January Daring Baker’s Challenge: Biscuit Jaconde

I feel like I keep tacking onto my New Year’s Resolutions, but since it’s still only January – at least for one more day – I think that it’s okay. To add on to more baking, more blog updating, and more bread, I know want to go the whole year and do every single Daring Baker’s Challenge. I can already foresee some problems that I will face as the year wears on, but at least I can say I will try.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert. I’m not going to lie, this was one of the more difficult challanges that I have done. I’m not even going to go into what went wrong with my biscuit jaconde, because I myself don’t quite know what was wrong with it, but the truth is that the mousse inside was what made the dish amazing. I made some of Ms. Julia Childs’s classic chocolate mousse that was the perfect accompaniment to the spongy jaconde cake that I tried to make.

As we sat around the table eating the mousse, my roommates pointed out that it was like eating fluffy dough – the denseness of cookie dough with the fluffiness of mouse. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it sounds good! The cake didn’t make it in the fridge for more than a day or two before it was licked clean off the plate. I always have Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the back of my cookbook shelf and never quite take advantage of all the amazing recipes it has to offer.

At the end of the day, I realized that while the jaconde didn’t quite turn out how I wanted it, the whole process, which took more than a few hours, was well worth it as I discovered the most amazing mousse recipe in the entire world. I plan on making the mousse again very soon, sans jaconde, and am hoping that it works out just as well.

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Snow Day Bread

Okay, it’s officially a snow day as school was cancelled! It’s only the first week of class and I’m already getting a 4-day weekend. Pretty crazy. What started as a steady stream of snow yesterday morning as I walked to class, continued just about all night and by the time I woke up this morning, they said that there were about 19 inches on the ground. I’m really starting to think the snow God’s just have it out against us, I mean, there has been snow on the ground since December! My first reaction upon hearing the good news of class being cancelled was to go straight back to sleep, but upon failing to get out of school wake-up mode, I decided to get up and start my day by making, you guessed it, bread!!

As I’ve said before, I have really been wanting to make bread for ages and given that the chances of going anywhere in the next 24 hours seemed slim to nill, this seemed like the the perfect opportunity. This basic bread load was incredibly easy to make and actually took so little hands on attention that I was almost a tad disappointed. It didn’t need that much kneading by hand and only stayed in the mixer for about 7 minutes. Once it came out of the loaf pan, it was ready to be sliced. Needless to say, given the weather and the bread, we turned the occasion into a lovely feast of bread, cheeses, soup, and grapes. It was a wonderful dinner on a cold winter evening.

SNOW DAY HONEY OAT BREAD

(Adapted from Pictures and Pancakes)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 tbs kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

1) Combine 2 cups warm water, yeast and honey to the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir, allowing yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. Add flour, oats and butter to the yeast mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon, cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes.
2) Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer. add salt and mix on medium for about 6 minutes or until the dough slaps around the sides of the bowl without sticking. If the dough is sticking at any time, add one or two tablespoons of flour. The dough will be soft, supple and slightly tacky.
3) Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise for about 1 hour or until it’s doubled in size.
4) To shape the dough, scrape onto a lightly floured work surface. press down, working into a square shape and depressing any air bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers.
5) Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan. Place the dough in a greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and press it gently into the corners of the pan. Cover and let it rest for about 1 hour or until dough rises to half it’s size or puffs up over the edge of the pan.
6) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust is dark as molasses and the bottom crust is dark brown. Give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool for at least 2 hours on a baking rack. (Or enjoy straight out of the over ;-))
7) Enjoy!!

Focaccia with Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Pear

It’s back to school tomorrow! I think right now my biggest fear about going back is that the high temperature for tomorrow is 18 degrees!! That’s insane! It’s cold and snowy now, but that’s just freezing. I’m going to have to put on some major layers to make the 25 minutes trek to my morning class. I don’t have high hopes for the rest of the month for it to get any warmer. The forecast doesn’t seem to want to get much above 30 for the rest of the week. Oh well. I guess I’ll just be doing some more warm baking 🙂

I really wish that I made bread more often. It really is not that difficult if you spend even just a few minutes figuring out what you’re going to be doing. I think I’ll be tacking onto my New Year’s Resolution of baking/posting more to start making more bread. This focaccia pizza seemed like the perfect plunge into bread making territory atsthe focaccia dough was very easy to make and with the added toppings, it was the perfect dinner. I’ve made bread in the past, but never really by myself, so after making this, I think I have given myself a boost of confidence to try and make some more bread in the future.

FOCACCIA WITH CARAMELIZED ONION, BLUE CHEESE AND PEAR

(Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 large Bosc pear, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1) In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes.

2) Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

3) Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

4) Preheat the oven to 450°. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

5) Scatter the onions over the dough. Arrange the pear over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve.

6) Enjoy 🙂

Peanut Butter Brownies

It’s almost time to go back to school. I’m savoring these last few days of freedom before I get inundated with work again. It has been slushy and snowy most of the week in New York, but at least one of my roommates came home this past weekend, so I haven’t been all by myself. Hopefully, I’ll keep finding time to bake when I get back into the swing of school. I’m going to try and make something at least once a week and update the blog accordingly. Let’s see how that turns out!

I was at Jack’s 99 cent store in Midtown the other day and discovered some glorious things. On the first floor, it’s all 99 cent items, pretty cheap, nothing special, but if one ventures up one or even two more floors, one can find all sorts of delightful things that are a little more expensive, but still incredibly cheap. I got 4 oz. bars of Ghirardelli’s baking chocolate that are usually 4 or 5 dollars at the regular supermarket for $1.99! I got a little over excited when I saw that they sold Pellegrino, but controlled myself by just getting the chocolate and some peanut butter.

When I got home, I realized that with my newly acquired purchases, I could make some peanut butter brownies. I was very impatient making these last night and didn’t let the brownies bake long enough, but the peanut butter frosting is still really delicious. If I were to make these again, I would either bake them longer or use a different brownie recipe with the same peanut butter frosting. The Reese’s on top are the perfect complement to some already peanut buttery brownies.

Peanut Butter Brownies

 

INGREDIENTS:

Brownie Layer

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chips or chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Peanut Butter Layer

  • 1 cup peanut butter (not natural or old-fashioned)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Peanut Butter Cups, cut into quarters

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 9 X 9 inch baking pan with foil and butter the foil.

2) Melt butter and chocolate in a double-boiler. Stir until chocolate is melted. Beat in the sugar followed by the eggs, vanilla extract and kosher salt.

3) Gradually add the flour and stir until combined.  Add the salted peanuts.

4) Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

5) Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 22-25 minutes.  Cool the brownies to room temperature.

6) While brownies are cooling, sing an electric mixer, beat together the peanut butter and 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter in medium bowl.

7) Beat in the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  The mixture should be very spreadable.  If, for some reason, it isn’t, incorporate a little more milk.  Spread this over the cool brownies.

8 ) Top with Reese’s and enjoy 🙂

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

It’s snowing once again in New York. I don’t think it snowed last year for the first time until February and now it only the beginning of January and we’ve already gotten almost 30 inches of snow this winter. Crazy! It’s a good thing I don’t have anywhere to be today, because I don’t plan on leaving the house.

I would love to say that I plan on staying tucked in my bed all day, but given the extreme heater that I have no control over, my room is actually boiling hot, making it necessary that I get out of bed. It’s insane how hot my room gets. It used to be an actual sauna, but the steam seems to have been turned off, thank goodness! No matter the heat in my room, as the idea of cold snow outside still makes me just want to bake.

These cookies pack in a few of my favorite ingredients – pumpkin, oatmeal, and dried cranberries. With the addition of both regular and white chocolate chips, these cookies are a sure crowd pleaser for every taste bud. I didn’t actually have enough of either dark or white chocolate chips, so I just decided to mix them both in instead of just white. I’d say it was a good idea. These were the perfect treat to make on a day stuck indoors. I almost thought I was going to run out of sugar, but luckily had enough, as I would not have been a happy camper going outside just for a cup of sugar.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN OATMEAL COOKIES

(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • Dash of allspice
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the pumpkin puree until well incorporated.

4) With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Beat in the oats until combined.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries until evenly mixed.

5) Drop in small scoops (about 1½-2 tablespoons) onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2-3 inches apart.

6) Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.

7) Allow to cool on the sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

8) Enjoy 🙂

A New Year

So I have failed miserably at keeping my poor blog updated these past few weeks. I’m so incredibly sorry, but I’m back and ready to bake again in 2011! I just returned from an amazing trip to Oregon where I grew up. It was so nice to be there – I hadn’t been back in almost 3 years. I had a great time hanging out with friends, hiking, biking, shopping, and most especially, eating. There are so many places to eat in Eugene and I don’t think a day passed that I wasn’t out eating a some restaurant or bakery.

One of my favorite eating establishments happens to be in Eugene. It’s called Sweet Life Patisserie. In my opinion, it is quite possibly one of the most amazing bakeries in all the world. They actually made my brothers wedding cake almost 15 years ago when they were just starting out. They have now evolved into a beautiful bakery and cafe with an additional wedding cake showroom. I have never failed to get something delicious while I was there and this time was no exception. We got marionberry cheesecake and an opera cake, which was so rich we couldn’t even finish it. Now I’m not sure what marionberries even are exactly, but I really have only ever seen them in the Pacific Northwest and they are just amazing. They really need to import them out east.


In the midst of all my other activities in Eugene, I did manage to sneak in some time to make a really delicious cranberry chocolate torte. Now, my friend just had the recipe around her house, so I’m not sure the source, but here are some lovely photos. As you can see, I discovered a new color function on my camera 🙂

I’m excited to bake again in 2011 and can’t wait to keep you updated!