Tuesday, October 25, 2011

{TWD} Fig Cake for Fall

The Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is quite seasonal this week: our recipe is A Fig Cake For Fall. I knew this recipe would be coming up soon (because there are so few recipes left for TWD to bake) so when I saw some early figs in the produce section back in September, I made sure to buy them and bake up this cake.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Our hostess this week is Alvarosa of the blog Cookie Rookie, who is from Vienna, Austria, and who had never baked before joining Tuesdays With Dorie. You can find the fig cake recipe on her post, and you can read about how she found and joined the baking group (hint: it involves meeting Dorie herself in Paris).

- The recipe calls for poaching the figs in ruby port. I had a bottle of tawny port but no ruby port. I consulted the internet for advice, and found this chowhound discussion. My conclusion after reading: use whatever type of port that you have. So I used the tawny port.

- I made half recipe in a 6" springform pan

the verdict:

Although the poached figs were delicious, this was not my favorite cake. The cornmeal was a little too prominent, and the ratio of cake to fig was too high for me. As I ate my slice of cake I found myself wishing for a denser, moister crumb, with more lemon flavor, and more figs.

Overall, I prefer more intensity in a fruit dessert, but it was still fun to try this very seasonal dessert.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{TWD} Ginger Chocolate Brownies

One thing I can say with assurance about Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking; From My Home to Yours: There is no shortage of brownie recipes. As we've baked along in the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, we've never been far from a chocolate brownie recipe. In fact, we baked brownies just a month ago. But we have not exhausted the brownie category. Today's TWD assigned recipe is Ginger Jazzed Brownies, and there's even one more brownie recipe to be baked in the remaining few weeks of the TWD group.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Clivia of Bubie's Little Baker is hosting this week's brownie baking session; you can find the recipe on her brownie post, along with some lovely pictures of fall flowers.

- Once the brownies came out of the oven, they cooled for just a few minutes before I put the pan of brownies into the fridge. I love how chilling chocolate cakes and brownies intensifies their fudginess. I tasted one brownie before refrigeration, and it was soft and truffly in texture. After the fridge, the brownies were denser.

the verdict:

Before I baked these brownies I was slightly dubious about the ginger + chocolate combination, which is not a huge favorite of mine. I knew that I'd get a good sample of opinions from my book group, so I made a full batch to bring to the meeting. There were also strawberries and whipped cream at book group, so the brownies were eaten plain and also with various amounts of strawberries and whipped cream.

I'm happy to report that these brownies were very popular with my tasters. I surprised myself by liking the brownies quite a bit. I'm glad that I chilled the pan of brownies; the fudgy texture really helped them. The hefty hit of ginger enhanced rather than detracted from the overall brownie flavor.

I had a couple of brownies left over which I later enjoyed with some gingered whipped cream and crystallized ginger. Turns out I really enjoy the ginger + brownie combination.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Cider Cream

I make no secret of my love for All Things Pumpkin. I'll happily bake and cook with pumpkin on a year-round basis, but the cool, crisp and/or blustery weather of Autumn makes pumpkin recipes all the more appealing.

Most pumpkin dishes employ a sweet spiced flavor profile, such as my favorite pumpkin pie or my two favorite pumpkin bread recipes. When it comes to dinner selections, however, I prefer the savory ones. I have a pumpkin soup recipe that I love (which I have shared here in the past), but when I saw this recipe for a savory Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Cider Cream from Williams-Sonoma, I had to give it a try.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the soup recipe here. The recipe has several steps, but they can be done in stages. The pumpkin could be roasted days in advance, and the same with the reduced cider.

- Although the recipe directs cutting the whole pumpkins in quarters to roast, I roasted mine in halves, drizzled with olive oil and pepper. I added the salt later, because I thought it might draw the moisture out of the pumpkin as it roasted.

- I love that this recipe combines the flavors of sage and nutmeg.

- To finish the soup, the recipe has a lovely whipped cream flavored with concentrated cider. Rather than reducing a bunch of cider, I used boiled cider from King Arthur Flour, and the cream was perfectly flavored.

- I found that a half recipe made a big vat of soup.

the verdict:

My husband, who is definitely not the pumpkin fan that I am, said when he tasted his soup, "This is perfection." Don't tell anyone, but I was actually a bit disappointed by his reaction, because it meant less leftover soup for me!

By itself, the soup by was very very good but adding the cider cream completely balanced the flavors. The cider cream was not really sweet per se but it added a smoothing, slightly fruity note to the herby savory mixture of vegetable flavors in the soup. I can't wait to make this recipe again!

I'm sending this wonderful soup to my buddy Phyl to add to his pumpkin dinner roundup.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

{TWD} Buttermilk Biscuits

In the final few months of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group we are finally baking Basic Biscuits! There are many reasons why biscuits are a perfect recipe to have in your baking arsenal. They have but a few ingredients, most of which are usually on hand, they are simple to put together, and they are appropriate to every season of the year and occasion. Biscuits can be the vehicle for lots of delicious combinations: butter-and-jam, sausage-and-gravy, mustard-and-ham, roast beef-and-horse radish.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort chose Basic Biscuits. You can find the recipe on her biscuit post.

- Although I'm not a native Southerner, I do know enough to use White Lily Flour for my biscuits. These were extra-special because I had a little stash of the original White Lily, from before the company was bought and the mill moved out from Knoxville, Tennessee to Ohio.

- The recipe is for biscuits with milk, but Dorie gives a variation for buttermilk biscuits, which is the kind I baked.

- Northern folks tend to add sugar to things like cornbread and biscuits, but that's not the norm in the South. Dorie's recipe calls for some sugar. I compromised by adding just a touch of molasses crystals instead of sugar.

the verdict:

I baked these rather late this evening in order to make the Tuesday posting deadline. They smelled so fantastic right out of the oven that my husband and I had a little after dinner biscuit break. mmmm, they were quite good piping hot from the oven. In my husband's words, "They're so light they could fly."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

{TWD} Apple Walnut Muffin Cake

It's October, and even here in the sunny, hot Southland, we can actually say that autumn has arrived. And what goes hand in hand with cool weather? Baked goods with apples, of course! This week's assignment for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is Apple Nut Muffin Cake, a very timely selection.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This week's recipe was chosen by Katrina of Baking and Boys - click over to her post to find the recipe.

- Anything baked with apples is likely to be popular at my house, so I made an extra-big batch of this cake: 1.5 recipe in 4 muffin-sized loaf pans and one larger square pan. I bought this pan a year ago when I was in London - I love the very square corners and the removable bottom, which makes releasing the cake from the pan an absolute breeze.

- The recipe does have lots of ingredients, but it's not a difficult cake, since the preparation consists mostly in measuring. The method is simple and uses two bowls, a whisk and a spatula to combine the ingredients to make the cake batter.

- I had every intention of following the recipe - really I did - but as I went along, I made a few changes here and there. To start with, I used freshly ground whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the flour.

- To reduce the glycemic load, I cut the sugar by 1/3, and used palm sugar rather than white granulated sugar.

- The recipe calls for apple cider or apple juice. I used a mixture of King Arthur boiled cider and apple juice.

- I used chopped walnuts for the nuts, and to amplify the walnut flavor I substituted walnut oil for 1/3 of the oil in the recipe.

- I added a bit more salt, but next time I would increase the salt even a bit more.

- I'm not sure what kind of apples went into my cake - they were an unidentified variety from my farm box. I cut a bit more than the recipe specified.

the verdict:

Warm from the oven, the cake's texture was soft and the flavors blended beautifully. The pieces of chopped apple provided bursts of flavor. I would add a touch of nutmeg next time.

We enjoyed this cake for breakfast with salted butter. In fact, this cake was on the breakfast menu for a week, and it only improved with time.