Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cran-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

Our choice of the week is Cran-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
and the picture in The Cake Bible looked luscious. I glanced at the old copper tarte tatin pan sitting on the shelf at eye level beside my scale that I use daily - I thought, "why not?'
I gathered it up and gave it a nice brightening with copper polish.

First I thawed the cranberries for their all day over a sieve in the oven with just the pilot light on. Rose wryly advises.  when using this technique in thawing, it is wise to put a note on the oven door that it is in use . . .

The raspberies needed to be seeded through a small wired sieve or  food mill and their juices reduced

The recipe was straightforward and the cake came together nicely. I was a bit concerned that the batter would be too much in volume since my pan was somewhat smaller than the recipe called for, but when baked it rose just to the top with no overflow problem. However, the edges at the top were beginning to brown around the top and pulling away from the edges, even with the tent.

Because of the configuration of the pan I thought I could not use the strips, and when I thought of making my own, the batter was ready to go in. I think this might have made a small difference in this cake. 




Smoothing batter

Baked cake
Yum Yum!
Guests taking home a slice to enjoy later!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Luxury Oatmeal Cookies

Luxury Oatmeal Cookies

I was considering the oatmeal and granola idea with a jaundiced eye, especially when all I could find were steel-ground oats, or minute made ones, and didn't know if instant something would be acceptable. Finally I did find some 'old-fashioned oats' that were 'rolled.' So that was it for that. I am hoping that through this endeavor I can at least learn to like granola. Moreover to just at least tolerate the thought of the oatmeal that was placed before me many a day and met with a scowl from me. They put brown sugar on it  - I doubt if Muscovado. The cat found it under the radiator.

As we know, this was not an intricate exercise. For me it is actually another much- needed exercise in baking anything. The granola came together easily. In baking it, however, I decided it wasn't dry enough and put it back in the oven for a time. Finally I figured it might get too dark and took it out. It was perfect.

It cooled nicely.I stirred it on the half-sheet pan with a long-pronged fork every now and again to keep it separated and moving around. It was not soggy at all and behaved itself very well. In fact it was acting like some sort of dry cereal. I tasted it. Well. It was absolutely delicious. The Muscovado sugar and other ingredients were wonderful together. My interest had now been piqued. Once again, Rose had not let me down. 

The instructions for the dough looked best for me In the food processor method I thought. So, I mixed up the ingredients for the dough, the sugars, butter, egg and vanilla. Lastly the flour mixture.

For me it seemed that the best implement for mixing of granola and dough together was my large wooden spoon. The large dough package was then refrigerated an hour plus. Then that package was divided into thirds. Two were kept refrigerated while the first mixture were made into 42 g balls, put onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart, and pressed down by the palm as laid down. My kitchen is small and hot and the dough is sticky so best to get them into the oven fast. I did roll mine into weighed 42 g balls using 'floured hands' but I may not have flattened them enough placing them on the pan. I didn't experience width, but did have the softness that could have accounted for caused the largeness in width, and softness causing the cookies to fall apart if moved. I don't know. They were less crumbly, the next day but still a problem.

I made two batches on the cookie sheet and one batch on a half sheet. I was curious to see what would happen on the half-pan. What happened did. I believe Rose addressed this in discussion of baking sheets vs baking pans. I may not have it correctly, but it was something similar. The heat was too intense with closed up sides, and the cookies had not enough air circulation to offset the extra heat without the opening of the sides that  the cookie sheet provides on the sides. Anyway, I watched them closely. The chocolate began to ooze out like caramel and they, themselves, were oozing somewhat. I removed them. They were the same color as the others, but chocolate more running and more cookie more pliable. All of the cookies are probably better today, but I will never know. I would like to see the attributes of the ones Rose likes just warm out of the oven.

After baking, each batch cooled one minute and then was transferred to a wire rack. With the last batch I forgot to transfer them over and in the morning I could  hardly get them off the original pan. I had to push hard with the little spatula to accomplish that. None broke but we were lucky.

I had eaten about three cookies in the night and my husband as well. In the morning he

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sour Cherry Pie

Tic Tac Toe

What you see before you is the result of another of my attempts to make a creditable, edible pie crust with something great tasting inside - I did what I was told in preparing this crust and could not figure out why mine crumbles the way it does. I see in Patricia's fabulous tutorial, a wonderful large squared off smoothly elastic appearing piece of dough - really dough. I am showing you here parts of my attempts this weekend. You will see myriad shattered parts of dough and flour. I even put the last batch back in the Cuisinart at Patricia's behest, and got rid of a few 'butter peas larger than a small pea'. Nonetheless, the dough was still crumbly. I just went about my business at that time, and as we speak the thing has been put together, and bottom and sides patched, is resting in the fridge and will bake on the stroke of midnight + fifteen minutes. I ran out of dough in the blending so only ended up with a tic tac toe embellishment instead of the fab basketweave which I would undoubtedly, right brained as I am, be unable to complete.

So,  it is my hope that the pie will emerge with all its parts unburnt [if I remember to put its hat on], and will go off to work for the worker bees to consume. Of course they will have to watch it for the three hours it requires before being cut. *I did remember to his its hat on and it is too small. When I turn it I will have to put foil, but I didn't.

It has been said this sour cherry pie is the best cherry pie that some of us, and guests, have superextolled, and so I hope I feel this way. As  we go along I have been wondering what to serve with this pie as a dessert. What would blow your hair back, as my daughter used to say? I don't know if I would like vanilla ice cream with it, unless it were one with extremely heavy cream base.  Perhaps a dab of creme fraiche. But what else? Perhaps nothing but a drink of some kind. I dont know - fresh out of thinkings - off now to put the creation into the oven.

So now the test will come tomorrow. I know the filling is great, the color and bubbles tell me, and the flavor before. The crust probably tastes good except for the too dark outsides, but one knows the French always prefer a little char...

The pictures are pretty and descriptive but rolling out is my nemesis. Need a class.

And so onward -- Everyone's look so inviting!!!

Another recipe needs to be tripled!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Caramel Buns

"Likkered-up caramel buns"Add caption

The past four or five days have just run together like protoplasm, apropos of nothing right now. Lately, I have had good things and awful things running around in my mind like those bumper cars at fairs, used to anyhow.

This baking of the Caramel Bun has undone me because it took all of my time and my energy. This I didn't like, yet if someone had deprived me of my slavery to this endeavor I would have fought them. I find that the last four days has sorely even impacted the hours I go to bed and the other day it was even 0722 due to the work it took for me to perform the necessary parts of this recipe. Of course Rose had warned us. 

I have said that the past four days of attempting to complete this innocuous sounding caramel bun has been harrying for me to say the least. I didn't know how to do some required things, techniques, and that was frustrating. But finally, after midnight tonight I took one of these just-baked caramel buns that had been slathered with some sticking stuff, and I bit into a grape that obviously grew from a farm of booze, topped by a toasty nut. It is said that she, being me, had macerated a bunch of raisins for some five days in the blackest pirate rum that ever came across the seas. I now can also attest to that. Wow. I then began to realize what I was eating. The caramel was more than caramel and the bun was not-so mundane as suggested. And also, a catastrophe had arisen in that I only had one of these creations for me since I had promised those at work I would bring them some. It occurred to me now that I could cut them in half and the office staff would only think that was the true size. Oh well, after all there is one for my husband [if I don't get it first] and I have already had mine, so the staff must enjoy the size as they should.

These buns are indescribably, fabulously 'likkered-up things' - not really buns, of course. They are not from Heaven as we might know it, but they are more as if the devil had conspired with Lucifer himself, the same, to prevent a conscientious abstinence. Upon being descended upon by this thing, all the pains in my back from standing in the kitchen flew out the window along with other complaints and awareness of the need for sleep, thus restoring me as a devotee of Rose, and Woody once again. I even like him today - him with his infernal ruler. Even sleep-deprived, fearful of not succeeding, frustrated by doing things wrong, like the dough rolling, like the turns, all those malcontents went flying out the door, not just the window, and I almost began to look forward to the trellised 'sour cherry pi' as Marie calls it.

However, in my moment of sanity here and now, although it may not appear that way to others at present, I decide to get these infernal pictures posted in the morning because I am too likkered-up by the grapes and the caramel at the moment. 

Finally, however, before I do lay my little head down to sleep, I have a moment of likker-inspired devilment and am inspired in that way to invite our criminologist, one Raymond, given our circumstances as Alphas and the work that we have just completed here, i.e. baking in kitchens, with counter equipment such as those used, if he would like to solve a small crime scene. This intervention will be an incident solving of 'Lost and Found' taking place in our presently completed scenario, wherein Lost will be an implement and what its purpose is, and Found will be where it was found and why it was there. There is no prize if he succeeds; just a loud guffaw at me.

And now, at this time, a late but happy ending, I would like to extend a profound thank you to our Maestros for this adagio, the amazing: "Likkered-up Caramel Bun".
Cara studying with Stormy


Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Joanie's Fig Newtons
In the1980s there was a popular machine-made cookie called the 'Fig Newton' made by Nabisco. This cookie dough was wrapped around a fig paste. Since this cookie, of course, would never reach the stature of the ceremonial cookie, the Hamantaschen, and since my poorly executed attempt at Hamantaschen didn't equal either one, my husband was amused and said, "Oh, good, here are some of "Joanie's Fig Newtons" -  And so here is the story . . .  

The photos I am including here are actually from Day 2 of this adventure. It is my second attempt at baking these famous, celebration cookies. None of our Alpha's seems to have made a dough as faulty and compromised as mine; in fact, I doubt if even Nabisco could duplicate it. Certainly after my first attempt at the Hamantaschen on the day before, Day 1, the batch I called "Ruins of Sablee", I had no idea I could possibly make the same mistakes on Day 2, especially having in the interim doggedly watched many YouTube films on making pate sucree, sablee, and others, and being 'tutorized' there by all sorts of French, Italian, American, British and wonderful old Jewish chefs. I surmised that none of them must have had more than the variety of butter-peas that I did not know how to regulate, and of course if they had they knew what to do with it. Myself, I still didn't know whether to go forward or backward with the flour pulsing 8-10 times in the Cuisinart to obtain the desired result because if I went the wrong way in either direction I was done for.

The first attempt to create this recipe on Day 1, was the one where I had the fall of a member of the dusty Hamantaschen Cookiedom. That dough was a beautiful sablee-colored dough. It was so crusty that it cracked like ruins, would not roll out at all, let alone be formed into anything but a questionable doily. I took a picture with one little shape of a droll Hamantaschen on the cutting board as this dough slid sadly into the trash can. I sent the photo to Monica, who responded that she thought I might be late for my post.

But all was not lost because I still had eggs, cream, filling made, flour, strained preserves, sugar and strained egg glaze. Therefore, on the morning of Day 2 the baking began again.

I knew I needed Patricia's tutorial because it would show me a large picture of butter not larger than a small pea to keep the dough perfectly malleable with its flour. But neither Patricia nor Stormy were to be found and Echo was busy here studying the Baking Bible and had no time for me.

Per Rose: Softening sugars. In a container of hard sugar, add a small piece of foil, shaped to receive a lightly moistened half paper towel without touching sugar. Place the top on the container and leave it. It will soften. I use this method and leave it overnight. It works, including the Turbinado shown here. I store mine in a plastic rectangular box.

This whole process of creating the Hamantaschen isn't time consuming, as we all know. So once again my lovely softened Turbinado was placed into the Cuisinart and pulsed. I did all I was told. Until - yep - I hit the brick wall again. I really scrutinized the mixture this time so I wouldn't go beyond the size of a small butter pea. As I peered into the feed tube once again I knew I had to pulse more, or less, and I knew the parameters. I felt like I had more moisture this time and I took the dough out. 

 I began to follow more directions again, since after all it was Day 2. I emptied the dough into a plastic bag, kneaded, and made a ball, cut in half 210 g., made discs, refrigerated them in plastic. And then again the problems began once more:

I thawed a disc a bit after 30 minutes, floured and rolled it out on a floured mat, into a rectangle. Okay. Rotating, not okay. Sticking and crumbling, not okay. Lots of flour top and under, questionable because contributing to consistency? The dough is not happy dough. Nevertheless, the time has come to:

The cut out 3" circles that were so crumbly I could barely lift one even with a small spatula, and usually it was necessary to cut around edges and shore them up. I managed to egg-wash half-inch around, barely.

Finally, I added 2 tsp. filling (delicious) into the center. I only managed 8 partial circles. There were lots of scraps. The circles were so crumbly that I couldn't compose the corners, with water or anything else, to fold the corners together. I pressed and dabbed them with apricot wash and baked them just to see what would happen. Well, even after baking they were so ugly I was about to pitch them when I had to decide if I wanted you to think we hadn't at least tried. I decided it could go either way. So, with that in mind, I decided not to throw them away and just put them on a drying stand to figure what to do with them, aside from glaring at them, because their failure to even reach Fig-Newtonville was, of course, all their fault. They knew I knew better.

So, we are finally at the end of this novelette . . .  I was thirsty last night. At midnight I went to the kitchen and got some orange juice. I passed by Joanie's Fig Newtons, and just for no reason picked up one and took a bite. My eyes flew open. Another bite. And then I ate two more. They were more dense than tender, and not flaky, but I have had worse, i.e. Fig Newtons themselves, and the filling was awesome with that slight hint of the lemon zest  throughout. So I must say, if I had seen Patricia's tutorial it would have undoubtedly shown me butter-no-larger-than-a-small-pea-perfect. Yet, even though not tender, shapely, or flaky, these tasted 'perty darned good' and were deemed worthy to escape an early demise, except they have strangely disappeared, those Joanie's Fig Newtons. 

This all leads me closer to the Hamantaschen creation once more: Day 3. 

Mercurius Sublimatus - 'Curi'

Thanks for listening. Again.
We'll be over to learn the consistency, Patricia.