Monday, February 28, 2011

Whole Orange Cake

I've made orange cake many times here, but this recipe is by far the most novel way I have ever used an orange, on this blog and in my life. The name of this cake, Whole Orange Cake, does not lie- it features the whole orange, pith and all. I'm not sure who invented this cake, but they were probably a thrifty lot who didnt like the idea of waste. In any case, this intensely orange cake was very successful. Firstly, the smell of it is just divine and the color is a beautiful yellow flecked with bits of orange. The only person who detected any after taste of bitterness was the one person who knew how this cake was made. No one else was the wiser, so I'm pretty sure that had she not known, she wouldn't have noticed the bitterness. This cake comes together really easily, with the help of your food processor for the orange part. I omitted the poppy seeds from the cake, although I imagine they add great visual pop, so add them if you're so inclined. I also omitted the optional glaze, I think the cake was intensely flavored enough. Also, make sure you give the cake all it's due in the oven, mine was raw in the middle and consequently the cake fell. I cut around it to salvage it so it was fine, but a whole cake would have been nicer.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Golden Applesauce Pound Cake

Shavua tov! And happy 300th post to me! It's hard for me to believe that this blog as made it so far! I wish I had something far more glamorous to offer for this milestone, but things didnt quite work out that way- I dont usually plan what I bake around this blog. What I do offer in this post is a simple but truly delicious pound cake. I've had my eye on this Golden Applesauce Pound Cake (from A Passion for Baking) for a while now, even since before I had a can of applesauce (leftover from the French Apple Tarts) hanging around the pantry. I kept putting it off because it called for five eggs, but I stocked up on Thursday, so by Thursday night, I was good to go. This pound cake really is more like a spice cake because it is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. The applesauce really takes a back seat here but definitely adds to the wonderfully moist texture. The girls swore that this smelled like honey cake while baking but I insisted because traditional honey cake recipes and this cake have mutual spices in common. In any case, this cake was a HUGE hit- slice after slice disappeared well before the orange cake that was sitting next to it (stay tuned!). My technical notes on the recipe are as follows- I used sweetened applesauce and omitted the raisins, lemon zest and mace, because the latter three are not something found in my pantry. I also took the opportunity to use my tube pan for the first time and I love how this cake turned out, with its nice and tall sides and smooth top, perfect for a dusting of powdered sugar. My tube pan is one piece but thankfully I had the foresight to cut a parchment round to fit the bottom of the pan. It released like a dream with no sticking whatsoever. This is a perfect cake to serve as a casual dessert with tea and coffee or for breakfast if you feel like it. Here's to the next three hundred posts!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Deep Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins

With these chocolate muffins, I end my baking drought. It seems it has been a couple of weeks since I've gotten around to baking anything. I've had what I call baker's block- I just couldn't find anything inspiring to make. Rather than not make anything, I decided to just bake something and make a dent in the dairy sitting in my fridge while I was at it. These muffins, from the muffin chapter of A Passion for Baking, fit the bill, making use of some Israeli soft cheese, buttermilk and rice milk. I must say that these chocolate muffins are made in the cake style, so they really are more cupcake than muffin, but no one really needs to know that. These came out of the oven just in time for my weekly Tuesday meeting, where they were happily enjoyed. What remained was summarily devoured by the girls during curfew. These muffins are GIGANTIC, but really chocolately and very moist. The chocolate chips added a nice surprise. For a more visual pop, next time I would place chunks of chopped chocolate on top of the panned batter before baking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reinhart's Soft Sandwich Rolls

When we went down to Eilat last week, I knew I'd be breaking my no-bread-during-the-week rule because the lunches that we pack for each hike involve bread. Knowing this to be the case, I had the foresight to bake my own bread and bring it along. Hey, if I'm going to be eating bread, it might as well be good bread. I turned to Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day and settled on his Soft Sandwich Bread. Knowing I wouldn't need two whole loaves, I halved the recipe and made nine small rolls, perfect for this three day trip. This dough is very simple to make and easy to handle. The rolls shaped well and held their form quite nicely. I used  rice milk here, sugar as the sweetener, and oil as the fat. I'm really loving that Reinhart gives oil alternatives to the margarine/butter component. I also topped the rolls with my favorite, sesame seeds. More would have been better, but I was too lazy to make an egg wash, so most of them fell off. The resulting rolls were lightly browned, not golden (and egg wash would have been helpful here), but they were perfect sandwich fare, delicious with tuna and cucumbers, or really just plain. They were soft but still a bit chewy, which is a good thing considering I subbed AP for the called for bread flour. Another winner from Reinhart's latest book. I'm sending these rolls to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie with Homemade Cookie Crust

I made this pie over a week ago and I'm finally getting to post it now. We all just got back from a three day trip to Eilat, so at least I have that as an excuse. Last year, I made this peanut butter pie for one of our meetings and the response was out of this world. As is my rule, I thought I'd never make this again. But then something came up and I promised my boss that I would make her this pie. I was going to her for Shabbat and I had never blogged it anyway so I decided to make good on my promise. Last year when I made these I  used a tea biscuit bottom but I was not happy with it. This time around I used a homemade cocoa wafer and I think they made a huge difference. I also used some melted chocolate mixture I had in the fridge to coat the crust before filling which I omitted last time. As for the filling, it's pretty straightforward. I used Israeli cream cheese, which is softer but it was fine. I used half the amount of vanilla and Israeli peanut butter which is not as good as Skippy. Please, if you make this, don't skimp on the good stuff. It makes a difference. The pie was  really well received- my boss took it out and called it Hummus Pie to gross her kids out enough from wanting to take any from her but it didnt quite work. In any case, there was plenty of Peanut Butter Pie to go around and lots of happy people, too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

French Apple Tart

My friend C got married two weeks ago, I think I mentioned that I had to miss it, but I wanted to take part in the celebration somehow. Thankfully, her former roommate invited me to Sheva Brachot. She asked me if I could make a dessert and I agreed. Assuming that my two other friends who were making dessert were both making chocolate desserts, I opted to go the fruit route. I settled on this recipe for a French Apple Tart in one of my Israeli cookbooks. A similar one appears in Dorie Greenspan's Baking volume, so I used it for reference. Anyway, the recipe in Carine Goren's Kitchen Helper book is very simple. She offers one of two ways to fill a baked tart shell, either with applesauce or apple jam. I really wanted to make one tart with each but I couldnt find apple jam on any supermarket shelf. Perhaps it's a seasonal item. So the applesauce it was. The variation she offers is to add cinnamon to the applesauce so I made one tart that way and one tart plain. For one tart, I obeyed the recipe and sprinkled powdered sugar on top of the buttered apples before baking and for the other I opted to sprinkle with turbinado sugar. To make sure that the tart shells would shrink too badly, I kept them in the fridge until I came back from errands and baked them one by one. There was still shrinkage, but not as bad as with the Pecan Tart. So how did they fare? Well, to be honest, only half a tart got eaten at the party itself. But in my defense, there was so much food served during the meal itself that people really didnt have much appetite for dessert. So I brought home and my girls happily devoured the remainder. Just a technical note: the pastry recipe that she gives yielded more than enough for two nine inch tarts. Feel free to make one and freeze the rest for a later use.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tamar Ansh's Challah

These challot are actually the challot that I made last week for Shabbat; I'm just getting around to posting them now. This challah is the star challah recipe in Tamar Ansh's book Challah. Unlike Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread, this book has beautiful pictures but very few challah recipes. How lucky then that this one recipe is a real winner! It is an eggless challah, but not a traditional water challah because it is on the sweeter side of things, while not being overly sweet. Having already found a go to egg challah recipe, I think it's safe to say that I've found its water counterpart. Her procedure is far more complicated then my usual mix dry-add wet so I just stuck to what works for me. I made a two kilo batch and I think when that happens I don't  knead the dough as well- I could have kneaded longer- the dough fought me tooth and nail as I was trying to shape it, but in the end the braids ended up nicely risen, so I didnt do a terrible job. It's helpful to separate the dough into two parts and knead separately before combining. I used 1 1/2 cups sugar, where she gives a range of 1 1/3-1 1/2 cups. I think I would cut the sugar back a bit and then they would be PERFECT. I upped the salt another tablespoon because 1 tbsp just would not have been enough. Also, I am IN LOVE with sesame seeds on challah- not only do they look stunning but they add so much flavor. These didnt just impress me but the people I served them too as well. And they were good the next day. I am totally sold. This recipe is off to Yeastspotting. I think my challah trials have proved fruitful. I wonder if there will be any more...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cocoa Wafers

For my peanut butter pie (you'll hear about it next week), I wanted to make a homemade crust. I searched my books for good chocolate wafer that would serve this purpose. I thought I was successful until I decided to search the internet. The first hit was Cocoa Wafers on Smitten Kitchen's site and I thought, jackpot! What was even more perfect was that I owned the book from where the recipe is taken. Pure Dessert is a book I don't get to use often so I was glad to put it to use and find a great recipe for cocoa wafers! This cookie dough is super easy to make as all the work gets done in a food processor. These cookies are deeply chocolately, you can just smell it and the color doesnt lie, either. Depending on how long you bake them you'll wind up with cookies crisp enough for cookie crust or cookies soft enough to house a vanilla cream filling a la Oreos, definitely worth a try! I made half of this recipe as I really needed it for the pie but a few cookies were left over and I gave them to one of my girls, who happily devoured them. These could be considered icebox cookies so I would allow these a generous overnight rest so that they don't go to wonky on you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's been a while since I've attempted anything gluten free. (I really do need to get my hands on a gluten free baking book!!!!) Recently, KAF posted a recipe for gluten free scones. In that post was a link to their other gluten free recipes, one of them being chocolate chip cookies. I immediately bookmarked the recipe to make one day for one of my girls who is gluten intolerant. Yesterday seemed the perfect day to make them. I made the dough in the morning and chilled them until later. The dough pretty much came together as would a regular one, but it felt slightly tacky and the color was a bit lighter than normal. The resulting cookies looked just like their gluten filled counterparts but the texture was chewy and remained so for hours after. I can't say how long that chewiness would have lasted because they all disappeared before I could test that. My gluten free girl gave the seal of approval, saying that they were very good. Almost everyone else who had one couldnt tell at all that they were gluten free, they just pronounced them really delicious. They literally walked off the plate. That's all that matters when it comes to cookies. More importantly though, I feel encouraged by this gluten-free venture. It's nice to be able to help someone who can't eat these things enjoy a treat occasionally. Who knows what's next?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sticky Buns

For the longest time, I have wanted to make sticky buns. Sticky buns are a close relative to cinnamon buns but better. Who can resist a cinnamon bun coated in sticky goo? This past week, I had a strong urge to knead some bread dough. (I'm weird, what can I say?) It was too early to bake challot for Shabbat but I reaaaally wanted to make dough. Then it hit me- I was going to make sticky buns. When my mom came about a month or so back she brought my copy of Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day and I thought it a good opportunity to try out a recipe. The dough was really easy to make. I loved the fact that the recipe called for vegetable oil and didnt have any eggs- this was a leaner, more virtuous dough, but no less good. I left the dough in the fridge for three days, I figured I'd just bring them for dessert on Shabbat and that's just what I did. Reinhart offers three sticky bun toppings and I chose the simplest one. I expected it to be more sticky and drippy but that could be that I made them the night before I served them and it just melted into the dough. Next time, these babies gotta be served fresh. Anyway, we heated them up on Friday night and dug in. They were super cinnamony and doughy and delicious. I think that's all I have to say on these. Make them. These buns are being sent to Yeastspotting!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stellar Apple Spice Cakes with Maple Glaze

These Apple Spice Cakes tasted a lot better than they look, I promise. I know I swore off apple desserts, but this time I found the recipe before collecting the apples so it's not like I was desperate to be rid of them! I stumbled on this recipe while flipping through Just a Bite, the same cookbook where I found the Fig Newtons. The Gale Gand calls these cakes stellar, and indeed the girls really enjoyed them, they thought them to be really delicious. I did omit nuts and fruit and I got less than the desired yield as well. I would also cut the apples in smaller pieces than just chunks so that they are more evenly distributed among the final cakes. Lastly, I would add some maple extract to the glaze because the maple syrup itself is just way too understated and it just gets lost. The girls weren't even sure what they were eating-- I hate that. Next time, more dominant maple flavor which I think would better enhance the spices.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homemade Fig Newtons

Seems I've been slacking off with posting- a lot has been going on in my life these days, so this write up is going to be a bit brief. Last weekend, I went to my sister for Shabbat and as usual, I was baking something. This time, though, she had a verrry specific request and that was for Fig Newtons. I'm not sure where that random request came from but I considered it nonetheless. Strangely, I recalled that Gale Gand has a recipe for homemade fig newtons in one of her books. (I do think it's strange that my brain has the uncanny ability of remembering who has what recipes in their cookbooks. Not so normal!!) Anyway, I pulled out her Just a Bite and sure enough, she had a recipe for what she calls Fig Nortons, but I know the truth- theyre knockoffs of the real things so I decided to retain their original name. The filling consists of cooking together figs, apple juice, orange juice and cinnamon until thick and then pureeing it. The dough was easy to make as well-- I did both parts in advance. My only qualms with this recipe is that 1. the dough is a bit hard to work with- be generous with the flour and 2. the recipe for the filling is far too little for the amount of dough produced, so I would double it.  Otherwise, these are delicious. My brother in law claims they are better than the real thing. How could they not be? Homemade anything always beats store bought. Try them- if you're a fig lover, you'll be won over.