Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two fer Tuesdays (with Dorie)

So, I ended up on a bit of an unintentional posting hiatus the last couple weeks. Summer is always a busy time here, both in mine and the husband's job's... plus, I had a huge list of things I wanted to finish before heading out of town this last weekend- We headed out to Ann Arbor to watch my baby brother get married. I spent the weekend playing best (wo)man, and keep things sane despite the torrential rainstorm that lasted just long enough to drive the ceremony indoors. Despite the rain and wind, I would say it was a success.

As for my Tuesdays with Dorie Cream Puffs, lets just say they didn't fare so well in the rain last week.

But first, a success- Mixed Berry Cobbler

We didn't get back into town until Sunday afternoon, and I knew I would be hard pressed to get started right away on the cobbler. We needed a day to recoup, unpack, and do a bit of restocking of the cupboards, and I finally had a chance to delve in today. Thankfully The recipe was pretty quick to whip up.

We're a big fan of cobblers. They are my usual 'go to' recipe for BBQ and parties, since they are usually so easy to throw together, minimal crust rolling or mussing around. I've gotten well enough known for my cobblers that I think there's at least one friend that jokingly refuses to let me over to visit without a cobbler.

Usually, I opt for a peach/berry combo... But for a change of pace, I kept with Dorie's original 'mixed berry' idea, using 1 bag of frozen mixed fruit and topped it off with an extra cup of frozen blueberries.

I don't have a deep dish pie pan, so I started digging around the cabinet, finally settling on an 8 inch cake pan, and 2 small oven friendly cups for 'mini' cobblers.

They baked up in 1 hour, and came out of the oven bubbling over the edge. As they cooled, they settled back into the pan/cups. The crust was perfectly crumbly and tasty melding with the juicy berries for a nice afternoon treat. Two sets of thumbs up.

Now on to the less successful - Chocolate Cream Puff Ring

I made this last Monday in the hopes of posting it Tuesday. But the pouring rainstorm outside should have been my first clue that it might be a good idea to make cream puffs. But I persevered.

Sadly, I'm not sure if it was the humidity, or a failure on my part.... but this just didn't work out. The ring didn't puff enough to cut in 1/2, and the eclaires were too small to fill, and resembled something less than appealing. I pressed on and opted for the chocolate cream since I didn't have a plethora of mint to boil down.

The cream turned out well, though if I were to make it again I'd probably opt for a sweeter chocolate. In a fir of frustration I flipped the ring over and piped the cream on top of that, and snapped a few pictures. I managed to fill a couple of the small puffs I'd piped, but the majority of them ended up being tossed.

The ring was good, albeit not as 'crisp' as I'm sure Dorie intended. Moral of the story: Humidity and cream puffs do NOT mix.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Strawberry Harts (tarts) : TWD

Having moved to the east coast 10 years ago from Southern California, I often complain about the cold and ice in January/February. I think the weather powers that be got tired of hearing all my bitching, so they sent us some heat this week. In the league of 90-100 deg days, with random thunderstorms that make it look like the apocalypse is coming. So with all the heat and humidity, I wasn't looking forward to spending too much time near a hot oven.

Thankfully, Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage picked a nice light strawberry tart for us for this week. The only thing that needed cooking was the tart shell. And that for only 8 minutes. Right up my hot weather pattern alley.

Prepping my ingredients, I realized my only tart shell is 10 1/2 inches. Plus, with only two of us, I didn't like the idea of leaving 3/4 of an empty pie shell sitting around. Reading through the directions, Dorie mentions that the crust is very cookie like. So what better a way to prep them than mini tartlette cookie crusts?

I followed the crust recipe to the letter, and was pleasantly surprised to see it come together in the food processor. I quickly rolled it out and set to work cutting it into 9 medium sized 'heart' shapes. I could have probably re-rolled and gotten a few more, but with 95+ degree weather, I knew the batter needed to be shaped quickly lest it turn to goo.

Baking took closer to 10 minutes before I took them out, but they were just barely browned on the bottom. They probably could have gone another 1-2 minutes.

For assembly, I chose a mix of strawberries and blueberries, with a splash of Grand Marnier a dash of sugar, and a bit of fresh pepper. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, it lost a bit of its heart shape, but made for an adorably portioned serving. The husband and I quickly ate ours up while watching Battlestar Galactica off the DVR. The crust was indeed very cookie like, very light and crumbly in that butter cookie way.

We give this recipe two thumbs up, and I'm bookmarking this recipe for future pies and tarts.

Recipe for the tart shell and other wonderful baked goods can be found in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tech-La-La - French Chocolate Brownies : TWD

It's been a hectic last week in Casa Shebake. I almost considered opting out of this week's challenge, until I saw it was brownies. I spent the weekend at my brother's house in Michigan to partake in my future SIL's bachelorette party. On top of that, I finally broke down and ordered an upgrade to my computer collection. The computer I usually use for every day stuff, photo editing, etc, is about 8 years old. I've tossed in enough upgrades and maintenance to make it last, but I was outgrowing it, especially with my DSLR upgrade last winter. So I upgraded to a nice shiny new quad core system with 2 fresh new Hard drives for the OS and storage.

Of course, even when I save time by ordering a computer pre-built, the first thing I do out of the box is rip it open and customize it. In this case, It needed one of the SATA cables replaced (too short), and to put in my blu ray drive/burner. I also needed to copy over a lot of my older files, so that whole process has been pretty consuming of the last few days.

Back to the brownies, I'm not a big raisin fan, so I started to think how to mix it up a little. I thought of a cheesecake topping, or a glaze, but the idea of flambeing something again was exciting, so I finally settled for some thawed blueberries I had in the freezer.

The batter was quick to put together, though with the suddenly warm weather, the butter ended up quite soft within an hour or so, as compared to the 1/2 day it takes in winter.

Baking took closer to 1 hr 20 minutes, and the top formed a quite crisp crust that crackled when I cut it. Inside, the brownies were quite moist and decadent, with a bright punch of flavor when you get a blueberry.

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup Blueberries, fresh or thawed from frozen
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the blueberries in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the moisture almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the blueberries aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the blueberries along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.