Friday, February 24, 2012

Epic Fail: Pâte de Fruit

My first two attempts at pâte de fruit were, as the title suggests, epic failures. In true adventurer fashion, I researched multiple recipes to figure out what the basic forumla was before deciding how to proceed, and this is what I found: 
  • 2 c (16 oz) fruit puree or pure fruit juice
  • 16 oz sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 T liquid pectin
The first recipe I tried was with Strawberries and extra lemon juice, sort of a strawberry lemonade if you will. Sadly, the puree didn't strain well at all, but other than some seeds it seemed pretty liquid, so I forged onward (read: I just poured the whole puree in the pot). It went pretty much as expected, other than the scalding of my pot, and it gelled up pretty well. Unfortunately they didn't taste good. At all.

So those got tossed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TWD - BWJ #2: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

I think it's time I officially admit that I am utterly incapable of not making things overly-complicated. The second Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia recipe was Chocolate Truffle Tartlets (pp 382-383), and that in and of itself was apparently not enough for me--I had to go and do it six different ways.

Oh, yes, I said six: citrus almond biscotti, four-chocolate biscotti, mint, orange, espresso, and all of these sans the white chocolate (I guess I could have said I did it 10 different ways but that just seemed like exaggeration). And of course the day I decide to do this is the day I'm informed that yet more work has to be done on my car, but I digress.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Greek Yogurt Gets a Makeover

There's something about Greek yogurt--the tanginess, I think--that just doesn't appeal to me. Oh, but it's like sour cream, you say? I don't like sour cream, either. And the thickness, let's not forget the thickness. It's like trying to eat a spoonful of peanut butter, it just coats and sticks to every surface in my mouth. I tried to jump on the Greek yogurt bandwagon about 10 months ago and just couldn't do it. More protein, less sodium and less sugar just weren't enough to get me to choke down 4-6 oz of it on a daily basis.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, so when I found a snack "recipe" on that adds half a packet of no sugar added hot chocolate mix and a packet of sweetener to a single serving of Greek yogurt, I figured I'd give it another shot.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Love Affair With Salted Caramel

Since today is Valentine's Day, and therefore everything must by default revolve around love, I thought I'd share a new love of mine: salted caramel.

In my quest to try new things, I recently stepped out of my comfort zone and tried the Mediterranean fleur de sel (translation: sea salt) caramel gelato at Paciugo and immediately fell in love. I've never thought of myself as a caramel person. Those cellophane-wrapped squares people used to give out around Halloween when I was a kid have never held any appeal to me whatsoever--give me butterscotch any day. The gelato is admittedly pretty salty, but the combination definitely works, and it's opened my eyes to a food I never thought I liked.

This newly discovered love is what led to the Chocolate with Shortbread and Salted Caramel that I experimented with last month (and the spoonfuls of leftover salted caramel sauce I consumed that same weekend with cookies, yogurt and by itself). Plus there was the second batch of salted caramel sauce I whipped up just to snack on. Hmmm, perhaps being so proactive in trying new things was not such a good idea...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tex-Mex Strata

As I sat at my computer a couple of Wednesdays back, planning the next week's meals and bemoaning the lack of non-dessert recipes on my to-make list, a new blog post popped up on Google reader to save me from my impending boredom. Ree Drummond of all things Pioneer Woman had just posted a recipe for sausage-kale strata, and it looked fabulously tasty. Now, I don't eat sausage, so I started to play with the recipe a bit, at first just subbing in cubed Gardein filets for the sausage, but then I went crazy with it, and ended up with Tex-Mex breakfast strata.

I'm a born-and-raised Texas girl. I may not eat meat or like football (yes, I may be asked to leave the state after this post), but I do love Tex-Mex food. There are weeks when I could eat it morning, noon and night, and with this recipe I think I just might.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cupcakes Galore "aka" Jake's Birthday Part 2

Since he was sick and there were family scheduling conflicts, we had a birthday lunch with Jake's family this past weekend, and I offered to bring the dessert. As much as he loves chocolate, my husband typically prefers desserts that are on the lighter side, and not overly sweet (as opposed to me, who spent my childhood practically mainlining sugar) so I wanted to make a dessert that would give everyone options and smaller portions at the same time. Instead of doing a massive cake like the weekend before, I decided to make 4 different kinds of cupcakes: chocolate cherry, mint chocolate, vanilla and gingerbread, because that's not a massive endeavor or anything.

One of the things I consistently have a hard time with is timing. I almost never allot enough time for kitchen projects. Sunday morning was especially difficult, as we'd spent the night before at my mother's house dog-sitting a Basenji that decided every 15-30 minutes she needed to scratch on a door, howl, or pace the kitchen. And to make it worse she's recently gone blind (which is probably what caused this behavior in the first place) so you can't even be mad at her for it. By the time we headed home at 7:30 am (no alarm needed) we were both exhausted and not in the best of moods. But, as I had already committed myself to taking care of the dessert and I'd already made components for 3 of them, I pressed on...only to realize that I'd forgotten to get molasses at the store and didn't have enough time to run out and pick some up.

What to do? Just make 3 kinds of cupcakes? Ha. Only a sane person would do that. I divided the vanilla batter in half and made half of them vanilla-caramel.
Three hours. Four full batches of cupcakes. Could it be done? Apparently not by me. But that's okay. We still ended up with some really fabulous cupcakes, and one that was...interesting. There were three kinds of leftover batter and my kitchen was still a disaster when it was time to leave but on the plus side I finally got to use the silicone cupcake molds we got as a wedding present last year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWD - BWJ #1: White Loaves

The whole reason I started reading blogs and blogging myself is the sense of community. I love reading about David Lebovitz's goings-ons in Paris and seeing Anita Chu's latest pastry masterpiece. That's why I could barely contain my excitement when I recently found out about the group Tuesdays with Dorie, a group of people who bake and blog their way through a Dorie Greenspan cookbook. They finished Baking: From My Home to Yours about 5 weeks ago, a project that took them 4 years to complete. This week they started Baking with Julia, and I'm excited to say that I've joined in.

Over 300 bakers on 6 different continents have signed up to participate. How amazing is that? Men (all four of them) and women from all over the world coming together to share something they love to do, trying new recipes and forming friendships by laughing together over their triumphs and setbacks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Darkest Birthday Cake Ever

This past weekend was my husband's birthday, and as an avid fan of chocolate, he requested a chocolate cake. But not just a cake with some chocolate, a cake where every component was chocolate. I've never made a chocolate cake least not one that didn't come in a box labeled Dunan Hines or Betty Crocker. Challenge accepted.

In thinking about how to go about making this concoction the epitome of chocolatey-ness, it occurred to me that I still had dark chocolate ganache and some leftover chocolate mousse in the why not use them? I'd been reading Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours so I zeroed in on the Cocoa-Buttermilk Chocolate Cake. It seemed doable, and I already had all the ingredients at home, so I did a mini test-run using some tart tins.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Our New Favorite Pizza

I have to say, my husband is definitely benefiting from my quest to try new things in the kitchen. He's gotten chocolate mousse (one of his favorite desserts), multiple batches of shortbread cookies, a death-by-chocolate cake (more on that later), and his new favorite pizza: flatbread pizza.

Truthfully, I've always been intimidated by the idea of making bread. A year or so ago I started making my own honey wheat pizza dough, and though it wasn't all that difficult, I remained trepidacious about bread in general. One of the reasons I was so excited to get Michael Ruhlman's book Ratio was that I wanted to be able to make bread easily, and that's exactly what I did.