Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme

T U E S D A Y S   W I T H   D O R I E
Special thanks to your hostess: Christine of BlackCatCooking

ME: “I made you some Pots de Creme - a French pudding that's baked rather than cooked on the stovetop”.
DAD:  “I always thought it was pronounced 'poe de creme' . . . ”
Uncomfortable silence.
ME:  “Yes, I knew that . . . ”

You would think after watching and baking along with my authentic French “kitchen-aid” - a handy little YouTube video from France, that I would figure out simple pronunciations before spouting off. I felt like I was creating haute cuisine, although I didn't understand a world of it. A wonderful little video to get you in the mood.

Never having made “stovetop” pudding [aside from creme anglaise or creme patissierie], this baked version was somewhat more complicated than the Jell-O Instant Pudding mix I'm used to making *gasp*. With just 4 ounces of chocolate and 3 cups of cream/milk, I thought this dessert would be rather bland. After mixing in egg yolks and sugar, the "creme" is poured into ramekins or a reasonable facsimile. I could only find some old pyrex cups, which worked just fine. Baked in a bain marie - I'm just reeling off all kinds of French terms here - these little puddings firm up and turn a slightly darker chocolate color. After cooling, they're refrigerated and eaten chilled or at room temperature. I must say, these puddings are much more richer and creamier than instant - and much more chocolaty than I had expected. It must be the heat from the baking that brings out the chocolate flavor. Something you don't get from a box of Jell-O Pudding. At least I know how to pronounce Jell-O. C'est magnifique!

   – mike

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Devil’s Food & Angel Frosting

Oh Lucifer! If ever there was a battle between good and evil, this ranks among the best. Mr. Devil's Food plays himself, while Angelica - soft and pure as the driven snow, is the holy mountain of goodness, perched atop the dark, evil . . .  ok, enough. I loved them both, and succumbed to their tempations. There are plenty more devils and angels playing around over at Baked Sunday Mornings - along with the recipe!

The boys at Baked have truly came up with a winning combination. The devilish cake was sure to win - a combination of chopped chocolate, dutch cocoa, epsresso and dark brown sugar. Knowing my distaste for white, sticky, gooey frosting - their Angel Frosting appeared - much like a traditional "mountain white frosting" or "7-minute frosting. On her own, a bit too sweet for my tastes, but paired with the dark, devil’s food . . . perfection. Light, marshmallow flavor over a dark, rich and tender cake . . .  heaven help us.      
   – mike

Monday, February 21, 2011

Toasted Almond Scones

Simply put, I'm this week's Host with the Most.

If it were only that simple. Paired up with Apple's iWeb program for the past few years has lent creativity, along with an equal amount of headaches: disappearing homepages, unrecoverable posts and the most frustrating - a comment section that sometimes worked, but most of the time, didn't.  Hence this new home for me & Living Out West - at Blogger. I set my sights on a blog-friendly neighborhood and chose the first template she threw my way, ironically called the Simple template.

But enough about me. We're here to talk scones. Why the scones? When I received the official "It's Your Turn" email, I simply panicked. So soon? What on earth will I choose? Will everyone like it? I grabbed the bible (BAKING) and it fell on the table onto its spine. Magically, pages 28 & 29 opened. I stood there, staring at Toasted Almond Scones. “I love almonds. And I like scones. They're essentially fail-safe". I scoured through the completed recipes section at hoping not to find the toasted almond scones. Then I noticed Laurie@TWD sent me an email with the 50+ recipes that hadn't been completed (thanks Laurie!). It was fate. The scones were on that second list. Fate - pure and simple.

The week consisted of five batches of scones [along with setting up this new blog]. I anticipated needing plenty "trial runs" - I simply couldn't post a flattened, burnt scone [and ruin my Host status]. Not that the first batch was bad. Nor the second. In fact, they just kept getting better as the week wore on. Office mates, my dad, the neighbors - all told me they were the "best scones they've ever tasted". Comments ranged from the delicious, light, buttery texture to the unique almond flavor. I played the simpleton, played it safe and stuck close to Dorie's recipe, using sliced almonds for the ground, chopped and topping. "Slices are nice" - in that they offer the great almond flavor without the chunky texture of chopped, whole almonds. 

Wander a bit I did, as I brushed the tops with heavy cream, then gave them a sprinkling of magic dust [sanding sugar], just for good luck. I'm all for making thing sparkly. The secret? Simple.  Bake them frozen. It must be the cold butter that gives these scones their light, airy texture - baked cold. But what do I know? I just know this recipe is filed in my memory now [no book needed] - which is a good thing. 

I hope everyone enjoyed making these as much as I did and want to thank you for letting me be your host this week. Baking along such other talented and creative people is such a rewarding experience! 

Now, if the rest of my life could be this simple.
   – mike

I invited three of my “non-TuesdaysWithDorie” friends to bake along with me this week. If you get a chance, visit their blogs to see their wonderful scones!

K E N N   [EverydayHouseBlend]
E L A I N E   [CaliforniaLiving]
T R E V O R   [Sis. Boom. Blog!]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cranberry Shortbread Hearts

Valentines isn’t always about chocolate. Sometimes it’s about cranberries and shortbread cookie dough. You could say these cookies are made for those non-chocolate-lovers - on this special day.

It’s a Martha recipe, one of which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you make this by the book. You lose precious cookies by cutting hearts out of pre-baked shortbread from a pan. Be a Smart Cupid and try it my way.

Don’t bake in the square pan as suggested. Make the dough and refrigerate it for one-half hour. Then roll it out anywhere from 3/8” to 1/2” thick. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the hearts, then re-roll the scraps. I roll directly on a silpat/silicone baking mat with a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough. Why? - when you cut out the cookies - you don’t have to move them - they’re already on the baking sheet. I baked these at 325 degrees for 18 minutes.

Now go forth and celebrate the love.

– mike