pain de campagne; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5411This week, the recipe was a true challenge that took two weeks to complete.  Now if that doesn’t deter you from trying to mix up a batch of this bread, not much will!  To make a traditional Pain de Campagne, you have to save a piece of the dough from your batch to act as a starter for your next loaf which means you are always working with a bit of old dough called a chef.  If you find yourself without a chef, you have to start one with whole wheat flour and water and pray the yeast feels like cooperating.

This loaf was off to a bad start because not only was I chefless, I was also out of whole wheat flour.  Because I was determined to make this bread, I grabbed my tub of whole grain rye flour and my tub of graham flour and when ahead and mixed up a half batch for two chefs-one with each of the flours.  The worst part was knowing I would have to wait two days to see if either one grabbed yeast.  They did ferment a bit and not in a nice sourdough smelling way.  Even so, I kept on with the process and letting them sit longer than the recipe suggested just to see if it would increase the rise.  In the end, I was only half successful.  The rye chef never really got going and the graham flour only got going with about half of the rise.

IMG_5420The rye is on the left, the graham is on the right.  What a disappointment it was, I had assumed that since I do a fair amount of bread baking here that there would be plenty of yeast to grab and get the starter going.

IMG_5426Out of curiosity, I sliced the loaves to see what the interior looked like.  It was dense, moist and a bit gummy.  Both of them were.  It was pretty obvious that there just was not enough yeast in the chef and then the levain to give rise to the bread.  Honestly, I was surprised that the graham loaf had a ribbon of raw dough along the bottom crust-it had risen pretty well.  The flavor was surprisingly sour, a mild sour but it was there.

With that same determination that got me started on this loaf, I pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge and measured out a tablespoon and placed it in a bowl.  With my tub of graham flour still out on the counter, I mixed up another half batch of dough starting with the chef.  After all of the refreshments, I actually had a piece of dough that showed some promise…

IMG_5436The little ball of dough rose nicely and because I ran out of time, I decided I would put the basket of dough in the fridge to rise overnight.   Because I am curious, I pulled off a walnut sized piece and set it aside in the fridge; I was going to use it as a chef for a full batch of dough.  The next morning, I pulled the basket out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to warm up and rise a little more.

IMG_5434When the time came to bake the loaf, I was excited-this one actually rose!  There was oven spring too-it rose more!  The only thing I did not understand was the pale color of the crust on the top, it browned nicely on the bottom.  The interior looked nice, no stripes and no gummy crumb.  It also had a nice sour flavor.  As for that piece I set aside, I used it to start a new loaf but this time, I made a full batch.

IMG_5438The shaping was easy to do and I cannot remember when I did this type of baking last-perhaps at school…My wheat stalks in the bottom of the basket.

IMG_5439The loaf was placed over the wheat stalks.

IMG_5443The loaf gets wrapped with a braid of dough and then it is left to rise in the basket.  Two hours later, I turned it out onto the peel and let it rise some more.  Just before baking, I brushed the loaf with a wash of egg whites and snipped the wheat stalks.

IMG_5444Fresh out of the oven, my wheat stalks look more like paws.

IMG_5446The scissors did a nice job on the stalks.  It was fun to make this loaf and now it is sitting on the counter taunting me…IMG_5450May have to make another one just so I can make those wheat stalks again!  Be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie to see how the other bakers did this week.

odile’s fresh orange cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5338It has been a while since I have participated in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking and I decided to get back to it this week by baking Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake.  Luckily for me, I happened to have a bowl of Sky Valley heirloom oranges from Trader Joe’s camping out on the kitchen counter and this gave me a way to use them before they went bad.

The recipe is simple and easy to prepare, it was also very easy to cut in half thanks to the fact that Dorie includes the weights for the ingredients in the recipe.  Honestly, if you aren’t using a scale at home, you really need to pick one up.  It is easier to weigh out ingredients and it guarantees accuracy.

To decorate the cake, I followed the directions except rather than use slices of whole oranges, I cut the oranges into sections-not really the supremes but close enough!  And just as Dorie suggested, I only used half of the syrup to soak the cake.  The rest was drizzled over the slices as I cut them from the cake.  The flavor is strongly orange but not overpowering or cloying, either one is easy to do with orange.  The soaking from drizzling half of the syrup on the warm cake gave it a nice amount of moisture without making it wet or soggy.

My half batch of batter made a 6 inch cake which actually was more than we could eat.  We both like oranges and will snack on them but when an orange flavored dessert is offered, neither of us will go crazy with it.  This cake would probably be wonderful with tangerines or blood oranges so I may try it again!  To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the website and if you would like to bake along with us, pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and head to the kitchen!

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lemon-parsnip cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5068The cake for today’s challenge is supposed to be a tangerine-carrot cake but after a quick check in the fridge, I could only find lemons.  Then I spied the last lonely parsnip and decided that I should keep going in this direction and change it all up.   We have been trying to cut back on snacking and it has been a while since I made a cake.  The fresh eggs from our hens are stacking up on the counter and it was a chance to use a couple.

IMG_5082The change from tangerine to lemon meant that the acid level was increased and I am pretty sure that it changed the texture of the cake and made it a little denser than the description in the recipe.  Even so, it was still pleasingly moist and a little firm.  The parsnip mellowed during the baking and honestly, you wouldn’t know it was there unless I told you.

IMG_5087The only other observation I made was that the batter amount baked up just fine in my 8 inch tart pan.  After greasing the ring and bottom and dusting it with flour, I set it onto a sheet pan to prevent leakage in the oven.  It came out of the pan and off the bottom beautifully.  This was such an easy cake to make and honestly, the potential combinations are numerous so I can see myself pulling this recipe out again when I need a quick and foolproof cake!

Please consider picking up a copy of Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and baking along with us.  To join in on the fun, visit the website and see how the other bakers made out with this recipe!

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cornmeal-currant biscotti; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5013It has been a while since I baked with the TWD gang.  The holiday season is generally a hectic one for me and with all that I was baking for gifts, I just decided not to bake anything more, because baking it means eating it and I have gained more weight than I care to admit at this point.  (thanks menopause…)

Even so, I am a sucker for anything that claims to be a biscotti and to make matters worse, I apparently hoard cornmeal.  When I checked the pantry for cornmeal, I found a complete rainbow; white, yellow, blue, roasted yellow and bloody butcher red.  A quick look at the different colors led me to choose between the organic blue and the organic bloody butcher and since the latter was more coarsely ground, it was my first choice.

IMG_5027Stone ground cornmeal is always more coarse than the regular grind but the bloody butcher had a large range in particle sizes and makes it very easy to see the meal in the dough.  This particular batch was grown and ground right here in Virginia and it is from Blenheim Organic Gardens which is located in Washington’s Birthplace, yes, that is the name of the town and no, I did not make that up!  They come to the Williamsburg Farmers Market when it is open and I look forward to the return of the Market in March.

IMG_5023There was a box of currants lurking in the pantry and since they were a little dry, I added several tablespoons of dark rum to them and heated them so that they would plump up.  To offset the extra liquid, I cut out the extra egg yolk and that made the dough slightly drier than I would have preferred.  However, now that we have our own egg laying hens, I hate the thought of wasting an egg white.  The recipe calls for the dough to be formed into a log and cut into scone-like wedges.  After asking one of the other TWD bakers how they worked out like that, I decided to go with a slice and bake log which is what most of the recipes I read called for.  The result was a crunchy, crumbly cookie.

IMG_5056The weather took a sudden turn towards winter today and turning on the oven was comforting in many ways and so was the scent of cookies baking-although, I really do not need to be eating cookies at this point!  The bottom line, I love currants and cornmeal but it is not likely that I would think to make these again, at least not with this recipe.  Personally, I would like them to be a little sweeter and a little crispier.  Either way, these cookies are a lovely accompaniment to a cup of hot tea, especially on a chilly day!

To see how the other bakers fared, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and consider baking along with us!

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pear-almond baby loaves; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Now that I am home full-time, not only do I plan to work on my book, I also plan to participate with the Tuesdays with Dorie group more.  This week, we are working from the book Baking with Julia and the chosen recipe is for Hazelnut baby loaves.  The recipe is actually for a small loaf cake and requires an unusual pan size.  Most mini loaf pans are 5″ x 3″ x 2″ or a close approximation to that but the recipe calls for eight 4″ x 2″ x 2″ pans and I only have three-hard to believe.  After looking in a couple of shops, I could only find the 5″ pans and had no desire to buy a big baking plaque for loaves in that size (think rectangular cupcake pan) so I did the next best thing; I used a muffin pan.

My tale of woe does not end here.  When one isn’t working, one watches spending and I could not bring myself to spend $6 on hazelnuts when I only needed 1/3 cup so I used 1/4 cup of almond flour, something I am apparently hoarding in my freezer.  
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When my husband and I went to the not so local International market on Sunday, I stocked up on tiny pears.  They had both Fourelle and Seckel pears and I chose a half-dozen of each.  What can I say, I happen to love pears and was thinking of something I saw on Pinterest recently and thought I would give it a try.  First I poached the pears.  To do this, I placed the peeled pears-stems and cores left in place, into a saucepan with 1/2 cup ruby port, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 cardamom pod, 1 star anise pod, a 1″ piece of vanilla bean, 3 whole allspice and 5 whole black pepper corns.  With the heat at medium-low, I allowed the pears to simmer gently, turning them occasionally so they would color evenly until they were tender when a knife tip was inserted.  The pears were allowed to sit in the liquid until mostly cooled and then were carefully lifted out and placed in a dish lined with a paper towel and placed in the fridge over night.
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The recipe also called for creme fraiche and since I had some heavy cream and cultured buttermilk, I made my own by pouring 1 cup of cream into a glass measuring cup, then I stirred in a tablespoon of buttermilk and let it sit out overnight.  It was pretty thick-I may have added a bit more than a tablespoon of buttermilk.
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Having toasted the almond flour, I proceeded with the recipe but doubled the almond extract to give it a bit of a frangipan flavor.  The batter was divided between the pans and the pears were pressed into the batter.  A little of sprinkle of Demerara sugar over the top and into the oven they went.
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They baked up beautifully; the pears only added about 5 extra minutes of baking time.  They needed to cool in the pans so that the cake could set and support the pears.  However, the greasing/flouring of the pans allowed them to slip out undamaged.
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To get an idea of what the pears were like, the front left is a Seckel pear, the front right is a Fourelle pear and in the rear is a fully ripened Comice pear.  Can you see the difference in size?  The Comice pear was easily twice the size of the others but all were ripe and juicy and when poached, they held their shape without falling to pieces.
IMG_4761The syrup on the plate is actually the poaching liquid.  After I removed the pears, I had about 2 cups of liquid and using the same sauce pan over medium-low heat, it was reduced down to slightly less than a cup.  It is flavorful and a beautiful ruby color and I am thinking it will make some wonderful cocktails…My only thought on this, the cake was not very sweet.  While my first impulse is to add more sugar next time, I think in this case, more syrup and possibly a scoop of ice cream would do the trick nicely.

Until next week, bake on friends.  To see how the other participants made out with this recipe, check the website and consider joining in on the fun!

apple pielets; a tuesdays with dorie post

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The weather has changed; suddenly, it is fall.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are cooler.  It is also apple season, one of my favorite things of fall.  Fresh, crispy, crunchy, juicy… apples with skin of every shade from red and green to yellow and pink.  Sliced, or whole; I’ll eat them either way.  Baked into pies and cakes, cooked into sauce or spicy butter, layered on peanut butter sandwiches or dipped in thick, creamy caramel; I love all of them.
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If you haven’t visited my blog before, then you may not be familiar with Tuesdays with Dorie.  We are a large group of bakers who are baking our way through two books written by Dorie Greenspan.  We alternate books each week and this week the group chose to make the Apple Pielets from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi which was also the perfect way to add more apples to my diet.  To keep up with our baking adventure, visit the website and consider joining us each week.
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The recipe calls for using a muffin tin and lining the cups with a galette dough.  If only I could find my muffin tin.  Perhaps if I finished unpacking…Rather than searching for the pan or buying a new one, I chose to use my mini brioche tins.  They were the perfect size and gave them a cute fluted shape.  To make the filling, I chose Granny Smith and Sweet Tango apples, diced them, sweetened with dark brown sugar and spiced them with some garam masala.  The directions called for rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment or plastic.  Can I just say that is my least favorite method to roll out dough?  If you ask me, I think that rolling slightly chilled dough out with large amounts of flour is always the way to go.  Chilling reduces the stickiness and the flour makes it so much easier to roll out.  If you truly go crazy with the flour, you can always brush it away with a soft brush.

After heavily greasing the pans, I lined them with circles of dough and filled the pielets with the apples.  A smaller round of dough was laid over the top of the filling and the two pieces of dough were sealed together.  To allow the steam to vent, a few small slits were cut into the top crust and the pielets were baked to a lovely, golden brown.  It was hard to wait but it was easier to remove them when they had mostly cooled.  After pulling the pies out of the pans, I set them aside to finish cooling.

Here’s to another apple season!  Join us if you dare, we do this weekly.  Visit the website, pick up a copy of the book and get to baking-you won’t regret it!

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tiger cakes; a tuesdays with dorie post

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It was a tough decision but I had to do it.  Last week, I gave notice to my employer that I would be leaving.  For the last two years, I have wanted to write another book.  A while back, I did co-write a proposal and unfortunately, it flopped.  The publishers that read it ultimately chose to pass on it and after all was said and done, I was done with it too.  The whole process led me on a journey to figure out what I want to do and what I want to write about and after some major soul-searching and more than a couple of pity parties, I finally figured it all out.  Well, most of it anyway, and thanks to a consultation with a literary agent, an even better and more focused plan is beginning to emerge.  This proposal will focus on things I love so you know it will involve baking. But for now, I will leave it at that; you will just have to wait to hear more about it…

While I work on that proposal, I am trying to get back to things I love doing and Tuesdays with Dorie is one of those things that I have truly missed.  If things go as planned, I will get caught up and make all of the recipes I missed over the last 6 months.  This week, we are baking from Baking Chez Moi and our chosen recipe is for Tiger Cakes.  
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Can you say “easy peasy” because that is what this recipe was-easy; crazy easy and quick and topped with ganache.  The batter mixes up quicker than you think, it actually takes longer to measure out the ingredients than it does to whisk them together!  The main ingredient is almond flour and it is whisked into egg whites and sugar with a bit of flour and a generous helping of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.  These decadent little cakes are moist and chewy and as if that wasn’t enough, they get dressed up with a bittersweet chocolate ganache.

Join us, bake from Dorie Greenspan’s books, Baking Chez Moi and Baking with Julia; to see how the other bakers made out with the recipes, check the website, Tuesdays with Dorie.

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tourte milanese; a tuesdays with dorie post

FullSizeRender (4)My husband and I found ourselves attending three different potluck dinners in a 10 day run and luckily for us, the most recent Tuesdays with Dorie recipes were perfect choices for a dinner party.  The Tourte Milanese from Baking with Julia is on the left while the Apple Kuchen from Baking Chez Moi is on the right.  We took these to a potluck party to celebrate the 5th anniversary of PECK, the Peninsula Chicken Keepers association.

The Tourte was not new to me; years ago, I made that recipe when it was featured in one of those best cookbook of the year annuals.  While I do not remember what book it was, I could never forget that tourte and thought about making one on many occasions.  For this tourte, I followed the recipe pretty closely.  My only changes were to use herbs fresh from the garden in the eggs, adding eggplant slices (also from the garden) and mushrooms to the spinach and a few convenience products.  The puff pastry was homemade and had been in the freezer for a while so it was time to get it out and put it to use.  To save some time, I used a bag of frozen spinach and a bottle of roasted peppers from Trader Joes.  If only we had something left to take a photo-I brought home an empty plate and the knowledge that I must make that again and when I do, it will not go any further than my own dining room table so that I can have more than just a little sliver…

The Apple Kuchen is actually a tart packed with apples and a cream custard.  To make it a little more fall like, I decided to combine apples and pears.  Ordinarily, I love an apple tart.  But this one, not so much; it just did not work for me.  My instincts told me to add spices but followed the recipe as written.  All of that fruit, the custard, the absence of starch in the filling-it added up to a wet filling that I just didn’t care for.  The majority of it was eaten at the potluck and I only brought home a small wedge and the knowledge that this recipe would not be on my “make it again list” any time soon.

To see how the other bakers did with the Tourte Milanese, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Rhubarb Crumb Tart: a Tuesdays with Dorie Rewind

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Way back in August, the Tuesdays with Dorie group baked the Cherry Crumb Tart from Baking Chez Moi.  The recipe calls for a frangipane-like filling made with either almond or hazelnut flour, fresh red cherries and a topping of  cardamom scented struesel.  Put together, it is a perfect marriage of flavors, especially if you are lucky enough to find tart red cherries.  Unfortunately, by the time August rolls around, cherry season is done and while you may still find some dark sweet cherries, the tart red ones are impossible to locate.  Honestly, I have not had luck finding the tart ones fresh, even at the peak of season and my only option ends up being a canned product unless I want to spring for a mail order bulk purchase requiring overnight shipping.  More than once, I have found myself dreaming of a tree in my garden, laden with plump, juicy, tart red cherries.
IMG_4228Rather than letting the disappointment stop me, I chose to make the tart using rhubarb.  And yes, rhubarb is another plant that is out of season in August but luckily for me, I can find sliced rhubarb in the freezer section of the grocery store.  Because it is just the two of us here, I only made half of the recipe and it was enough to make three 4″ tarts.
IMG_4272Rhubarb is one of those foods that while subtle in flavor, it can pack a tart punch and add a huge amount of moisture making it a great substitute for the hard to find red cherries.  The rhubarb released its juices and blended with the almond filling to make a custard like filling.  As far as I am concerned, I can live with rhubarb standing in for the cherries, for now, at least until I get that tree planted in the garden…

Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and bake along with us, or just bake from the book!  To see how the other bakers fared, check the original post from August or the rewind post.

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two for tuesday; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_3948 Late again.  Things just seem to escape me and suddenly, I am chasing the bus down the street.  My husband was in Germany for a month and when he got back, we spent days trying to get caught up on all the things I could not do myself while he was gone.  Then of course, my job; after working a 10 hour shift in a kitchen that is 100+ degrees, baking at home has been the furthest thought from my mind.  Somehow, in the last few days, I managed to bake a cake and tarts so that I could get back in step with the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.

The restaurant I work in was once owned by Marcel Desaulnier and when I saw that the White Chocolate Patty Cake was another of his recipes-he contributed several to Baking with Julia, I decided to give it a whirl.  It was easy enough to make but I think I whipped my egg whites a little too much because I ended up with a crust that fell away in shards.  Despite the over-whipped whites, the cake still had a nice, dense and creamy texture.  Since I was making this for just the two of us, I cut the recipe in half and baked the layers in 6 inch pans.  Rather than make the raspberry filling, I used some tart cherries in syrup and rhubarb that I had and made a thick puree.  The tart flavors of the cherries, rhubarb and the fresh raspberries worked nicely with the cake.  To see the round-up of all the participants, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

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It was nice to get back to the old routine of baking, styling and taking photos; if only I had more time…Found that  nifty cake plate on one of my trips to the thrift store-I think it is a candle holder but I like it as a cake plate much better.  My collection of stuff has gotten a little large and my husband wants me to start selling some of it off or give it away.  He isn’t keen on clutter, calls me a hoarder sometimes.  Maybe I should open a shop; opinions, anyone???


IMG_3962As much as I like cake, I think I like tart better.  What’s not to love about a tart topped with fresh fruit?  This is my version of the Apricot-Raspberry Tart from Baking Chez Moi.  A week ago, I picked up a box of peaches when I went to Trader Joe’s.  Ripe peaches sounded like a nice substitution for the apricots and I added a few dark cherries just for fun.  In the recipe, Dorie suggests an almond cream filling as an alternative to the lady fingers or cake crumbs and since I was in an almond mood, I added some almond extract to really give it an extra almond punch.   The dough recipe actually made six 4″ tart shells but I froze four of them for another day and just made two tarts and filled them with half of the recipe for the cream filling.  Even though the tarts were smaller than the recipe called for, the baking time was almost the same due to the cream filling which took a while to set in the oven.  We both enjoyed this one but then, you cannot go wrong with peaches and frangipan which is what this filling made me think of!

To see how the others made out, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website!