's the elusive mango pulp.  I never did locate it in a store, although I didn't go to every Indian restaurant in town.  I still have two big unopened cans and a small amount of pulp left over from the cheesecake.  I plan to have it on my breakfast yogurt tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to it.  This canned pulp is much more flavorful than fresh mango, which has traveled many miles to reach Minnesota.  I don't think that mangoes grow very successfully in the continental U.S., although I believe they can survive in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  But they really like a very hot and humid growing season.  I may be making this up, but it makes sense to me.

This cheesecake is made with yogurt and cream cheese instead of sour cream and cream cheese.  This makes it seem much healthier, although that's probably an illusion.  One of the best pieces of news this year (a year that has had a shortage of good news) is that fat turns out to be not so bad for you after all.  Ditto salt.  Too little salt is more likely to cause a heart attack than too much.  If I were a better person, this news wouldn't make me so gleeful.

I very much enjoyed swirling the reduced mango puree into the cheesecake, although the effect was not as swirly as I hoped it would be.  By the way, I thought long and hard before I decided not to use cardamom.  Personally, I think cardamom is a lovely flavor, but some people have an aversion to it, so I thought it would be best not to have to try to talk people into trying it.  Since I have two cans of mango pulp sitting in my pantry, I think I'll eventually make another mango cheesecake, this time with cardamom.  A true taste test.

Second layer of mango/cheesecake swirl.

I should have swirled more deeply into the cheesecake so that the design would have permeated the whole thing.  But I didn't really know what it was supposed to look like.  I still don't,actually.

Oops.  I wasn't supposed to take the cheesecake out of the pan until I covered the top with thickened mango puree.  So far, my resolve to read the recipe at least 2 or 3 times before I start making it seems to have resulted in more careless mistakes.  I don't know what to make of that fact.  I tried to do the concentric circles, but they didn't look good.

Father's Day dessert.  I actually had two desserts for Father's Day--one a chocolate cake, and the other this mango cheesecake.  There was whipped cream for the chocolate cake, but Jim plopped some on the cheesecake plate so he could take a picture.  I don't think he was unhappy with the whipped cream, but it certainly doesn't need it, since it already has a few pounds of dairy products in it.

I hope you enjoyed this cake as much as we did--whether you made it to celebrate Father's Day, or just to celebrate the idea of cake made out of cheese.  It sounds a little Alice-in-Wonderland-ish when you put it like that, but cheesecake is an inspired idea, and Rose's cheesecakes are the best.  So what's not to celebrate!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Incredibly Amazing!"

Photo by Phing
My Baking Mania

Phing, our newest baker, made this as her first pie.  Ever.  (Phing is our newest Alpha Baker, which explains why she's never made a pie before).  Pie crust has always "scared [her] off," Now that she has a pie under her belt (probably both figuratively and literally), she's sorry that she has let Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible linger on her shelf for so long.  Although Phing swears she's a total novice, her photos make it look like she knows exactly what she's doing, which speaks either to Rose's skill as a teacher or Phing's natural baking ability (or both).  At any rate, she loved the filling and loved the crust--combined, they are "incredibly amazing!"

Rosa made a few changes in the recipe, but the basic idea is the same.  She used an 8-inch pie plate, which gave her more filling, omitted the plum puree, decreased the sugar, and added kirsch and almond extract.  Instead of making the lattice, she cut out designs in the top crust, and then studded the top with decorative pastry flowers.  The finished product looks quite stunning!  And she would definitely make it again.

Vicki, on the advice of the checkout person at Trader Joe's, used a mixture of Bing cherries and Rainier cherries, as well as plums for the puree.  She loved this three-fruit pie (not counting the lemon zest) so much that she couldn't endure the recommended three-hour wait, and tucked into the pie after it was out of the oven for only one and one half hours.  "The flavor is amazing.  The crust flaky.  If ever there was a perfect sweet cherry pie recipe, this is it."

Rachel thought "this was the perfect recipe for the season in [her] part of the world," because cherries were suddenly available everywhere.  I have to say I was thrilled to read this because I've assigned so many recipes in the wrong season that I was happy to get one right.  Rachel definitely got this recipe right--it turned out to be "truly a delicious pie.  Juicy without being runny, with lots of cherry flavor enhanced by the lemon zest and vanilla, set off by a flaky, savory crust."

This pie may have been a turning point for Jen, who was one of the most pie-averse of the Alpha Bakers when we started this project.  In fact, what she "love[d] most about this pie is the pie crust!"  She thinks she might be "finally getting the hang of pie dough.  That would be exciting."  But not only did she love the crust, she also thought the filling was pretty "yummy" and Mark appreciated that the cherries were still "toothsome."  You can tell she's getting hooked on pastry because she's talking about getting a "pastry crimper for even prettier lattice tops."  Once you start buying equipment, there's no stopping you.

To Aimee, one of the "great things" about pie is that they have separate components, and, after making each component, you still have to "assemble it, bake it, and cool it."  I'll admit I was a little confused by this--why is a long, drawn-out process a "great thing"?  But she explained (with the caveat that it's not so great if you want a piece of pie right now):  "I worked on the crust Sunday, made the filling Monday, assembled the pie on Tuesday morning, baked it when I got home from work, and ate some Tuesday night with ice cream.  Perfect!"  Now I get it--a long but basically simple process, and you always know that the final result is going to be a delicious piece of pie.  And it was delicious, too--"this pie was a success!"

Next week:  On to another of Rose's specialties--her fantastic cheessecakes, this one with mango puree.  I know that some of you already have your stash of mangoes, whether canned or fresh, and are ready to go.  Everybody else--start looking around for mangoes!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cherry Sweetie Pie

This pie has two of my favorite fruits in it--plums and sweet cherries, so it was bound to be good, but I'll admit that--to my surprise--I actually preferred last year's sour cherry pie which I had to make with canned cherries.  The canned cherries were brownish-pink, sickly-looking, and definitely not delicious straight out of the can, while these sweet cherries and plums were vibrant and bursting with flavor.  Yet the sour cherry pie must have had just the right amount of tartness to set off the buttery crust and the vanilla ice cream.  Who can understand the whys and wherefores of pie?

As I've no doubt mentioned, I've started to force myself to read the recipe at least twice before I start it.  I can see I'm going to have to modify the rule.  I'll have to read the recipe twice on the same day I bake.  I did read this one twice, but it was two days before I baked it.  I read it and observed to myself that I was going to have to get out my immersion blender to make a plum puree.  But by the time I
actually made the pie, I'd forgotten, so I just cut up the correct amount of plums and mixed them with the cherries.  Then I saw my mistake.  I considered fishing out all the plum pieces to make the puree, but then I decided that the plums and cherries looked so pretty together that I just wouldn't bother.  In other words, the above picture is not what your pie mixture should look like.

I wouldn't have made the lattice strips if I hadn't already goofed up the nonexistent plum puree.  I figure you're allowed one mistake per recipe, but once you go to 2 or 3 mistakes (or worse, willful disobedience), you're just getting sloppy.  So I followed the lattice instructions even though I think it's more trouble than it's worth.  If I had one of the cute cherry cut-outs that Patricia and Rose have, I'd have used that, but I don't, so it was lattice time for me.  It certainly went more smoothly than it did the first time.  Do you think there might actually be something to this practice thing people are always recommending?

Looking at these bright, lovely cherries, it's hard to believe that this really isn't what they're supposed to look like (because there's no plum puree here).  And I won't know what they're supposed to look like until I read other people's blogs.  Assuming that I'm the only one who didn't make the plum puree.

The lattice strips probably should have been just a touch narrower so more of the cherries would have shown through, but I don't really count that as a mistake.  I'm just surprised to look at this picture and see that it kind of looks like the person who did this lattice knew what she was doing.

This doesn't look too bad either.  I forgot to put the pie protector on the pie until after the first 20 minutes, so the edges got a little too brown.  Although, as Jim said, "how can it be too dark if it isn't burned?"  Someone in every household should have high standards and someone should have low standards.

This pie almost didn't need ice cream.  In fact, maybe it didn't need ice cream at all, but what is the point of fruit pie without ice cream?  If I looked at a dessert menu that had plain fruit pie on it, I probably wouldn't order it.  If the menu had a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream, my eyes would pass that by.  But a sweet cherry plum pie with vanilla ice cream?  That might even be my first choice.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rum Raisin French Toast Royal: "Delightful Bread and French Toast"

Photo by Rachel
Cooking and Thinking

I'm really surprised that more people didn't make this, especially since I gave everyone the option of just making the bread, and not the French toast.  But maybe it seems more like a winter than a summer recipe.  Whatever the reason, I strongly encourage you to try this bread next time you're in the mood for French toast, or just for a wonderful loaf of raisin bread.

Rachel didn't think her photos did justice either to the bread or the French toast, but ace photographer Jim Wolf picked one of her photos for Photo of the Week, so somebody's wrong, and I'd never say it was my husband.  Even though Rachel loves raisins, she decided to omit them so more people would like the bread (there's that raisin anathema again!).  She paints a nice word picture too, describing the French toast as "all that lovely eggy goodness being swirled onto the bread like you see in the photo, and the soft custardy insides of the French toast."  Rachel and her family enjoyed the raisin-less raisin bread as "breakfast for dinner," and both the raisin-haters and the raisin-lovers thought it was a delightful dinner.

Aimee, like me, only made the bread, not the French toast, or, as she called it, "naked rum raisin French toast."  (I'm very tickled by the idea of naked French toast).  Even naked, it was "better than any store-bought bagged raisin bread.  Great texture and crumb made the raisins really shine."  In case you didn't get the idea that she liked this bread, she added, "Hands down, this was either the best ever [raisin bread] or at least the best in recent memory.  But the bread never had a chance to get stale enough to qualify for French toast--although next time she might try making two loaves and hiding one--just long enough to let it age a few days.

Orin also took Woody's "green light" and made just the bread, not the French toast, even though she has fond memories of taking "what is left after the Sabbath [raisin bread], and [making] fried french bread to take to school on Sunday."  One of the great things about making your own bread is the smell of freshly-baked bread that wafts through the house.  This bread "has a great consistency, taste and texture, and the house smells WONDERFUL while baking."  Orin's faithful tester enjoyed the bread "as is or with butter" and didn't complain that her "spirals weren't perfect."  I think he knows which side his bread is buttered on.

Vicki must be the most dedicated baker I know.  By the time I got around to writing this roundup, Vicki's blog already had a new picture on it:  the popovers from Rose's Melting Pot cookbook.  But if you scroll down, you can still find her post on Rum Raisin French Toast, which she describes as "the all time best Cinnamon Raisin bread which turns into world class French toast."  (And if I remember correctly, Vicki is something of a French toast aficianada.  This one is "hands down better than any pricey Sunday brunch."  

Next week:  We're back into fruit pie season--this week it's a cherry pie made with sweet cherries and a few plums thrown in for tartness.  In my grocery store, the sweet cherries are looking (and tasting) lovely, so I have high hopes for this pie.
And a reminder that the following week is a mango cheesecake, for which you should have canned mango pulp.  Supposedly you can get this in an Indian market, but Indian markets are in short supply in my neck of the woods.  I ordered three large cans of mango pulp on Amazon (at an exorbitant price).  If anyone in said neck of the woods (that would be you, Hanaa) wants a can, it's yours.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rum Raisin French Toast

As you can see, this is Rum Raisin French Toast without the rum, the French, and the toast.  It is spectacularly good cinnamon raisin bread, and it may turn into French toast if it ever gets a chance to get stale.  In my view, which I'm pretty sure is a minority opinion, French toast is a thrifty way of getting some extra mileage out of stale bread, not a way to use perfectly good fresh bread.  I told you it was a minority view.

This bread is made using the technique that Rose recommends for many of her breads:  making a yeasty sponge, topping it with flour and other dry ingredients, letting it rise, and then refrigerating it, preferably overnight.  I love this method because it not only adds extra flavor to the bread, but it also allows you to make the bread fit around your schedule instead of the other way around.  Bread, you are not the boss of me!

Raisins are mysterious.  I never know if I'm going to like them.  An oatmeal cookie is boring without raisins, but a chocolate chip cookie with raisins is blasphemy.  Raisin bread without raisins is cinnamon swirl bread, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's the raisins that give this bread its festive quality.

This dough is exceptionally easy to work with.  It rolls out very nicely, without immediately shrinking back into its original shape, as some wet doughs are wont to do.  For the most part, the raisins stay nicely embedded in the dough instead of popping out.   When I was in elementary school, we got a separate grade for comportment.  Obedient child that I was, I always got an A+ in comportment.  This dough also gets an A+.

Another thing I liked about this bread is brushing a beaten egg on top of the dough as you're rolling it up.  That technique, along with rolling the bread tightly, helps to avoid the big air pockets that swirl breads are prone to develop.

The light dusting of cinnamon sugar on one spot on the top of the bread dough isn't supposed to be there, but I didn't even bother trying to remove it because I figured it would become one with the nicely browned bread.

Like so!  I guess you can still see a spot of cinnamon on top if you look for it, but it doesn't bother me.  Anyway, I'll slice that part of the loaf first.

Just to be completely honest, I'll show you that there is a slight visible swirl gap, even though I told you that brushing the beaten egg on the dough as you roll it helps to get rid of that gap.  After a few more slices, though, even that small gap disappeared.

I like this bread so much as is that I'm not sure I'll get around to making French toast with it, even though the French toast recipe looks very decadent and very good.  I'll leave that to the rest of you.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pecan Praline Scheherazades: "Easy to Make and Easy to Eat"

Photo by Jen
Evil Cake Lady

These are in the cookie section of The Baking Bible, although they're also in the "Candy, Meringue, and Ice Cream Cookies" subsection, so nobody can complain too much that they're not actually cookies.  In fact, there's really nothing to complain about, except that it's hard to spell "Scheherazade." "As long as you're not caramel-averse," as Jen says.  And you shouldn't even be "caramel-averse" if you follow Jen's foolproof caramel advice:  "Keep an eagle eye on it and check the temperature frequently."  If you follow this rule, you'll get just what Jen got:  shiny, gooey, buttery caramels full of chunks - or bits - of crunchy pecans.  Heaven.

If you're Faithy, walnuts will take the place of pecans for the best reason on earth:  you have walnuts in your pantry but no pecans.  Let's all take just a moment to sympathize with Faithy.  First, every member of her family is on a reduced-sugar diet, causing them to turn up their noses at Faithy's baked treats, which, in turn, forces Faithy to exercise instead of bake after work.  Horrors!  Not only that, but these caramels, delicious to be sure, were so sticky that they dislodged one of her fillings.  Let's just hope it's not her sweet tooth that needs work.

For Rachel, it was hard to tell which was her favorite:  her beloved story of Scheherazade or the candy itself.  How can you not like a story about story-telling so skillful that every night your death is delayed another day?  And the stories themselves--"like eating an Oreo, multiple layers of joy that count as only one."  But the candy, well maybe that's even better, because it's "1) easy to make 2) sweet and savory 3) delicious 4) can be eaten at room temperature for a nutty caramel-like experience or frozen as something akin to hard candy."  

Making these candies also brought back memories of Scheherazade to Kristina, although for her it was not so much the stories themselves but Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, which Kristina played in high school band.  She also mused about "how baking triggers and reinforces great memories."  As for the candy itself, it was "softer and gooier than [she] expected," although that's not a bad thing.  Kristina froze the candies that weren't immediately eaten, "to pull out as an accompaniment to late-night ice cream."  Since I just pulled one out of my freezer to eat (for inspiration only) while I write this, I can assure you that I'm not trying to talk you out of bedtime snack of ice cream and caramel, but you don't even need the ice cream.

Like Faithy, Orin has a sad tooth story.  Her dentist advised her that a person wearing braces should think twice about chewing on caramels (with nuts yet), so Orin made these just for for her fiance.  I call that true love.  Her taster said, as he reached for another one, that the candies were "smooth, sticky, sweet and something [he] never tasted before."  To Orin, that meant these should be made again, especially since they were "as simple as 1, 2, 3."  

Rosa also appreciated how easy these were to make.  Even if you're someone who can do the most complicated recipes, it's always nice to have an easy showstopper up your sleeve.  No problems with this recipe for Rosa, although she did have to keep them refrigerated because it was so humid.  (I guess this last week was unusually hot and humid for a Canadian May). Even refrigerated, the caramels were still "melt in your mouth."  

Next week--Rum Raisin French Toast Royal.  This is really a cinnamon raisin yeast bread gussied up and served as French toast.  However, I asked Woody if it would count as making the recipe if I just made the bread and didn't French toast it.  He said "sure."  So I'm giving you the same permission, although you could make French toast and still have some of the loaf as plain old raisin bread.  The recipe for the bread itself doesn't look complicated, but it is a yeast bread, after all, so don't expect to finish it in an hour.