Saturday, December 31, 2011

Buche de New Year

The Stump version
MY FIRST JELLYROLL.  Isn't that supposed to be a simple rolled sponge cake filled with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar? Having never made one, this Stump de Noel from BAKED seemed a bit daunting. Instead of stumping, I rolled, and even attempted the traditional sidekicks to any buche - meringue mushrooms. 

Surprisingly, these little mushroom were the highlight of this buche. A simple meringue piped into caps and stems and fit together with white chocolate. This BAKED recipe for mushrooms makes more than the five pictured above. More like 550 - most of which ended up in the ding & dent center, also knowns as Snack Central. Still, they supplied some holiday cheer and reminded me of Disney's 1940 animated feature, Fantasia. These happy little characters prance around to Tchaikovsky's Chinese Dance - watch the minute-long dance while you're here.  

Island of Misfit Mushrooms

Let's not forget about the star of the serving platter: a rich, dark chocolate cake rolled and filled with a malted milk ball filling and covered with dark chocolate frosting. Superb on its own. I adorned it with some bark (chocolate shards), an idea I borrowed (stole) from Donna Hay. Along with sugared rosemary sprigs and cranberries, it's a virtual forest right on your table.

If you're planning a holiday party or simply want to impress your friends with ultra-fancy culinary skills, try your hand at this buche. Whether you decide to go with the stump or the roll, just don't forget the mushrooms.

 – mike

For this festive recipe, venture over to BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kid's Thumbprints


Extra thanks to SPIKE for putting together a Tuesdays with Dorie Bakers Album.
Click HERE to view the TWD Bakers!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lait de Poule Creme Brûlée

F R E N C H   F R I D A Y S   W I T H   D O R I E
Milk of Chicken (lait de Poule).  Somehow, "eggnog" sounds more palatable than its french translation, does it not? I would much rather have a glass of Darigold's Pumpkin Eggnog than one of chicken milk - especially at this festive time of year. I might even like it in a creme brûlée.

Having never made a creme brûlée before - I threw caution to the wind and used the entire amount of eggnog in place of whole milk and heavy cream. My scientific mind deduced that milk and cream are fat. Eggnog is fat - just better-tasting fat. Dorie's Creme recipe whisked together quite quickly - a boon for the the busy holiday season. Baking the custards was also a breeze - no bain marie needed and can be baked ahead of time and chilled, another time-saver.

I read the charm of creme brulees is the flaming of the sugar - much like flaming crepes suzette, where dinner guests gasp in awe and wonder. I utilized my tiny kitchen torch to brown and caramelize the sprinkled brown sugar. While I didn't get the 'oohs & aahs' of a flaming crepe, I did get a sparkly, crackled, sugary surface. Below lay a creamy, pudding-like custard of eggnog - which more than made up for the lack of enthusiasm with the torch.

– mike

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Washington State Buckeyes

HORSE CHESTNUTS.   As kids, we used these spiked balls as artillery during neighborhood play (ouch). I grew up thinking the nuts insides were chestnuts - the kind you roasted on an open fire. As an adult, my palate prefers another chestnut - or Buckeyes as they call 'em back east. That's New York east, not Ohio east.

NO OVEN REQUIRED.  These fall into the quintessential No Bake category - a quick and easy treat featuring the classic combo of peanut butter and chocolate. The boys at BAKED veer from the traditional recipe of rolled balls with powdered sugar and peanut butter - adding their own twist:  graham cracker crumbs. It gives these chestnuts a unique texture and flavor. Their dark chocolate coating, much like a fresh coat of Smucker's Magic Shell, is Pound Plus - direct from our brand-spanking-new, incredibly-staffed, first-ever Trader Joe's store. Can you tell I'm a bit elated? This 72% dark chocolate takes the edge off the powerfully-sweet confection. Set these out on your holiday table and watch them disappear. They come pre-shelled, without the spikes.

Grab the recipe and view all the festive BAKED BAKERS' BALLS  over on BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS. 

 – mike

Monday, December 5, 2011

Salted Caramel Spritz Cooky

I   B E L I E V E  . 
Everyone has a repressed cooky press memory or two sealed away. Mine are somewhere back in the 60's with mom's green-tinted wreaths and pink-tinted stars. Or were those flowers? She made them with a MIRRO cooky press - one I've since inherited, complete with its tattered box featuring pastel-colored creations. I thought it a rather festive and nostalgic way to ring in the second annual Cookie Exchange from Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook.
I chose an authentic MIRRO recipe from the recipe booklet - Caramel Cookies. Made with all shortening, (what, no butter? what gives?), I figured the "caramel" flavor must come from using brown sugar in place of white. Hm... sounds good, but let's spice this up a notch. I made a thin caramel sauce with sugar, heavy cream, a dash of vanilla and a bit of Fleur de Sel. Once the cookies had cooled, I drizzled the caramel sauce and sprinkled more Fleur de Sel. They made for a tender cooky with a slight crunch. I'm sure an all-butter cooky would yield a more "melt-in-your-mouth" flavor and texture, but hey, shortening has its place.

Be sure to head on over to the Di's Round-Up site this coming weekend to view all the cooky entries. There's sure to be at least one, if not several recipes to add to your holiday baking list.

** And a special thanks to Nancy's of The Dogs Eat the Crumb's talented daughter, Allison (that's a mouthful, isn't it?) for creating with festive Exchange Badge - two years in a row! **

– mike

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
*  C A R A M E L  S P R I T Z   C O O K I E S  * 

Time:  10-12 min.        Temp.:  375 degrees

1 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla exract
3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
1. Cream the shortening; add sugars gradually and cream thoroughly.
2. Add beaten eggs and vailla extract
3. Sift flour, soda and salt and gradually add to creamed mixture.
4. Fill a MIRRO cooky press and form fancy designs on ungreased MIRRO Aluminum cooky sheets.  Bake.
Yield – 6 dozen
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bite-Sized Baked French Toast

BREAKFAST IS SERVED.  There's something magical about 'going out for breakfast' when you're a kid. For me, it was Sambo's. Way, way back. When your dressed "up" to go "out". Pitcher holders featuring three flavors of syrups and large, rounded scoops of whipped Tiger butter. Back then, French Toast was made with good old, refined-and-bleached-white-flour breadNothing could beat it.  FAST FORWARD:  Times have changed and so has French Toast. 

SLICE. POUR. CHILL. BAKE.  For the bite-sized toast, a bag of "baby baguettes" caught my eye at Trader Joe's. A simple egg, cream, cinnamon and vanilla mixture is poured over the slices and chilled overnight. In the morning, sprinkle toasted almonds atop and bake - skillet free. To see the round-up of BAKED  French Toast, visit the round-up at BAKED SUNDAY MORNINGS. 

If you're a stickler for going by the book, you'll want to make the BAKED raspberry sauce as per the recipe. I'm a stickler for tradition. Nothing beats syrup on my new favorite French Toast - with your choice of maple, blueberry or strawberry. 

 – mike