Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ricotta Pancakes with Apples

Where shall I start? I sincerely apologize for such a delay in posts. It's been very cold and I've been unmotivated to share what I've been cooking with you all. I've spent loads of time in the kitchen, but I don't have much to show for it: no memorable meals and no great photography, either. The reason I've been in the kitchen so much is because of my 16 month old daughter and her blossoming palate. I make nearly all her foods and most of it has been vegetarian. I've tried a few bites of organic chicken here and there, but she's simply not interested. I don't blame her. I absolutely cannot make chicken taste edible. All of Gabby's favorite foods involve the pressure cooker which as you might know, turns food into mush, which is perfect for a baby, but not so nice from a photographic standpoint. I've been in a bit of a food rut, as well, because of all the dried beans and lentils I've been binging on. Since so much time goes into planning and preparing Gabby's meals, I am spent when it comes to deciding what David and I will eat. Naturally, we end up eating Gabby's food, just for convenience's sake. That's where I've been for the last two months and I'll let Erin explain away her absence to you in the near future.
So, out of frustration and tiredness of yet another meal of beans and brown rice, I turned here where I found this and set about making it. I already had the perfect topping, the cooked apples are Gabby's favorite. I mix it with her oatmeal in the mornings, and she can't get enough. Neither can I, to be honest.
These pancakes turned out beautifully, thanks to my trusty cast iron pan. I skipped the lemon curd part of the recipe, as it seemed fussy and for pancakes, this recipe already asked for the dirtying of 3 bowls plus a hand-mixer. I like the effects, though, because the beaten egg whites become fluffy which carries over those effects into the batter and the finished pancakes. Apple topping recipe after the jump.

Cooked Apples
makes 4 servings

2 apples (I always use Golden Delicious)
1/8 cup of water (I tend to just eyeball it, and it ends up being a splash of water)
cinnomon and brown sugar to taste

Instructions: Peel and core apples. Slice into thin, small dice. Put apple pieces into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the water. Cook with lid in place over medium heat. Cook until desired tenderness and keep an eye on the water level. If water cooks off before apples are soft enough, add another 1-2 tablespoons of water to keep apples from drying out. Once apples are soft enough to your tastes, then, use a potato masher to mash and add cinnamon and brown sugar to taste. Spoon over pancakes, into oatmeal, or whatever strikes you.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Kugelhopf

This week's TWD selection, Kugelhopf, was chosen by Yolanda, of The All-Purpose Girl. . Dorie Greenspan's recipe can be found on pages 61-63 of Baking: From My Home to Yours and when I caught a glimpse of that beautiful photo, I couldn't wait to try this cake out. Her Kugelhopf nearly graces the sky with how tall its peaks are! The yeasted batter for my Kugelhopf rose as Ms. Greenspan said it would, until I chucked it in the fridge for an overnight rest, as recommended. I baked it the following morning and unfortunately for me, my poor kugelhopf remained shamefully flat, never achieving the glorious height that Kugelhopfs are renowned for. Although my Kugelhopf will never win over anyone other than those who enjoy yeasted raisin pancakes, I thought my Kugelhopf tasted pretty good, thanks to my addition of toasted almonds to the batter. For some successful Kugelhopf eye-candy, please visit the other TWD bakers. Thanks!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes + Happy Birthday, Dear Gabby

This week's TWD is Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes, chosen by Clara of IHeartFoodForThought. I hope I am within the bounds of TWD rules by letting you know that I made this recipe in September, for my daughter's first birthday. Overall, these cupcakes were a success, mostly thanks to the awesome ganache frosting. The cake part was not the best ever, but not too bad, either. It would work just fine in a pinch, I guess you could say. Since I have a phobia about the potential for dry cakes, I always add a smidge more liquid (especially if it's buttermilk) and a bit less flour than called for. I guess you can say that I don't buy that whole baking as a precise science school of thought. It seems like this additional buttermilk and a touch less flour make for a more moist interior. As you can see, these cupcakes turned out to be a hit, as evidenced by Gabby's face-plant into her cupcake.

I intended to post about these chocolate chocolate cupcakes on Gabby's birthday, which is in September, but I'm so behind the eight-ball, what with this move and all. But we're getting settled in and with a little luck, I won't be 6 weeks behind in my posting in the future! Happy first birthday, my darling Gabriella. You've taught David and I so much in the short time you've been with us. We joyously look forward to seeing the person you grow into.

For the full recipe, please visit Clara's site or find it in "Baking: From My Home To Yours", by Dorie Greenspan. Please visit the TWD blogroll to check out all the beautiful cupcakes.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pumpkin Muffins

This week's TWD was chosen by Kelly, of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp; the recipe can be found either on her blog, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. These pumpkin muffins sound promising, but I do not really care much for pumpkin. Every Thanksgiving, I bypass the often soggy pumpkin pies in favor of the other pies, those lovingly dotted with pecans, chocolate, or apples. So, why did I make this recipe, then, you might be wondering? Truth be told, I stumbled over a can of pumpkin in the kitchen, which is still a disaster, now going on two weeks status post move to New Jersey. Our place is a wreck, littered with half opened moving boxes and takeout food containers. But I unpacked a long forgotten can of pumpkin and instantly realized this week's TWD was kismet. Unfortunately, these muffins confirmed all my suspicions about pumpkin. But perhaps it's not the recipe, which seemed to garner many upturned thumbs on the TWD message board. I doctored it, trying to make it more healthy. See, I'm on a health kick, because I started eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast. So, I swapped a half cup of the all purpose flour the recipe calls for with a half cup of whole wheat flour. I also added flax seeds to the mix and used a bit less sugar than called for, and all brown sugar, at that, too. Lastly, since I haven't unpacked any sunflower seeds, yet, I decided to crush up some pistachios instead for the topping, thinking it might be a nice touch of green to the tops. Given all my changes, I thought the muffins turned out mediocre. They are what they are is how my husband would put it. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, they aren't overly sweet, so it's a good choice for breakfast, and boy do those flax seeds pack an Omega 3 punch! My husband, on the other hand, loathed the muffins. In fact, here is our conversation:

Me: "Try one."
David: (with mouth full) "These are dense and flavorless."
Me: "HEY! I worked hard on those! Just because I didn't follow the recipe and they're not loaded with white sugar, you don't like them!"
David: "No, I don't like them because it looks like you crushed an avocado on top."
Me: "hmph! I'm happy that the Red Sox lost!"

Please visit the TWD blogroll to see the other members' creations. Next week: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes. Thanks!

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TWD - Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

It has been a long, long time since I lasted chatted with you all in the cyber world. Like Shirlie -- life has been unbelievably busy. Funny how we both ended up moving in the same month and both ended up in kitchens that are not our own. Shirlie is in the process of moving to her new place at the moment, and I am still here with my in-laws for a few more months while my new house is being built. Good news on that front -- they start framing the house tomorrow!

Shirlie has been picking up the slack for me lately, so I promised her I would be in charge of the Tuesday's with Dorie post this week. (Thanks to my friend Becca who let me take over her kitchen to make the cake!)

This week's TWD challenge, hosted by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy, was a Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. Brownies and peanuts! I had high hope for this dessert. Unfortunately, I was not impressed. I am sure part of it was my fault. Not sure exactly what I did wrong, but I did not think this cake was worth the calories. My cake baked up like a bowl -- the edges rose, but the middle didn't. And, it was dry. The caramel helped, and perhaps a scoop of ice cream would of helped more, but overall the cake tasted more like cake than brownie -- which is not what I was expecting.

So, no ringing endorsement for this cake here, but it looks like other TWD members had better luck, so please go check them out .

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee is one of my all-time favorite desserts, and since I haven't had it in so long, I was practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation for this week's TWD. I'd like to share with you my creme de la creme of creme brulee recipes: Ginger and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. It's from Bon Appetit and it has 200 reviews with a 97% "would make again" score (which is quite high!). The ginger adds a dimension to this dessert which is very special and also a bit unusual. I've stuck to this recipe for the last few years and have found that it's easy to leave out the ginger and equally as easy to sub in other flavors, just like Dorie mentions in her book, as well. I couldn't wait to see how Ms. Greenspan's Creme Brulee stacks up against my favorite. Unfortunately, the custard part of Dorie's Creme Brulee sat in the oven for ages, barely baking at a wee 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The recipe calls for a baking time of 50-60 minutes "or until set." At 80 minutes, I got nervous and took it out, even though it was still a bit jiggly. I figured it would set a bit more in the refrigerator, as it should chill for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. I really love Baking: From My Home To Yours, and, of course, I adore Dorie Greenspan but this recipe just fell short for me. It's cloyingly sweet, and the vanilla extract seems to cheapen the taste. I know that makes me sound like a snot-nosed home baker, but the vanilla bean in the Bon Appetit recipe gives it much greater depth, it seems. It might follow the whole argument regarding recipes with very few ingredients: use the best components you can. Furthermore, I had the issues of baking it for so long at such a low temperature and not feeling like it quite set like it should. I refrigerated the custards for 5 hours and then made the crackly topping and found that the custard was not quite set. Although it was delicious, the custard was too loose to do it's job, which is to support that awesome sugary topping. I refrigerated another custard to see if it fared better after a 24 hour rest in the refrigerator. The next day, the custard was really perfect and I was much happier with the texture. But the sugar! It's as though the sugar became concentrated overnight and became tooth-achingly sweet, which did not sit well with me. I compared Dorie's sugar specifications to my Ginger and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee recipe and there's a bit more sugar in the Bon Appetit recipe, but also 2 extra egg yolks, which seems to dilute the sugar. Anyhow, the Bon Appetit recipe is still number one in my book. I'm glad I tried this week's TWD, though, and if you'd like to try too, check out Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home To Yours. Also, please visit the other TWD bakers to see how their Creme Brulees turned out! And, Thanks for a great choice, to our hostess this week, Mari, of Mevrouw Cupcake.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake

It's been a while since I've participated in Tuesdays with Dorie. It's been so hectic for both Erin and me in the last month or so, which is why we had to take an unwanted hiatus. Way back in 2007, when we decided to start Smell The Basil jointly, we figured that if life got too busy for one of us, then, certainly the other would be available and capable of picking up the slack. Crazily enough, we both ended up moving at the exact same time and now, Erin's stuff is in storage, my stuff is in storage, and neither of us are able to cook or bake in the comforts of our own kitchens. It's frustrating to try to cook in other people's kitchen's, isn't it? I'm temporarily living at my parent's house, and I'm loathe to re-purchase any necessities since I know all my favorite pans, whisks, and fancy vanilla extract are patiently waiting for me in a cold, dark storage unit in Central Jersey.

Well, this week's recipe is so easy that I could participate in TWD even with my mom's bare-bones baking supplies. My mom hasn't touched a cookie sheet in years, but she does have a glass pyrex 8x8 dish and we lucked into loads of fresh prune-plums last week, everything needed to make this Dimply Plum Cake, chosen by Michelle of Bake-En. The batter was a cinch to put together and tasted pretty good, as well. It's the perfect breakfast treat, punctuated with a hint of cardomom and orange zest. The crumb is moist, but also firm and it sets up quite nicely.

The only downside is that the cake rose up and over the plums, mostly covering them, but they're in there, I promise! I'd make this again, for sure. For the full recipe, please check it out, either in Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From My Home To Yours," or visit Michelle's site! Thanks!

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