rewind; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Can anyone please tell me where the month of June went?  Last thing I remember was packing my husbands suitcase for his month-long trip to Germany, and boom, June is gone.  Between work and the garden, I didn’t have much time to bake this month and honestly, we had so many days above 95 degrees that baking really wasn’t much of an option.

Twice this month, I got my act together and baked; first the rhubarb upside-down brown sugar cake and then the chocolate cherry brownies, both from Baking Chez Moi.  The results; both were good and I would bake either one again.


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The day I went shopping in search of fresh rhubarb, I came up empty-handed.  Luckily, I was able to find it frozen and honestly, it worked out beautifully in the end.  If you make the cake and have to use frozen rhubarb, I suggest you let it thaw completely, drain it well and use towels to pat it dry before proceeding with the recipe.  Attempting to cook it while still slightly frozen prevented the pieces from juicing.  For the round up of participants, follow this link.


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There there were the brownies.  Rich, chocolatey, moist.  What’s not to love?  Only suggestion, use tart dried cherries instead of sweet ones.  Most of the dried dark cherries had little to offer in flavor and were over powered by the chocolate even though I soaked them in twice the amount of port; I subbed port for the water to add more flavor.
IMG_3838My mom was staying with me for the month and honestly, we ate the whole batch between us.  Granted, it took nearly a week but we did eat them all.  Surprisingly, they stayed pretty moist and I can only guess the moist fruit made that possible.  To see the round up of participants for this recipe, here is the link.

Here’s to a new month and the hope that I will not blink and miss this one too.  To see how the other bakers did this month, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

cardinal slices; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Hard to believe but we have been baking from the book, Baking with Julia, for more than two years.  While I have enjoyed the process and reading posts from the other bakers, not every recipe has excited me and a few were just not an option.  But when I read the headnote to the recipe for Cardinal Slices, I was a bit excited; this was a chance to make a classic cake and a caramel syrup.  Then I read the entire recipe and saw the suggestion of turning the leftover batter into chocolate dipped ladyfingers called Rothschilds.  Now this was what I call a great way to spend a morning!!!

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The recipe for the cake layers instructs you to make a meringue first.  The meringue is piped with a 1/2 inch tip the length of the baking pan, actually, three long ropes that are fairly close together; the two outer ropes are just three inches apart.  The leftover meringue is incorporated into an egg and egg yolk mixture with sugar and whipped to a full ribbon with flour folded in last.  This mixture is piped between the meringue stripes and then it is baked.  
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The espresso caramel syrup is made by burning a small amount of sugar and adding more, bit by bit as you go.  This caramel is cooked much darker than you would expect and the final step is to add hot espresso.  It is intensely flavored and it can be a little bitter from both the burned sugar and the espresso but the whipped cream will temper the bitter and even if you are skeptical, make it!  
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The final step is to make a lightly sweetened, whipped cream and flavor it with the espresso caramel syrup.  You are instructed to trim the three strips so that they are evenly sized but let me warn you, if it is a humid day, think twice and perhaps bake the strips longer or wait until a dryer day.  My strips got pretty sticky and were difficult to trim so I didn’t bother.

Do you remember the mention of ladyfingers?  Well let me suggest this, if you do not want to waste leftover batter, cut the recipe in half and do not bother with the lady fingers.  There was enough of the batter left to make lots of ladyfingers, three trays, actually.  According to the directions, I sifted almond flour over the cookies and placed a pan in the oven with my cake strips.  Honestly, I wondered about this because the cake strips were baked at 300 degrees and everything I know about sponge cakes tells me that temp was way too low.  My suspicions were correct and after the instructed baking time of 30 minutes, I had lovely, golden brown, ladyfinger shaped strips of sawdust.  They were awful, truly awful.  Since I noticed that the recipe suggested reading the other ladyfinger recipe in the book for hints, I flipped to it.  This recipe called for baking them at 400 and since I really wanted to make the Rothschilds, I cranked up the heat.  Sadly, the results were not much better, they weren’t as dry or sawdust like but truth be told, they were not any puffier.

Needless to say, my dreams of chocolate dipped Rothschilds were crushed.  In the future, I will probably try making them from the other recipe in the book, the one written by Flo Braker and if I, or should I say when I, make this cake recipe again, I will skip that step and just make half the cake recipe.
IMG_3767Oh, one more thing, totally worth the calories.  Try this one if you can-you will not regret it!  To see how the other bakers did, check the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL page.

no-tella buttons; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Another Tuesday, another recipe from Baking Chez Moi.  This week, we chose to prepare the Nutella Buttons, tiny little cupcakes with a secret filling surprise and a glaze of ganache.  What’s not to love?  Actually, if you are me, it’s the Nutella.  Hard to believe since Nutella is so popular but it just isn’t something I go crazy for.  In truth, it is just not the right chocolate flavor for me; I prefer a dark chocolate to a milk chocolate.


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The batter was a quick and easy one to mix and they baked up just as fast.  Do yourself a favor, buy a scale and use the weights listed for each ingredient rather than the cup measurement.  Although I began by measuring the powdered sugar using cups, on a whim I decided to weigh it.  What a difference!  My cup measurement was off by nearly 20 grams and while that does not sound like much, it is nearly an ounce and with a recipe this small, it could have had a huge impact on the results.


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Now back to the secret filling.  When I saw that I would need to buy a jar of Nutella, I thought it would be better to choose a spread that I would enjoy and might actually use.  My first choice was Dark Chocolate Dreams by Peanut Butter and Company.  And because I can never do anything simply, I also picked up a jar of Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s.


IMG_3632Using a small portion scoop for the batter and spoons for the spreads, I had a full tray of little cakes ready to bake in just a few minutes.

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Both of these spreads are pretty tasty but as always, I prefered one to the other and surprisingly, it was the Speculoos Butter.  Slightly spicy and a little crunchy, it won the contest and if I hadn’t put the top back on, I might have eaten the contents of the jar one spoonful at a time.  Somehow, I was able to restrain myself, for now…

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Dark Chocolate Dreams filled cakes on the left, Crunchy Speculoos  filled cakes on the right.  No way to tell which is which just by looking on them.  Biting into them is the only option…


IMG_3660Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of the book and bake along with us, you will enjoy the adventure!  To see the results, visit the website and look for the LYL page.

ka’kat, one day late; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_3601In the eastern region of the Mediterranean, ka’kat are a popular street food according to contributing authors Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid in the book Baking with Julia.  Because they suggest that the little breads are similar to an American soft pretzel, I did not hesitate to mix up a batch; how could anyone from the New York City area possibly resist a freshly baked, pretzel-like treat?  Because I have so many memories of eating pretzels while walking the busy streets of Manhattan, I went so far as to tie my dough in knots and sprinkle them with salt.  While the texture of the bread while still warm from the oven was reminiscent of a pretzel, it was as they say, “close, but no cigar.”

On my shelf rests a copy of the book Flatbreads and Flavors, also written by the contributing authors and while I love the book itself, I can honestly say that every recipe I have tried is finicky, hit or miss or just disappointing.  It seems that each one requires multiple steps and methods to recreate breads that are baked in rustic kitchens and I have had very little luck getting the results hoped for.  While this recipe is probably the closest to success achieved in my kitchen, it still left me a little frustrated.  First of all, the flour needed was more than the 4-5 cups the recipe called for and to be honest, I think it ended up a little on the tough side from my choice of bread flour; the recipe calls for bread or all-flour to be used.  Even so, after a quick rise, the dough was so sticky that I had to use a little flour to shape the rounds.  Then of course, the lack of mahlab in the dough left me wondering about the flavor.  At some point, I need to venture back to the International grocery store to see if I can find it but that is a 30 minute drive for another day.

To give my breads a typical pretzel finish, I chose large crystal salts and luckily for me, I have a friend who thinks of me.  After a trip to Hawaii, my wonderful friend sent me some pink Hawaiian Alaea and black lava salt and I sprinkled a little of them over some of the breads because as much as I like sesame seeds, they aren’t salt and a pretzel isn’t a pretzel without salt!  Would I make these again?  Maybe.  If I do, I will use all-purpose flour and portion them a little larger so that they are a little more like a pretzel.

Each Tuesday, the members of Tuesdays with Dorie post about their experiences baking from the books Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi.  If you would like to read about it or join us, pick up a copy of the book and visit the website.  To see how the other member fared with this recipe, check the LYL page.

coconut tapioca; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Tapioca is one of those foods you either love or hate.  Personally, I have fond memories of tapioca pudding from my childhood; my mother would mix up the instant pudding from a box and pour it into small pyrex bowls and topped it with a gentle shake of ground nutmeg. It was a bit eggy in flavor and mostly custard but it did have a small amount of actual tapioca grains in it.  In our house, it was a rare treat and a food memory I recall every now and then.  When I wrote my second cookbook, I included a recipe for tapioca pudding that came pretty close to my recollection of that flavor.

When I saw that we would be preparing tapioca for this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie challenge, I hoped the resulting custard would be a new twist on an old favorite.  Honestly, the two custards contain tapioca but that is where the similarity ends.  This recipe uses pearl tapioca and it is cooked with coconut milk, milk, sugar and vanilla-not an egg in sight.  Finding pearl tapioca can be a challenge unless you have Asian markets near you and since we moved to Williamsburg, the closest one is about 30 minutes away and it just is not convenient to drive that for a single ingredient.  My vision of pastel colored pearls in a rich coconut milk custard will have to wait until the next time I am in Newport News.

After dinner on Sunday evening, my husband and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things and if I was lucky, a box of pearl tapioca.  With fingers crossed, I wandered from aisle to aisle.  Natural foods? Nope.  Gluten free foods?  Not there either.  International aisle?  No such luck.  Then I walked down the baking aisle.  Success was had right between the boxes of pudding and custard mixes!  Surprisingly, I had my choice of large pearls or small pearls and since I could not remember what the recipe called for, I chose small pearls.

Tapioca is a starch and like all other starches, it swells when it is soaked in water.  In the photo above, the perfectly round spheres are pearl tapioca with the larger ones being those that were soaked overnight.  The small, uneven grains are instant tapioca.  
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The pearls expand and become translucent as they cook and this happens pretty quickly at a gentle simmer.  The recipe calls for full fat coconut milk and whole milk but since we do not keep milk in the house, I traded whole milk for some almond milk.  To alter the flavor, I used a small piece of vanilla bean, subbed a tablespoon of our own wildflower honey for a tablespoon of the sugar and added some rosewater to intensify the floral notes of the honey.


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Dorie gives visual clues in the recipe to help you determine doneness.  Why don’t more recipe writers do this?  She tells you the milk will thicken and the pearls will sit just below the surface.  These two hints are pretty clearly visible in the photo above.


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The tapioca will be slightly chewy when done and will fall apart with gentle pressure from your tongue.  For some, that texture is a problem, but not for me, I enjoyed it completely and not once did this remind me of the tapioca pudding of my childhood.


IMG_3562Vintage linens and violets were a natural choice to accompany such an old-fashioned custard.  The violets are actually Confederate violets, a common lawn flower here in Virginia, and no, I do not consider them weeds!  Earlier this spring, during the peak bloom time, I picked them by the bowl and made my own violet liqueur but that is a post for another day.

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Violets have a faint odor that cannot be detected with just one bloom but a bowl of them steeped in syrup is slightly intoxicating.


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Sadly, the flowers only appear for a few weeks in early spring so if you are lucky to find them in your lawn, be sure to try infusing them into syrup or a clear alcohol such as a potato vodka.  In the mean time, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and check out the LYL page to see how my fellow bakers fared.  And if the mood strikes, cook up a pot of coconut tapioca.  For the recipe, you will need to buy a copy of the book since we do not publish the recipes.


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seeded matzohs; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Recently, I started a new job in a very busy restaurant.  Each day, we produce breads and desserts for 3 different restaurants and a bakery.  In a few words, I am working my ass off.  Honestly, I am a little overwhelmed by the volume and when I get home after my 11-12 hour shift(something else I was not prepared for), I am generally too worn out to think about baking.  Since my days off are also split, I tend to spend those days trying to catch up on everything here at home.  We have the garden to tend, the chicks to attend to and bees arriving soon.  Let’s not even talk about cleaning the house or balancing the checkbook-also on my “to do” list.  When I saw that the recipe for this week was matzohs, I thought, “great, a simple recipe to make.”  In retrospect, I would rethink that thought.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Don’t get me wrong, this was not a difficult recipe, just a vaguely written one that really did not offer much in the way of tips or tricks and even though I have a lot of experience to draw from, I was not completely prepared for this dough.  The high humidity level in the air did not help either and a few hints might have helped.  All in all, it was fun to finally make this recipe and it is one I would make again.
IMG_3501The nice thing about an unleavened dough, no waiting for the rise.  The dough mixed up quickly and easily.  The recipe calls for the use of sesame seeds and black pepper to flavor the matzohs.  Since I am not a fan of black pepper, I chose to change it up a bit.  Rather than the 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds, I mixed 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds with 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon of dried onion flakes, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds and 1 teaspoon salt to mimic the flavor of an everything bagel.

IMG_3504The recipe instructs you to roll the dough as thin as possible.  Easier said than done.  First of all, the use of flour is necessary but you must be careful with the amount.  For this recipe, less really is more.  You need the dough to be a tiny bit sticky so that it doesn’t slide all over the surface but you also do not want it to stick to the pin.  The best tip I can share is to repeatedly roll, lift the dough and flip it and roll again.  This constant lifting and flipping will also stretch the dough.  The only bad news in this step, you can only roll the dough as thin as the seeds you add to it.  But this is also a good thing because if you add the seeds and they are evenly distributed through the dough, they will act as guides for the pin and prevent you from rolling it too thin, which is probably not possible with matzoh dough.

Remember earlier when I mentioned the lack of tips and tricks in the recipe?  Well, it would have been helpful to know that the dough will get sticky as it sits, especially on a humid day and sprinkling salt over the top will only make it even more sticky.  Another suggestion that the recipe lacks is to do this in stages or with a partner.  Rolling all the dough out first seemed like a good plan but it got sticky as it sat.  Rolling one sheet at a time and baking it immediately means this will take a long time.  Final thought, roll it out, flour it and stack it with paper between each sheet (which I did this time) but do not salt the dough.  The final step before baking, prick the sheet and add the sprinkle of salt.  Next time….

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So thin and crispy, good enough as is or with hummus or knowing my husband, peanut butter.  Yes, even with the seeds, he will add the peanut butter.


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My favorite part, the dark and toasty spots.  The seeds are a close second.


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The one hint the recipe did give, the high heat will make the surface bubble and blister.  However, despite the high heat of a 550 degree oven, I had to increase the baking time to 1 minute 20 seconds on each side.


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Crunch, crunch, crunch…


IMG_3525Want to bake along with the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers?  We would love to have you join us!  Visit the website and get baking.  You will need to pick up a copy of Baking with Julia and/or Baking Chez Moi because we do not post recipes out of respect for the author.  To see how the participants fared with this recipe, visit the LYL page.

crispy topped brown sugar bars (aka legal crack); a tuesdays with dorie post

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It is no secret that I love cookies and bars, especially when chocolate is involved.  For some time now, I have known that chocolate is and always be my downfall.  But when you add caramel to the mix… Let’s just say that I will be bingeing along with the rest of the addicts.

So far, very few of the recipes that we have prepared since I started baking along with the Tuesdays with Dorie group have been earmarked as “must make again” recipes.  While some may think I am crazy, I am not; I am a professional pastry chef and I spend my days baking sweet stuff.  My palate is well-developed and I love many of the things I bake.  However, if I ate them as frequently as I baked them, I would weigh about 750 pounds.  When you spend as much time working with sugar as a typical pastry chef does, you often find yourself craving things that aren’t sweet.  For me, popcorn and pretzels are generally what I reach for.  Even so, something sweet will make an appearance and ice cream, cookies or even a coffee cake are typical choices in my home.  These bars however, are something that I really would consider making again.


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This.  The reason I would make these again; the crispy topping.  Simple enough, burn sugar, stir in crispy rice cereal and then break it up and press it into a melted chocolate topped brown sugar cookie bar.  They should be called legal crack bars because like potato chips, you will not be able to stop yourself.

Cooking sugar to the caramel stage is trickier than you think.  It is easy to over cook it and before you know it, black smoke is billowing out of the pan and a horrible bitter smell will fill the air.  Never walk away, trust me, you will regret it.  This time around, I stood there and waited and watched and waited and watched.  When I could see the color developing, I gave the pan a few swirls and when it reached a nice light amber color, I stirred in the cereal.  Sure, I could have gone a little darker but I am not liking my glass-topped stove and the way it holds onto heat so I stopped a little sooner than I would have liked to.  Even so, I am glad I made a larger batch than called for; it made up for the half cup I ate as it cooled…
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Look at the sugar hairs.  Now you know how cotton candy is made.  Sugar cooked to the hard crack stage and spun into fine hairs.  Yes, hard crack, the stage before caramel, a fitting name if you ask me.


IMG_3351Now like any other addict, I will have to hide my stash.  Actually, I will do one better and walk away.  Thinking I need to send these away, quickly.  If you are smart, you will make these and if you do, be sure to give them away as fast as you can.  Powerful stuff.  You will find yourself making all sorts of deals and promises for just one more bite.

Join us if you can, we bake and post each Tuesday.  The only requirement, a copy of the book since we do not post recipes out of respect for the author.  This recipe can be found in Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan.  To see how the other bakers fared, visit the website and check out the LYL page.  Be sure to join us as we alternate between this book and Baking with Julia and post about our experiences each Tuesday.

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pebble bread; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Middle Eastern bread recipes have long since been an interest of mine and living in Nashville made it easy to learn about them.  Our former home was located within the largest Kurdish community in the US and I had an opportunity to visit a small local bakery and watch as the women prepared fresh naan and then baked it in a tandoori oven.  It was unsettling to watch as they threw the bread against the sides of the oven using bare hands knowing full well that the temperature was about 700 degrees.  The bread cooked so quickly in the high heat that as fast as one loaf was thrown in, it was taken out in what seemed to be less than a minute and it probably was.  Slightly spongy and chewy, fresh-baked naan quickly became a favorite of ours and we frequently returned to the shop to buy more.  The most amazing thing about that bread was the cost.  While you might expect to pay several dollars a piece for the 14″ rounds of bread, you would be shocked to learn that a bag of 3-4 rounds cost less than $3.  Sadly, we left Nashville for Williamsburg and our love of fresh-baked naan has become a memory.

IMG_3244Every now and then, I pull my copy of Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid off the shelf and make a batch of Middle Eastern flat bread in the hope of experiencing the same texture as the naan that we miss.  So far, it has been hit or miss, mostly miss but I do not think it is the book’s fault.  My kitchen does not have the types of ovens called for in the traditional baking methods and I am usually attempting to utilize various kitchen implements to do the job.  While the authors give great suggestions on how to get the described results, I have not had the time to make multiple batches in an effort to find my groove…

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This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie group chose to make the Moroccan Pebble Bread from Baking with Julia and it just so happens to have been contributed to the book by the authors of Flatbreads and Flavors.  Feeling as though I had a little experience with this sort of bread and a familiarity with their recipes, I went ahead and mixed up half a batch-more than enough for the two of us.

You are instructed to use a blend of barley and bread flours and I was surprised to find Bob’s Big Red Mill barley flour in my local grocery store; they sold it with the natural foods.  With that first hurdle cleared, I went about figuring out how I would bake the loaves.  Our gas range is still in storage awaiting the installation of gas service from the street out front to the house and I have had to learn to cook on a glass-topped electric range.  While they may be easy to clean, the glass is easy to scratch and even break so you must know how cautious I was with my cast iron skillet on the stove top.  The directions call for an oven safe skillet that you will be moving from the stove top to the broiler for each loaf and I was worried that moving a cast iron skillet around on the stove was a recipe for disaster-pun intended.  To preserve my sanity, as well as the glass cooktop, I parked the skillet on the burner and set my baking stone about 7″ below the broiler and gave it a solid preheating.  Rather than move the skillet, I moved the loaves from the stove top to the stone using a pair of tongs.  It seemed to work fairly well and if I were to make this bread again, I would use this method.  The only other note I will make, my dough needed a lot less bread flour than the recipe suggested.  Since I was making half a batch, it called for 2 cups of bread flour but my ball of dough used about 1 1/4 cups and since it was so stiff and hard to roll out, I would suggest using a little less next time.
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The only thing I did differently, and quite by accident I will add, was that I did not oil the skillet before adding the loaf and since my cast iron skillet is well seasoned, it did not make a difference.  As the bread sizzled and steam rose, the bottom cooked quickly and after pressing the surface to make more dimples, in a few minutes I was able to lift the loaf using my tongs and put it on the stone where the broiler could cook the top of the loaf.  It went quickly and for the most part, the loaves baked evenly although there were a few spots here and there that the bread was slightly underdone, something that rolling it out the dough thinner will eliminate.  Even so, this was the closest I have gotten to achieving a good loaf of Naan-like bread. The texture was slightly spongy and just a little chewy with the dark spots from the skillet and the broiler giving it a wonderful toasted flavor.  It won my husbands approval and honestly, mine too.

With summer approaching, I may have to try this one outside on the grill because there isn’t much better than a salad with fresh bread on a summer day!  To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL page.
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lemon madeleines: a tuesdays with dorie post

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Over the years, I have tried making madeleines.  Each recipe gave me a glimmer of hope; maybe this batch will have the coveted hump…  Face it, the madeleines themselves aren’t much to get excited about.  Spongy little cakes, not so sweet and a little to dry to eat without a cup of tea or coffee.  But like any other recipe, it is all about achieving the expected results.  Baking this batch of madeleines wasn’t any different from the others in that respect.  It was all about the hump.


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The only factor that differentiates it from the majority of recipes is the two chilling periods.  First the completed batter is chilled for an hour and then the filled pans are chilled for an additional hour.  Getting the batter cold and keeping it cold until the moment it goes into the oven is crucial in as far as the hump is concerned.  Cold batter in a cold pan put in a hot oven will react differently than warm batter in a room temperature pan would.  By the time the center most portion of batter heats up, the outer edges have baked and the structure is set.  The only place for that bit of batter to do is out the top which is what causes the hump.

The final touch, a lemon glaze, which each madeleine is dipped into before returning them to the oven for a minute or two to heat up so it can sink into the surface.  Most recipes just call for brushing a syrup over the warm madeleines but this recipe allows them to cool completely.  They are then dipped, hump sides only, placed on a rack and returned to a piping hot oven just long enough for the glaze to melt and turn clear.  The instructions say to remove them at the first sign of a bubble.  Obviously, I fell asleep at the wheel on that one.  My glaze bubbled a bit and formed a sweet, crusty edge on the hump sides.  
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Close up, you can see the crusty glaze.  The moisture in the madeleines has kept it from being crunchy and it is flaky like a glazed donut.


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Because I know how much my husband likes to have something to dunk in his coffee or tea, I made a double batch.  The recipe suggests that it will make 12, doubled that is 24 but I either under filled my pans or the yield is off because I ended up with 30.  My first batch, the ones on the right, came out a little flat and without pronounced humps.  My guess is that placing the madeleine pan onto a hot sheet pan insulated them and allowed for even baking.  For the second batch, I removed the sheet pans from the oven and placed the madeleine pan directly on the rack.  The madeleines on the left have a more pronounced hump.


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Honestly, my husband does not care about the hump.  For him, it is all about dunkability.  As you can see, he did not waste any time testing them out.


IMG_3219And as far as he is concerned, these will do.  Dunk away dear, dunk away…

To see what the other bakers came up with, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and check out the LYL page.  Want to give it a try?  Pick up a copy of the book, Baking Chez Moi, and bake along with us; we do not post recipes so you will need to have a copy of the book.

chocolate chiffon bundt cake with drunken caramel; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Winter is once again showing us just who is in control.  Not only is it laughing at us, winter is flipping us the bird, repeatedly.  While I shouldn’t complain too loudly, it’s not like I live in the Boston area (sorry sis!), but as I sit here typing this, the weather forecast is calling for up to 15″ of snow to fall in the next 24 hours.  My complaint isn’t that it will snow but that 15″ is three times our average annual snowfall of 5 inches!

With the temperatures well below freezing with the wind chill, I was glad to be in my kitchen baking a chocolate cake.  And if there is one thing I am sure we can all agree on, chocolate cake fixes just about everything, especially if you serve it with a generous drizzle of drunken caramel sauce!  The cake, as the recipe is written in Baking with Julia, is supposed to be served with fresh raspberries soaked in liqueur and rich creme anglaise sauce that gets bruleed with a torch.  Well, I did not have raspberries or a torch and I did not want to make the creme anglaise sauce because it is just too rich for me.  But I did think a drizzle of caramel sauce would be nice and then I saw the bottle of Pennington’s and I couldn’t help myself…
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The cake itself is a typical chiffon cake; spongy and light and completely dependent upon the cocoa powder for flavor.  Because the cocoa powder is practically the sole component of the flavor profile, I suggest you use a high quality cocoa powder, I used Valrhona cocoa powder because I wanted that chocolate punch I knew Valrhona would give to the cake.  If I had used a cocoa powder typically found in the grocery store, I might have gotten decent results but the lack of raspberries and the creme anglaise would have been really obvious and I am not sure that a few dollops of my drunken caramel would have worked as well.  That caramel sauce packs a punch especially with the use of Pennington’s.  If you are not familiar with Pennington’s, let me tell you that you should get your hands on a bottle if you can.  It is distilled in Nashville and they use real strawberry flavor-not the fake stuff so it tastes like ripe juicy berries, the perfect companion for a chocolate cake.
IMG_3069Drunken Caramel Sauce

makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cinnamon stick

1″ piece of a vanilla bean, split open

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 cup booze-dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey (I highly recommend Pennington’s Strawberry Rye Whiskey)

Pour the cream into a small pot with the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (the seeds scraped out and added to the pot) and the butter and place it over very low heat to warm it.  Place the sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy bottom pot with 1/4 cup of water.  Bring the pot to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to melt the sugar.  Wash the sides of the pot with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming.  Allow the sugar to boil until it turns amber in color.  Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in the warm cream mixture, stirring to combine.  It will boil up violently so take caution when stirring.  Return the pot to the stove over low heat and stir gently to dissolve the caramelized sugar at the bottom and sides of the pot.  Do not boil the mixture, just stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is combined.  Remove from the heat again and carefully stir in the booze.  Pour the caramel through a mesh strainer remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and into a heat proof serving pitcher or a bowl.  Allow it to cool to about 100 degrees before serving, store in the fridge and reheat as needed.

To see how the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers did with this recipe, check out the “LYL” page on the website.  If you would like to join us as we bake our way through Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi, get your hands on the books and get to work-the more the merrier!