Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Cookbook... New recipes to try.

One of my favorite things to receive is a new cookbook. For Christmas 2013 my parents gave me the Dorie Greenspan "Around my French Table." I have wanted this cookbook for a while so I was incredibly excited to get to really spend time looking through it. So while looking through it I decided to start at the front and cook my way through the book, first recipe was grougeres, delicious cheese puffs. I ate so many I think I may have made myself sick.

The cookbook and eggs that have come to room temp.

More ingredients, don't skimp and purchase cheap cheese, get the better stuff! 

Okay, I seriously could have eaten this whole bowl. 

Waiting for the butter, milk, water, and salt to come to a boil.

This is the dough before the addition of the first egg.

Eggs are being added here, they seem initially as if they would not incorporate, but patience is important here.

The dough is just gorgeous. 

Final egg addition, I should tell you this recipe calls for 5 eggs.

This is that wonderful cheese that I added after the dough was complete.

Now it is time to scoop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. 

I found that using a scooper to scoop helped with consistency in shape and size. 

After a round in the oven, they look perfect don't they. 

I have to have some shots before they are eaten. They look so crispy and delicate. 

Final shot right before these three were eaten. 

So, I have a few things I would change with this recipe. The original calls for sharp cheddar or Gruyere which is just a delicious french cheese, as I used cheddar I would add some spice next time by way of cayenne or mustard powder. Another thing to say is that these are rather "eggie" in their taste, which may be the reason hubs was not so fond of them. Things I might use them for in the future, these would be amazing stuffed with a roast beef of some kind, or possibly a breakfast stuffing of some kind. The more I think about stuffing them with a roast beef the more I think about coming up with a roast beef salad of some kind, think tuna or ham salad. Maybe a thin shaved roast beef mixed with a horseradish mayo, certainly something to continue to think about. I could also see these being amazing stuffed with an apply pie filling of some kind, considering they were made with cheddar, a more "upscale" version of apple pie... Anyone? 

Anyway, thanks for indulging me yet again on another cooking adventure, I have plans to try more recipes soon out of "Around my French Table," which means more blogs in the future. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What makes tree rings so amazing?

This months Daring Kitchen Challenges was one I almost did not complete and then I realized the connection, I will get there but I will ask that you indulge me a bit in a rant, ramble, grumble, which ever you would like to call it. Here of late I have been a touch frustrated with the situation at work. We have an increasingly larger number of patients coming to the hospital with psychiatric needs, and it is prohibiting the Social Workers from doing more of the support work that many of us enjoy. I obtained my Masters Degree as a way to honor my grandparents. It was a way for me to make meaning out of the loss I was feeling after my grandmother's death. Anyway I have had little things that I have found over the last month that have helped me to connect with her, something as silly as the rhinoceros animal cookies that I was nibbling on at work. So when I finally put it all together, this cake was the absolutely most perfect thing for me to make. Why you ask? Well when my mother was a teen she and her family travelled to live in New Zealand for roughly 9 months, and I enjoyed hearing the stories so often about their trip to New Zealand and then back. The thing that connects this story to a cake though happens to be that while there my grandmother took on a project studying tree rings, if the link works, you are able to read her journal posting that she wrote with my grandfather here. So in my own little way I found yet another reason to connect to my grandmother this month...

Blog-checking lines: The January 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Francijn of "Koken in de Brouwerij". She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).

Baumkuchen is a cake that I had once seen before on a Food Network Special, I even looked to purchase it at one point for Christmas; I was thrilled to finally get to try this cake out. It is not as challenging as I initially thought it might be. I did a bit of research and decided once I was layering my cake batter in the pan that I would cook it under the broiler like so many other people had suggested on various internet searches. The cake came out great, and looked fantastic. The cake tasted great, and as always the fact that my sweet husband enjoyed it was a plus! so here are some photos..

Cake fresh out o f the pan.
Close up of the layers, after the apricot glaze has been put on top.
Enrobed in a milk chocolate glaze.

The layers were just beautiful!
Close up of the layers, looks like I got at least 9 layers.

Delicious Slice waiting for a fork.  

And another close up of the layers.

Well this was yet another successful challenge. I ended up leaving a forth of the cake at the house for us to enjoy, and took the remaining to work, and as always the crew at work enjoyed it. This is certainly a cake I would make again!

On a completely different note, as we get closer to the end of January, almost 4 months later we are almost completely done with the repairs following the flood of our kitchen. I am beyond ready for the process to be completed. Once things are back to normal in the kitchen I will be a much happier camper when it comes to spending time in there. Having the kitchen turned upside down has helped me to purge a bit of the unnecessary kitchen tools; which has made Ashley thrilled, I have gotten rid of utensils, baking tools, and mugs thus far. There are many more things I could get rid of, but I am taking this slow.

Looking forward to the next Daring Kitchen Challenge, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Super Flaky Pastry from Italy, yumm.

The baking challenge for this month turned into an even greater challenge than I realized! We were to choose to make homemade ricotta cheese or candied orange peel, to make a dough, and then finally to attempt to make Sfogliatelle Riccia, Sfogliatelle Frolla, or American inspired Lobster Tails. My initial plan was to make the ricotta then to make the Riccia dough, however I had a small, water issue, my kitchen flooded on the day I had planned to make the dough. By flooding I mean, about an inch to an inch and a half, of water that was standing in my kitchen, from our ice maker in our freezer that broke. We had a cleaning crew that had a large number of fans blowing air around our home attempting to dry out, our floor, kitchen floor, cabinetry, and walls; however none of this before my sweet husband attempted to extract the water from the floor.

Now the other thing that should be noted is that I had 15 air movers, a dehumidifier, and my appliances were pulled out from their assigned spaces.


This made for a miserable few days, fortunately, the flood occurred on Thursday, and we were moving our appliances back in on the next Tuesday night. I will add however that the floor, cabinetry, many baseboards, and doors still need to be replaced so my kitchen counters are still a wreck.

On to the Challenge:

Blog-checking lines: Sandie of the lovely blog, Crumbs of Love, was our November hostess. Sandie challenged us to make a traditional Italian dessert, along with it's American version - Sfogliatelle (or better known in the US -lobster tails!) The flakey, 1000 layers of super thin dough, shaped into a horn and filled with a scrumptious filling. Cosi buono!

I ended up making the ricotta two times, and I was thoroughly surprised at how easy and delicious it was! After the first attempt as I did not want to throw it all out I made a crockpot penne pasta which was much like a layered lasagna. It was very tasty and rich, not to mention, the hubs loved it! So once my kitchen was back together to a certain extent, I decided I was going to give this challenge another attempt, and I made more Ricotta.

Milk and Cream awaiting boiling.

Ricotta after sitting in the cheese cloth for a few hours.
The second round of Ricotta did not make as much as the first batch, so I am not sure if I had an issue with the cream, boiled the milk too long, or if my ingredients were not fresh enough as I was using the dairy just before expiration dates, and the lemons I had for a while.
The next step was to make the dough and let it sit over night in the fridge, the dough was gorgeous! I would love to find multiple uses for the dough it was so pretty! Once my dough had time to sit overnight, it was time to tackle the rolling it out to an incredibly thin sheet. I was able to use my pasta hand crank dough roller and had a bit of trial and error but came up with a way to roll thin batches, stretching small sections, and then layering them together, rolling the log up with the shortening and butter mixture.
This is my dining room table being utilized for the rolling of the dough.

The thinly stretched dough with the shortening and butter mixture.

Here is the dough in the process of being rolled into the log before cutting.
I was so proud of my ability to get the dough so thin and the fact that I was able to use my pasta roller made me thrilled!!!! I was so fortunate that I had the pasta roller, and am just so impressed by the bloggers who had to utilize their hand rolling skills only.
After the dough is rolled up it sits in the fridge for a few hours to solidify the shortening and butter. Then you get to cut the slices. I was amazed to see how you really could see the layers of each cut piece.
This photo is a bit bright, and does not do the layers much justice, but you can see them a little bit.
This one is a little better, which I took with my phone.
The next step is to push the little layers our much like a collapsing cup so there is space for the filling. The filling is a semolina, homemade ricotta, and traditionally candied orange peel, I opted for candied cherries, as one of the other bloggers utilized that combination, and I was pleased to follow that bloggers lead. Here are the photos of my filling.
First the semolina after it had been cooked and chilled, much like a chilled polenta.

Ricotta and semolina just before mixing.

Mixture with the cherries added to it.
The final step was to fill the pastry and then bake it. The filling was a very thick filling, and when I initially tried to put it in a zip lock bag and use that to fill the pastry the bag split in several places. Once I located my pastry bags though I was ready to fill and bake!

These turned out so wonderful. I enjoyed eating a few with my husband at home, and took the remainder to work.
Don't they look wonderful!

The crunch was amazing, you see my little Gigi in the background listening while tilting her head at the crunch.
When I say there is an amazing crunch, I am not kidding, I had to call a few folks just to share how crunchy it was. Such a decadent treat, and one I had to share with work. 
I had so much of the  filling left over that I decided to try the Frolla as it would be relatively easy to do on a day that I had to work as well as getting pre-work sleep. Everyone at work loved the efforts of both type of Sfogliatelle.
Thank you so much Emma! She is enjoying the Frolla type.
This challenge was so fun, and I had grand ideas of making more with my mom to enjoy with our Thanksgiving meal, however due to illness, the dread allergy cold, we opted to pass on this as it is a lot of work. I plan though to make these again in the future, maybe come up with an idea to make a savory filling, utilizing polenta, cheese, and something else. I hope you enjoyed reading and thanks for stopping by! 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Drowning in the possibilities, a Soup disaster.

Sopa Castellana an interesting Spanish Soup, that I was beyond excited to try to make. It has been chilly some in the evenings here in the Austin area and I thought soup would be a great thing to make one night and went for it. I ran to the grocery, the special grocery and got the necissary ingredients, though I will say I did not purchase veal bones, I purchased a shank along with a shank of beef; this was a cost prohibitive soup, the veal was expensive, regardless I did the best with what I had an gave it a go.

Blog-checking lines: Our November Daring Cooks’ hostess was Begoña, who writes the beautiful blog, Las recetas de Marichu y las mías. Begoña is from Spain and didn’t want to go with the more common challenges of paella or gazpacho, she wanted to share with us another very popular recipe from Spain that we don’t see as often called Sopa Castellana which is a delicious bread soup!

So what's a girl to do. I had the recipe and was ready to go, I should say this was my first time making beef stock from scratch. I often use a boxed stock, my go to is the Kitchen basics, but I though I would give it a go. I mean it is boiling meat, bones, vegetables, and water for a lengthy amount of time, skimming of the gunk and then you should have liquid gold right? Wrong! My stock was terrible, it tasted more like vegetable water with only the flavor of the vegetables coming through, celery to be exact. I was so disappointed but kept on going thinking maybe I was just overly picky and used to salty stock since I use store bought so often. On to the soup.

I had the Serrano Ham, the garlic, and the bread all ready to go and it was cooking away in the pot, boy were my expectations high. Once that was ready I added the stock, which from here on out shall be called vegetable water, and gently simmered the soup with such high hopes. Once it had simmered it's required amount of time, I pulled my soup crocks out which I use almost exclusively for my French Onion Soup, and began ladling in the soup over some bread that I had in the bowl. Then I added the egg, one to each bowl as it was just the hubs and me; and waited for the temperature of the soup to do it's thing, apprehensively so, as I am a stickler about cooked eggs.

Needless to say that nights dinner ended up being Whataburger for us. My soup never recovered from being just vegetable water. Additionally between the Serrano Ham and the olive oil it was like a giant oil slick on the top. I contemplated trying one of the other options available to us from the hostess, but decided against it. I may try one of the others in the future but it will not be any time soon.

So what went wrong with the vegetable water? I did a bit of research and I can only come up with a few options. The first I used too much meat and not enough bone. According to what I have found you really need several pounds of bones, preferably roasted and if they are big marrow bones they should be cracked a bit. The next place I went wrong is once the bones are in the water according to the research I have done they cook for hours, I am not talking the two or three hours suggested in the recipe I had, but 17hours- 2 or 3 days, this is so not happening in my house. Then the other things I read were regarding the vegetables that are added, many said to be cautious about the amount of celery you add, as it can overpower, I am going to guess that means not the whole bunch like I added. Additionally my research informed me that chicken stock is more manageable then beef or veal stock. Regardless the most important thing in this whole experience was that I enjoyed the process, if I am not enjoying the process then it is not worth it to me, if I am at least enjoying the process then while the meal was not a success the experience was. So now onto the photos...

The meat, pre vegetable water status.
Here is the soup waiting for the egg to cook.
Here is the soup when it is "ready." Ashley and I both tasted it, we were both disappointed.
I have other photos to share, but at this moment I am not certain where my camera is as our kitchen flooded following the preparation of this dish, and things got moved around haphazardly; should I find it I will add more later. I will finish with this last thought, even if it is a disaster it is important to try making and eating new things, there are always other options around the corner if it is a failure. Happy Cooking. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Some days you should bust out your tiara and enjoy some princess cake!

This month's baking challenge was all about a special treat, one that made me feel as if I should be in a pastry shop!

Blog-checking lines: Korena of Korena in the
Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she
delighted us with this beautiful Swedish

This challenge the princesstarta was one initially I though I might not be able to do as I have had so many things going on this month with helping my mom prepare for a party and getting ready for a much needed vacation. Last week though I decided I had some time and I must approach this head on. If you are interested in trying your hand at this delicate pastry or reading up on it, please follow this link.

Now on with the show!

This is the batter waiting to bake, I have to say I made this cake two times as the first one I slightly burned. The second time though it came out perfect!


This is maybe one of the best vanilla custards I have ever made and I can see this making an appearance else where!

Cake after it has been sliced and covered in raspberry jam and starting the covering of pastry cream.

The lighting is a bit rough but that is my cake with it's mound of whipped cream.

My cake with it's crumb coat of whipped cream.

I rolled and rolled and rerolled my marzipan, which I made from scratch. I was so pleased with this experience I cannot wait for another reason to make this cake.

Close up of the rose which I rolled myself. I am really proud of this cake!

Just a little mini collage of the cake.
Close up shot of the layers.

The perfect slice, Ashley and I shared this one.  

Two of my brave co-workers enjoying a bite. Thanks Guys!
All in all this was an amazing experience. Ashley was not too crazy about the cake but I was not surprised he likes his chocolate! The cake though was a huge success at work. Many people were able to enjoy it! I loved sharing it with my work family, even if one of my good friends had some palpitations following eating it! I hope that you will consider giving this a try, because while it may look difficult it was pretty manageable and the end result is worth every minute. Such an amazing challenge!