Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans; a Tuesdays with Dorie post

IMG_4417Isn’t it wonderful when several of your favorite things come together?  Everyone who visits this blog knows I love to garden and that baking is what I do professionally.  But I am betting that not many of you know that I have a thing for hibiscus plants, specifically, Hibiscus sabdariffa.  More commonly known as Roselle, this is the variety of hibiscus used to make tea.  Just look at that bloom; how could you not love it?

IMG_4424While the flower is pretty, and edible, it is a day flower which means it opens for a day and then dies.  As soon as the bloom withers, the plant begins producing seeds in the calyx.  To make tea, you must gather them before the pod swells with immature seeds.  It takes quite a few to make a pot of tea!  Because of this, I generally plant 3 or 4 of them around the garden and yard.  They can get quite large if the conditions are right; lots of direct sun, plenty of moisture but not soggy.

IMG_4431If you are looking at this plant and are thinking that it looks like okra, you are right!  Hibiscus is also related to cotton and if you spend time in garden centers, you will find that there are lots of perennial and annual varieties of hibiscus.  Unfortunately, this variety will not survive a freeze which means you must overwinter it indoors or start over each spring which is what I do.  The seeds need heat and will not germinate until the soil is warm.  Start them indoors or wait until about May to plant seeds outdoors.

img_4439They will begin blooming in late summer and that is when you will have calyxes to collect.  Spread them out and dry them completely, I do it in the oven with just the light on.  Then when dry, you can store them in a glass jar.

img_7400So what does this plant have to do with baking?  This week’s recipe from Baking Chez Moi calls for hibiscus tea!  This recipe mixed up quickly and easily and when it was all said and done, I sent these, along with the Valentine’s Share-A-Heart cookies to my girls for Valentine’s Day.  They loved them!

img_7401Devon called hers a little pink pizza and looking at that shot, I can see why.  However, they tasted like no pizza I have ever eaten!  Crispy and flaky and full of vanilla(I was out of rose water) and with just a hint of tangy, floral notes from the hibiscus tea.

img_7404The recipe does not call for much tea so I only used a few calyxes-whizzed them in the spice grinder.  My thought is that next time, and there will be a next time, I will use double the amount.  After all, summer is coming and I will have more plants in the garden!

img_7405Join us sometime!  We love the company.  Pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi and bake along with us.  To see how the rest of the bakers did, visit the website.

just another sunday in paris…a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7409If only I knew what a Sunday in Paris was like; someday… Actually, in this case, it is a reference to a pastry shop in Paris and that is the name of it; Sunday in Paris.  This cake is a specialty of theirs and a favorite of Dorie Greenspan’s which is why she developed the recipe for her book, Baking Chez Moi.  The Tuesdays with Dorie bakers chose this cake for February and it was a great cake for Valentine’s day, or any day that chocolate and peanut butter are appropriate-otherwise known as everyday in my book!

img_7413Peanut butter is not that popular in Paris where Nutella apparently reigns but here in Tennessee, it flies and fast.  We took this cake to a potluck dinner and I came home with crumbs on a dirty tray.  The dark, rich cake reminded me of Drakes Devil Dogs with a hint of peanut butter.  To have enough for the dinner, I doubled the recipe and baked it in a pullman loaf pan to make a tall, brick shaped cake.  We didn’t have any peanuts in the house but while rummaging through the cupboards, I found a Payday bar and chopped some of it up for the garnish on the top.

img_7417This is a recipe I would make again and if you have the book, do not hesitate to try it!  To see what the other bakers came up with this week, visit the website!  To participate, pick up a copy of the book and bake along with us.

matcha financiers; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5395A while back, I picked up a little tin of matcha tea so that I could try baking with it.  Needless to say, it has been living on the spice rack in the pantry and would probably still be there, unopened, if the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers had not chosen to make matcha financiers this week!

IMG_5388Since we are trying to lose a little weight here, I only made a third of the recipe which gave me 10 little cakes.  My new pan, one I found on my last trip to Pennsylvania, is actually for popovers and for some reason, it only has 7 cups in it which meant I had to use 2 pans.  The ones I baked in the muffin pan, a black-nonstick pan, are on the right side of the photo.  The look very different from the ones baked in my aluminum popover pan.

IMG_5382Not only did they look different, they also came out shorter and much darker.  Beleive it or not, I used a portion scoop and each one is the same amount of batter-the pans were just so different that it really shows in the baked cakes above.

IMG_5328Matcha tea is not easy to find and I picked mine up in a spice shop that also sells teas.  The tin is so cute but if you notice the size of my measuring spoons next to it, you should see that it is also tiny; it holds barely 2 tablespoons!

IMG_5355My new, old pan.  It is a fairly heavy gauge, aluminum popover pan and the cups are nice and deep.  Best part, I think I spent $3.00 for it!

IMG_5358A side view of the cups-nice and deep

IMG_5398The photo in the book has very bright green cakes but the recipe tells you that the batter will be a pea green.  Mine are definitely pea green which makes me wonder about the photo in the book.  The day these were baked, the flavor was a little grassy and I did not care for them but as they aged for a day or two, the flavor improved, a lot.  These may make another appearance in our kitchen, but not for a while-we really need to get back on track with the diet!

To see how the other bakers did, visit the website.  Feel like baking along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book and head to the kitchen!

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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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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