Tuesday, November 29, 2011

{TWD} Normandy Apple Tart

One advantage to having so many tarts to make for Tuesdays With Dorie - four tarts over a four week span - is that I could make one big double batch of Dorie Greenspan's Sweet Tart Dough and use it for all of the tarts, baking the different tart recipes in a variety of sizes, from minis to nearly full size. The dough is perfect for freezing, but I baked all of the tarts in a matter of just a few days. In fact I baked this week's Normandy Apple Tart the day after I had baked the Alsatian Apple Tart, which gave us perfect comparison of the two recipes.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This week the recipe was chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Tracey is always cooking and baking up something interesting in her kitchen, so when you click over for the tart recipe stay awhile and explore the other delicious things that Tracey posts on her blog.

- This tart has three elements: a sweet pastry base, an applesauce layer, and apples sliced on top. The recipe gives directions for making applesauce, which looked quite enticing, but I had several bags of homemade applesauce in the freezer, so I opted to use it instead.

- The rectangular tart pan that I used is approximately 3/4 size of a full tart recipe.

- With the tart crust already made, once I thawed my applesauce it was quick work to cut some apples and pop the tart in the oven.

the verdict:

This was very popular with my book group; the members couldn't stop exclaiming over its deliciousness. I'll have to say that as good as this tart was, I preferred the custard-based Alsatian apple tart.

Today's other TWD recipe is for Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart, which I posted here.

{TWD} Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart

I love pumpkin pie. More specifically, I love a particular pumpkin pie. In fact, at my daughter's recent wedding, she had pie rather than wedding cake, and requested that the caterer make our Molasses Spice Pumpkin Pie recipe as one of the flavors. The caterer, a wonderful restaurant in central New York called Circa, was happy to oblige. Additionally, Circa put the pie on their own menu the day before the wedding. Apparently it sold out quickly.

I will eat just about any pumpkin pie, even though they typically fall short of pumpkin pie perfection of our family recipe, and I'm always happy to try a new pumpkin pie recipe (but I usually sneak in extra spices!)

This week the assigned recipe for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group is Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (Pie) which was a perfect choice because we could all bake this as our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie last week and post it today. And you can bake it now, just in case you're like me and didn't get enough pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Judy of the blog Judy's Gross Eats is hosting this week's pumpkin selection. Head over to her blog for the recipe.

- Dorie Greenspan gives two alternate ways to present this pumpkin dessert: as a traditional pie or baked into a tart shell. I'd never baked a pumpkin tart, so this is the route I chose.

- I made 1/4 recipe, which yielded enough filling for one little tart and two ramekins.

- Instead of light brown sugar, I used dark brown, and a spiced dark rum rather than plain rum.

- Because I'm all about the autumn spices, I generously heaped the measure of the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and added a bit of black pepper.

the verdict:

I served one of the ramekins to JDE, and this was our conversation:

JDE: "this stuff is really good."
me: " I added some extra spices. Do you think it's too spicy?"
JDE: "Is that even possible?"

Later, I got to taste the tart myself. The recipe makes a very good pumpkin filling and I was glad I'd experimented with tart dough (rather than the more common pie crust). The added spices gave it a little kick, which was beautifully mellowed by the sour cream in the recipe and some additional softly whipped heavy cream on top.

While I can't say that this recipe reaches the pinnacle of perfection of my usual favorite pumpkin pie, it was a lovely tart, and I'd gladly eat it again. Most of all, I'm grateful for the technique of adding pumpkin filling to a tart shell, which I will definitely keep in my repertory.

Today's other TWD recipe was Normandy Apple Tart, which I posted here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake

This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, Tuesdays With Dorie has loosened up the rules. Rather than an assigned recipe; this week members are free to "rewind" a previously-selected recipe that they might have missed. There's also leeway in posting so you'll see TWD posts on various blogs all the way up to Friday. I'm going to post now because my rewind is the Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie Cake, and it's a good candidate for Thanksgiving baking if you want something just a smidge out of the ordinary.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe for this apple dessert on the blog post of TWD founder Laurie. It was chosen for the group way back in March of 2008.

- Before I baked this, I checked out the experience of the TWD bakers, such as my friend Di (here's her post), and I learned that the filling tended to be dry and the crust browned quickly. Since I was baking my pie/cake in a dark silicone loaf pan and was using a new-to-me oven I reduced temperature to 350 degrees

- I wanted to make sure that the filling was cooked by the time the crust was browned, so I precooked the apples with the sugar and cinnamon on top of the stove for 5 or 10 minutes before putting it in the crust.

- In making the crust, Dorie gives an approximate measure of flour, allowing an extra 1/4 cup to be added as needed. I didn't use the extra, as the texture seemed soft but still doughy without it. The dough was very soft, and with so much butter it warmed up quickly

- I totally forgot to add the raisins, which were measured and sitting on the counter. Right as I was closing the oven door I saw the raisins but I wasn't going to disassemble the pie/cake to add them.

- My pie/cake stayed in the oven for about 50 minutes, at which point it was a lovely golden brown.

the verdict:

This was an unusual dessert, but very appealing. The crust was a fairly thin layer like a pie, but soft like a cake. The apples were tender and sweetly spiced. All of the juices that accumulated when I precooked the apples were absorbed by the soft crust as it baked.

A scoop of vanilla ice cream made the ideal accompaniment (as it usually does with anything apple). My husband, the apple-dessert aficionado, was a big fan of this pie/cake and thought it was fine without the raisins.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Helen's Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Here it is, November 15, National Bundt Day, and she's been at it again.

the "she": Mary, the Food Librarian
the "it": 30 Days of Bundt Cakes

For three years running she has celebrated National Bundt Day by baking a different bundt cake for each of the 30 days leading up to November 15. Nothing makes Mary happier than a good bundt cake; in fact her theme for her baking spree is "I Like Big Bundts." Mary has hinted that this is her last year of bundtish extravaganza, but somehow I see the tradition continuing.

In a much more modest form of celebration, each year I have joined Mary by baking one bundt cake and posting it on November 15. Last year I baked an apple triple ginger streusel bundt cake, which you can see here, and my bundt from two years ago was a spiced cake made with blackberry jam, which I posted here.

For 2011 I wanted to bake an unusual and cool bundt cake. I needed to look no farther than the blog Whitehaven, an interiors blog of my friend Helen and her business partner who have an interior design business. For Whitehaven's one year blogiversary, Helen posted the recipe for this cake. Voila! This would be my contribution to National Bundt Day.

Helen is one of the members of my wonderful book group, and I actually baked the cake for a book group dinner hosted by Helen and her husband - she got a kick out of someone else baking her cake and serving it at her house!

- Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the recipe, or click over to Whitehaven's blog for the cake recipe and lots of beautiful design posts. My favorite: the House of the Week feature - it's always fun to see which house near or far is highlighted each week.

- The method for mixing this cake is somewhat unusual. The egg yolks are added to the batter first and the whites are separately beaten and folded into the batter at the end. I used some fabulous huge duck eggs from my farm box.

- Did you know that the bundt pan is an American descendant of European kugelhopf pans? I used 10-cup kugelhopf pan. I found out that this is a seriously big cake - it rises a lot as it bakes, even if you think you might have over-folded the batter. Mine rose above the rim of the pan but luckily it did not overflow. I'm guessing that a 12-cup pan would probably be perfect.

- As it bakes, the cake makes the most wonderful crunchy sugary crust.

the verdict:

This is a perfect special-occasion cake, striking in appearance with a light texture and delicate flavor from the vanilla and lemon juice. The cake is close-crumbed and moist, and looks a bit like a pound cake, but it is not a bit dense or heavy. In fact, it is almost fluffy inside. I'm guessing that the tight crumb comes from the slow oven.

Mary will post a round up on her blog of all those who celebrate National Bundt Day, so check her blog for that post in late November; there are sure to be some great recipes. In the meantime, you can find Mary's previous bundt posts:

2011 I Like Big Bundts (30 different Bundt cakes)

and her Bundt Cake page, which includes, among other things:

2010 I Like Big Bundts (30 different Bundt cakes)
2010 Round up of Bundts (86 people made Bundts for National Bundt Day)

2009 I Like Big Bundts (30 different Bundt cakes)
2009 Round up of Bundts (41 people made Bundt cakes to celebrate National Bundt Day)

Also, here's a blog post by cake goddess Rose Levy Beranbaum's about bundt cake pans, complete with some pretty terrific bundt cake tips.

Happy National Bundt Day!

the recipe:

Helen's Sour Cream Cake

2 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
3 cups plain sifted flour
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar.

Add egg yolks, one a time, beating well after each addition.

Mix soda into sour cream.

Add flour to butter, sugar, egg mixture, alternating with sour cream then add flavoring.

Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour into well greased and floured 12-cup bundt pan. Bake one and a half hours (90 minutes) at 300 degrees.

{TWD} Bittersweet Chocolate Brownies and Sweet baking friendships

In late October when the November recipes were announced for the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group I set forth to bake as many of them as I could because I knew that first thing in the morning on November 1 my husband and I would board a flight to the West Coast. We will be spending a fair amount of time in the Bay Area over the next couple of years; this particular trip would be the first half of November. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to bake while away from my home kitchen so before leaving for California I managed to bake, taste, and photograph 7 of the 8 November recipes (we're doubling up this month in order to finish the book by the end of 2011). The one that I didn't manage to bake was this week's Bittersweet Brownies, chosen by Leslie of the blog Lethally Delicious.

Leslie has been a longtime virtual baking friend; we met through TWD, have baked bread together in the Slow & Steady subgroup of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge (which I sporadically chronicle on my bread blog), and compare notes on baking and life via twitter. As is clear from her blog Leslie is kind, funny, talented, and smart as a whip. I knew that Leslie lives in the Bay Area and I had hopes that we could eventually connect on one of my visits. As it turned out, soon after I reached California, we both happened to have a free afternoon, and Leslie invited me to bake the brownies with her.

I quickly accepted her generous offer. I've enjoyed meeting TWD bakers on my various travels (some of the meet-ups have been recounted in Oprah's magazine, here, and on my blog here, here, and here), but this was the first time I've actually baked with a fellow TWD member!

The way it worked was this:

I drove to Leslie's house... we met... we immediately started talking... we talked some more... we laughed... we talked...

...then we decided to bake the brownies:

Leslie (who fortunately has laser-focus) got busy measuring and stirring and reading the recipe while I continued talking... we talked and laughed... Leslie measured and mixed...we talked... oh, and I chopped some pecans... we talked and laughed...

...the brownies went in the oven...

I had a blast checking out Leslie’s cookbook collection... we talked...

...the brownies came out of the oven...

we talked... the brownies cooled... we talked and laughed... we photographed brownies... we talked... we sampled brownies... we talked and laughed...

...and then it was time for me to leave.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon, and I came away with a Ziploc bag of brownies and more importantly, a real live warm and gracious friend in the area.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe, and her version of the bake-along, on Leslie's brownie post.

Leslie had lots of tips and techniques that we used in baking these brownies:

- She added vanilla earlier
than the recipe specified. Why wait, right?

- Leslie whisked the espresso powder in with the flour and salt, then added them to the batter together. Oh, and Leslie keeps a plastic container in her flour drawer for weighing flour. Every couple of recipes she'll toss it in the dishwasher. Genius!

- The chocolate was Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chips, which Leslie uses for a lot of chocolate recipes; it's easy - no chopping! - and delicious.

- Leslie expected these brownies to be sweet, so she cut back on the sugar about 10% - from 300 grams to 275.

- Pecans were among the assembled ingredients on Leslie's counter, and I agreed that nuts would be a fun addition to this recipe. Leslie showed me a cool trick that she learned from Cook's Illustrated for adding nuts to brownies. Instead of mixing them in, where they can absorb moisture and get a little soggy, we sprinkled the nuts on top of the brownie batter. They toasted as the brownies baked. Ingenious, no?

- Leslie has a nifty way of laying a piece of parchment in the brownie pan and folding the corners to fit. No measuring or cutting, easy and effective.

I was a baking near-slacker, but managed to chop nuts and contribute one or two little techniques:

- We used
the trusty King Arthur Flour Divot Test and the brownies were baked through perfectly.

- I love chilling my brownies to get a fudgier texture. After a stint in the fridge, they were nice and dense.

the verdict:

These were really good brownies; I absolutely loved how the pecans were so dry and toasty thanks to Leslie's method. The nuts added a great textural element to this recipe, and the pecans in particular complemented the intense chocolate flavor. I usually use walnuts (when I add nuts to brownies) but will definitely use pecans again.

The brownies were on the sweet side, made even sweeter by sharing them with a longtime new friend.
Thanks, Leslie, for inviting me to bake with you on your TWD hosting week, and thanks, TWD, for bringing us together!

Today's other TWD recipe is the Alsatian Apple Tart, which I posted here.

{TWD} Alsatian Apple Tart

The final weeks of Tuesdays With Dorie bring us a raft of pie and tart recipes, just in time for Thanksgiving! This week it's Alsatian Apple Tart (the other recipe this week is a versatile chocolate brownie). The tart features a custard base and slices of apples on top, and although it's ideal for Autumn baking, I'd be happy to find this tart in my oven - or on my plate - any season of the year.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The tart recipe was chosen by Jessica of Cookbook Habit. You can find the recipe on her tart post today.

- I made 1/3 recipe in a small baking dish.

- I love Dorie Greenspan's tart dough recipe, particularly the variation with nuts. It's versatile, sturdy, easy, and complements a variety of tart fillings.

the verdict:

We quickly scarfed up this tiny tart and sighed that it was gone! This is my favorite of all the apple recipes that we've baked in TWD. The custard + apple makes for a winning combination, reminiscent of my longtime standby German Apple Pie, but even better.

Today's other TWD recipe is for Bittersweet Brownies, which I posted here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

{TWD} Maxi Madeleines

This week the other Tuesdays With Dorie selection (earlier today I posted Depths of Fall Butternut Squash Pie) gives a nod to Dorie Greenspan's French baking roots, with Mini Madeleines. Since I baked the recipe in a madeleine pan with full sized wells and they turned out quite large, I'm calling mine "Maxi Madeleines". But as good as these taste, I'm happy to have a bit more madeleine on the plate!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This week's madeleine baking session is hosted by my Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. Click over to her post to see some absolutely adorable mini madeleines, and get the recipe. While you're there, check out her other fabulous baking creations.

- These madeleines have honey and brown sugar and lemon zest among their ingredients - what a fantastic flavor combination.

- I made half recipe, which actually makes 7 or 8 full sized madeleines if your pan has the same sized wells as mine. My pan has only 6 wells; I divided the batter among the 6, and they were over-filled, as you can see from the extended madeleine edges. I probably should have put the extra batter in a ramekin to bake.

- The big issue when baking madeleines is getting the desirable "hump" on the backs of the cookies - that is, the batter should rise and be domed as the madeleines bake. I was lucky that there was a nice hump on the cookies I baked. After I baked mine, I saw a link that Di provided to a post by Dorie with some new madeleine techniques. It's always fun to see new tips to making baked goods even better.

the verdict:

These madeleines had a lovely texture and even lovelier flavor! They were a huge hit with my book group tasters and just about flew off the plate. I'd definitely bake these again!

{TWD} Butternut Squash Pie (and Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Crisp)

As we wind to the end of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, we find ourselves with a fair number of tart and pie recipes from the book still to bake. The November lineup for for the group includes 4 pies/tarts! This is fine with me, since tarts and pies are among my favorite things to bake and eat, and what could be better for November, with Thanksgiving approaching?

The first pie/tart on the November docket is Dorie's Depths of Fall Butternut Squash Pie. I've come across the recipe in the book often and always thought that it looked intriguing; it's made with cubed butternut squash, pears, dried fruit and nuts. I had high hopes for this recipe.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Valerie of Une Gamine dans la Cuisine chose Fall Butternut Squash Pie, and you can find the recipe on her blog post.

- The recipe specifies 1" cubes of squash. That seemed awfully big to me, so I cut my pieces of butternut squash much smaller, probably closer to 1/2" cubes.

- For dried fruit I used a mixture of golden raisins, cherries, and cranberries.

- I made a full recipe of the filling. I used half for a 7" pie. The other half I put in a baking dish and topped it with a gluten-free crumble mixture (equal parts of oats, butter, and brown sugar.)

- The pie crust recipe I used was my favorite: Cook's Illustrated Vodka Crust, which I previously posted, here.

the verdict:

I served both the pie and the crumble, accompanied by vanilla ice cream, at a dinner with friends. Unfortunately the pie wasn't a runaway hit with the five people who tasted it. Our friend DaH said, "This is interesting and pretty good." He thought it had a bit too much squash. My husband would have preferred no squash at all in the pie; he firmly believes that vegetables don't belong in baked goods. To me the filling was too bland and not quite sweet enough, although I didn't have ice cream with mine, and I think it would have been better with the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream.

As an aside, the pie crust won rave reviews!

As for the crisp version, my friend DeH loved it; the sugar in the nut topping might have helped give some oomph to the filling. I wish I had tasted it, but I gave all of the remaining crisp to her to enjoy.

TWD is doubling up on recipes this month in an effort to finish Dorie's book by year-end. Here's my madeleine post.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carrot Souffle

Thanksgiving just wouldn't be complete without a fluffy orange side dish, right? This slot is usually filled by a sweet potato casserole, prepared with sugar and spices, and topped with nuts or marshmallows (or both!) Well, move over sweet potatoes: there's a new orange dish in town and it wants a place on your Thanksgiving table. The newcomer is a Carrot Souffle, and the flavors are most decidedly savory rather than sweet.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe from Sam Beall's "The Blackberry Farm Cookbook." If you want to make this dish (and you definitely should), scroll down to the bottom of this post for the recipe.

- I was very low on carrots when I made this recipe, so I regretfully had to make one third of the recipe.

- I prepared this dish gluten-free, so I eliminated the cracker crumbs. I intended to add a bit of almond flour and maybe some coconut flour, but totally forgot. The souffle turned out with a lovely texture even without the crumbs.

- The recipe is easier than most souffles, and is more relaxed to make. It doesn't puff up a great deal in the oven, and doesn't collapse when it's served.

the verdict:

We absolutely loved this dish, and were very sad that it only lasted for one meal. I'll be making this recipe again and again. The savory flavors from the cheese, onion and peppers match beautifully with the souffle's soft texture. This dish is versatile enough to serve with a weekday dinner, and it would be a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving table. If you already are planning another fluffy orange side dish make them both!

Phyl, of the blog Of Cabbages and King Cakes, is hosting a special Thanksgiving-themed roundup, and I'm contributing this side dish post to his virtual Thanksgiving dinner. Check his blog later this week for a gracious plenty of fabulous holiday food, posted in plenty of time for your Thanksgiving menu-making.

the recipe:

Carrot Souffle
adapted from Blackberry Farm


  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup Saltine cracker crumbs (I omitted these)
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 large eggs


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
2. Place carrots in a saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Strain the carrots and purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
3. Place carrot purée in a large bowl. Slowly add in the milk, a little at a time, whisking after each addition so that the mixture stays smooth, not lumpy. Mix in the saltine cracker crumbs, if using, the grated cheese, onion, butter, Kosher salt, cayenne, and black pepper.
4. In a separate bowl, whip up the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Then whisk them into the carrot purée mixture.
5. Transfer the carrot mixture into the prepared soufflé dish and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until puffed and light golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

{TWD} Far Breton ~and~ Honey Nut Scones

The baking group Tuesdays With Dorie began on January 1, 2008, and each week it has presented members with one assigned recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Right now we are *this* close to finishing the book, and the group's leaders have decided that we should finish by the end of Calendar Year 2011, making the group exactly 4 years in duration. In order to meet this deadline, we have to double up on weekly recipes for most weeks this month, leaving Thanksgiving week free for us to choose a recipe we might have missed. So there's a lot of baking going on in my kitchen, and each Tuesday's post in November will have not one, but two recipes.

This week's recipes are Far Breton and Honey Nut Scones.

Part 1: Far Breton

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Nicole of Cookies on Friday chose Far Breton, and you can find the recipe on her post.

- Far Breton is a regional dish from Brittany, containing prunes. Apparently the word "far" mean "flour" in Breton, but the batter for this cake is quite egg-centric with very little flour at all.

- I made 1/2 recipe in 6"x3" round cake pan.

- Instead of white sugar, I used granulated golden palm sugar, and duck egg rather than chicken eggs.

- The recipe calls for prunes and raisins, although Dorie gives permission for other dried fruit substitutions. I stuck with the prunes and raisins, cutting the prunes in half before soaking the fruit in very strong black tea. The recipe specifies Early Grey, but I didn't have any (I rooted through the entire tea drawer not once but twice to prove that to myself.) Another option is to infuse the fruit with Armagnac, but I've never been able to locate it in the liquor stores in my hamlet.

- The far puffed a lot as it cooked, and browned beautifully. It took a good hour to bake, even at half the size.

- When I unmolded the far, it fell considerably, like a souffle.

the verdict:

The far was squarely in the delightful no-man's-land between custard and cake, like a baked custard with enough flour added to edge it toward cake territory. Both my husband and I loved the finished product. It was eggy and dense and sweet and fruity. After its long soak in strong tea, the dried fruit was tender and nearly melted away into the custard. We found the far at perfect at room temperature as an after-dinner dessert, and nearly as good, chilled, for breakfast the next morning.


Part 2: Honey Nut Scones

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The scones recipe was chosen by my baking buddy Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake.

- I stuck closely to Dorie's recipe, with the exception of using I used pecans instead of walnuts.

- Dorie's method for forming scones produces small, individual scones. I prefer a bigger scone with more "inside" and less "outside", so here's how I baked these: After mixing the dough I patted it into a disk in a greased glass cake pan, scored the disk into 6 or 8 wedges with a bench scraper, then baked. When the scones are still hot from the oven, I cut them into separate wedges along the score lines. To me the scones don’t end up dried-out this way.

the verdict:

These scones were a welcome sight for Saturday morning breakfast. And for Sunday and Monday as well! I'm more used to fruit than nuts in a scone, but I really liked the crunch and that the nuts lend to this recipe. This was one of my favorite scone recipes in the book.