TwD: Baking Crème Bruleed Chocolate Bundt Cake with Dorie

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This week’s assignment, crème brulee chocolate bundt cake, turned out to be a huge hit at my office Valentine’s Day potluck last week. Everyone was thoroughly impressed with my plated “sample”. But, needless to say, the most fascinating aspect of the cake’s assembly was the use of my kitchen blowtorch that I brought from home.

Because Dorie indicated that the cake be served immediately once assembled, I had to set up everything separately because my colleagues were going to eat the potluck main dishes first. This meant I had to cute a slice of bundt cake, spoon on the crème brulee cream, sprinkle the sugar, torch the sugar, and garnish with fresh rapsberries every time someone was ready for dessert. But, it was worth it because everyone enjoyed the “presentation” when I was done. (Btw, I thought it best to skip the Chambord on the raspberries since I was serving this dessert during work hours). The nicest compliment I got all day was that this cake was “to die for”. That’s some serious cake love!

As for the preparation of the cake and the sauce, both parts were fairly straightforward. However, I did have to bake my cake an extra 10 minutes because the cake was still liquidy when I did the toothpick test. I also appreciated the fact that I could make both parts in advance, seeing as I was covering the Bulls game the night before the potluck and had no time make anything then.

If you’d like to join our twice monthly baking group, pick up a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and baking along with us!

ffwD: Croquants

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Woo-hoo! This is my first ffwD post in a long while, and I think I picked a good recipe for my return!

These four ingredient croquants (unskinned hazelnuts, sugar, egg whites, and flour) were easy to assemble after staying late at work Thursday night. However, it helped that I already had all of the ingredients in my cupboards! Now, after baking my first batch of croquants for the suggested 10 minutes, the cookies turned out very pale on top, had lightly browned bottoms and sides, and stuck to the parchment when I tried to lift them after they had cooled. They were also only slightly crispy on the outside and still chewy on the inside.

Because of these results, I baked the subsequent batches for 12 minutes each. The 12-minute bake produced nicely browned tops, sides, and bottoms and allowed for easy lifting from the parchment after cooling. For my oven, 12 minutes was obviously the way to go. As for the taste, these are extremely sweet (and crispy!) cookies, probably due to the one and a quarter cups of sugar to 1/2 cup of flour in the dough. Definitely serve these with hot tea to help mellow the taste and the texture!

As a hilarious side note, because it’s been such a long time since I’ve baked for a post, I was completely scatterbrained during my last three batches. For the first scatterbrain batch, I put the croquants in but forgot to turn on the timer. The second scatterbrain batch, I turned on the timer but forgot to put the croquants in the oven. For the last scatterbrain batch, I placed the croquants in the oven, turned on the timer, and somehow turned off the oven because it was the last batch. I ended up throwing those away. When I told my surgeon friend (Codename: Candelabra) about the three batches, she laughed and said, “I don’t even know what to say about that.”

These croquants were made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

TwD: BCM Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

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I’m back! No, I am really back this time. After a whirlwind 10 months of a new job, a new side hobby, and traveling, I’ve come back to start 2015 on the right foot with multiple resolutions! (In case one of them falls at the waistside, I still have motivation to keep going with the others.)

That being said, my three resolutions are 1) limit my beef and pork intake, focusing mainly on fish. Chicken is acceptable when absolutely necessary. 2) Re-start my Rosetta Stone lessons to learn Tagalog. 3) Post at least once a month for ffwD and TwD. So far, I’m doing well on all three, and I still have one more week to get my January ffwD post in!

Now, as for this brown butter and vanilla bean weekend cake, it was a breeze to put together since the butter was melted and browned on the stove. I’m always fond of cakes that don’t require “room temperature butter”. I’m pretty impatient when it comes to waiting for butter to soften.

The cake itself was tasty but slightly dry in my opinion. I brought some slices to work, and the reactions ranged from the silent devouring of an entire slice in one or two mouthfuls to “amazing” to “it’s a little vanilla-y”. But, overall, I think it was a hit. However, next time, I’ll probably serve it with some berry compote or alongside afternoon tea instead of standing alone.

If you’d like to join our twice monthly baking group, pick up a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and baking along with us!

Welcome to fall weather!

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I know. Autumn doesn’t officially start for another 2.5 weeks. But Saturday was the first day since back-to-school and football season started where the temperature in Chicago was below 70 degrees! Many of my friends could not dread this more, but I absolutely love cooler weather. The combination of bright sunshine, vibrant blue sky, and a chill in the air gets me in the mood to bake! That, and to wear sweaters and scarves again…

Anyway, I recently recorded an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, and while I don’t particularly care for the pointless Chris Kimball and his obnoxious demeanor, I do find the female hosts rather entertaining. The episode I recorded featured this walnut pumpkin bread. I wasn’t planning on baking this for myself since I’m not down with pumpkin, but I was going to visit my friend who LOVES pumpkin bread. Seriously. She would buy this stuff so frequently at Starbucks that she could tell when they changed the recipe. (She wrote a letter of complaint and received a ton of free Starbucks coupons. Though, I don’t think they changed the recipe back to the original.)

Back to the bread. This is a pretty simple recipe, and you end up combining all the ingredients in the same pot where you cook the canned pumpkin. The smells from all the spices give your house a heavily scented, home-y aroma. And, the streusel topping is a fun twist. Although I usually don’t care for ATK recipes (they seem a bit joyless from the meticulous amount of testing done), this recipe was right on the money as the bread was a hit with my friend and her family! That being said, I’ll eschew my displeasure of ATK recipes when it’s one I don’t normally make, like pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Makes 2 loaves (or 1 lg loaf and 3 mini loaves)

Topping
5 tbsp packed (2 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Bread
2 c (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 c (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 c packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 oz cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
4 lg eggs
1/4 c buttermilk
1 c walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

Instructions
1. FOR THE TOPPING: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and topping resembles wet sand; set aside.
2. FOR THE BREAD: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.
3. Combine pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1½ cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove pot from heat; stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.
4. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK). Fold walnuts into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of each loaf. Bake until skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let breads cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove breads from pans and let cool for at least 1½ hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TwD: Baking Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes with Julia

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It’s good to be back with Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia. I’ve missed a few recipes, but luckily, we’ve got a rewind week coming up! Anyway, I really enjoyed making these oven-roasted plum cakes. They were very tasty. The cake was just sweet enough where it didn’t overpower the juicy plum or its wonderfully thick syrup. These were amazing warm, and I can only imagine how great they would be with ice cream. Am I wrong, or are these cakes similar to a fruit buckle made in a cast iron skillet?

My only qualm with the recipe is that I think I should have let the cakes cool longer than the recipe’s suggested 10 minutes because I tried unearthing one from its mold, and it fell apart! I tried to unmold one more, and getting the same result, I figured my friends could just eat the cakes in their own individual ramekin/custard cup. As you can see, I got varied amounts of cake coverage baked over the halved plum, with none of the cakes actually showing the full sliced surface. However, it was kind of a cool surprise spooning out the purple-skinned fruit from underneath the golden cake.

If you’d like to try your hand at these oven-roasted plum cakes, pick up a copy of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers and join the bi-monthly baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, where we choose recipes to collectively bake each month!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce

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So, I looked up from the craziness of life and realized, “Oops…summer is almost over!” This means that the lazy days of outdoor barbecues, freshly prepared summer salads, and picnic lunches are slowly giving way to food blog posts featuring hefty tailgate snacks, school lunch ideas, and super-quick weeknight dinner recipes.

However, one item that segues nicely from season to season is the slow cooker. And, what better way to use the slow cooker than to make flavorful and extremely tender pulled pork! The sweet and spicy bourbon-peach barbecue sauce keeps the summer flavors around a little longer while the slow cooker gives you more time outside to enjoy these last few summer weeks. As an added bonus, this recipe is from Cooking Light, so the pork and the sauce are calorie-friendly!

Find the recipe here or in the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

TwD: Baking Vanilla Pound Cake with Julia (A little late…)

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So, I actually made this cake and had it taste-tested by my new co-workers in time for the July 15th posting deadline. However, I got caught up with other matters and totally forgot about posting on the 15th. My bad. Regardless, the reviews are in and my co-workers loved this pound cake! They found it buttery and delicious. One co-worker indicated she needed another slice because she ate the first slice “whole” and didn’t really get to savor the flavors. That’s a pretty strong compliment!

Personally, I liked the pound cake better the next day. The flavors and the texture of the cake seemed to settle more after a day. But, that could just be me. This is definitely a repeater!

If you’d like to try your hand at this vanilla pound cake, pick up a copy of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers and join the bi-monthly baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, where we choose recipes to collectively bake each month!

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