#TWDBakers – Sweet Cream Biscuits

April 20, 2010

I adore biscuits.  They have so much versatility.  They can be a base for fresh strawberry shortcake in the middle of summer or the perfect companion to sausage gravy at breakfast.  But nothing compares to a warm biscuit with real butter and jelly.  My husband is not crazy for biscuits, but you give him a fresh biscuit with butter and honey, and he’s all over it.  After all these years, I had not made biscuits from scratch… until today.  They were either popped out of a can or the recipe on the side of the Bisquick box.  So I was excited to get started on this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge.  Melissa at Love at First Bite made this most excellent choice for the week, and you should check out her blog for the recipe.

The recipe called for White Lily flour, which I have never seen this far north, so I compromised with a combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour.  My biscuits didn’t turn out so great, and I’m thinking that maybe I need to look a little harder for it.  I’ve been looking at my cohorts’ blogs about the recipe, and I’m thinking it just takes practice to make a good biscuit and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

The only moisture for this recipe was sweet cream.  The dough came together very well, but I think I messed with it and flattened the dough too much.  They came out very crumbly and could’ve used a bit more flavor, maybe some salt.  I did add in some fresh rosemary, and that helped a bit, but  I was stilled bummed.  However, when you put some sweet butter and marionberry jelly on a warm biscuit, all becomes right with the world… if only for a minute or two.


Last day for Frost

April 16, 2010

The last day for frost here in the Pacific Northwest, a sunny day, and a free afternoon;  the stars aligned for some gardening work.  I have sketched and planned the garden’s layout.  I have spent evenings with books about companion gardening and building a kitchen garden.  I have weeded and pruned the majority of the garden beds.

It’s finally time to plant!

This year we are foregoing the Brussels sprouts to make some room for spinach, kale and baby bok choy.  I’m slowly putting the strawberries into containers, so that I’ve got room from peppers and maybe some eggplant.

Then I’m rotating everything except some herbs and the blueberries.  Oh, and a small asparagus bed is now in place.  I’m really trying to focus on the foods that we will eat and use all summer long.  This needs to be a *working* garden, of course, but I’m finding that it’s easy to build in some fun and pretty plants and flowers as well.  Quite frankly, to me all of it is pretty and I’m glad to be spending time outside again.

I’ll be blogging along with other gardeners/cooks at GoodLifeEats this year.  It will be fun to share the garden’s progress with new and longtime friends.  I think my husband just listens to be kind, and probably doesn’t understand why I get so excited to use the fresh rosemary with our roasted potatoes for dinner.

I’m still trying to find time, though, for the quilts in progress.  Oh, and my baking projects still are calling my name.  Wow, I really could stand to win the lottery so my days weren’t spent earning a living.


Spring Day

April 12, 2010

We had a perfect day yesterday.  The yard received some much-needed TLC.  I worked on the flower beds, raking up the winter debris and pruning the bushes, while Dan worked cleaning the driveway and the vehicles.  By the way, have I mentioned I love my iPod?  It makes all kinds of chores go that much faster.  I’m always astounded at how much debris this yard can generate.  I didn’t get the veggie starts planted as I had hoped, but my workweek may give me some more time in the garden.  It’s always a work in progress, I suppose.

Next?  A stir-fry recipe from Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, “Food Revolution.”  I have attempted stir-fry before, but usually I seem to over-cook the vegetables or something.  It never seems to be crisp and fresh.  Tonight was better.  You couple veggies and chicken with brown rice, and that gives you some wiggle room for a luxury:  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

I haven’t grown rhubarb in my garden yet, and am not sure I am going to.  However, when I saw it the other day in the store, next to fresh strawberries, I had to pull out my handy-dandy recipe for pie dough and get to work.  I just recently started making homemade pie.  I never thought I could make a decent pie crust.   Don’t get me wrong, I made pies with ready-made pie dough, but growing up, I always seemed to make the pie fillings and my sister did the crust.  So I was in unfamiliar territory.  In my quest to become a better baker, I found a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that my family is fond of, and now I usually have frozen pie crust waiting to be the foundation for some delicious tidbit.

This is my first attempt at strawberry rhubarb filling, however.  And though it was flavorful and the familiar taste that I love, it was runny.  Oh, well, just that much more filling to pour over the French Vanilla ice cream that I brought home from Baskins & Robbins.  We miss Swenson’s ice cream from California, but Baskin & Robbins is a good replacement.

As I sat eating my dessert, I could smell the rain beginning again and thought to myself, this day was perfect.  Not a vacation day at the beach, but perfect in its own way.


#TWDbakers – Mocha Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake

April 5, 2010

Okay, I’ll say it:  I hate coffee.  I absolutely love the smell of coffee, but cannot stand the taste of it.  I love tea, but if tea has been brewed in the same maker as coffee, blech!  Even sugar-laden mocha desserts don’t turn me on.

So I was not looking forward to this week’s Tuesday with Dorie challenge, Mocha Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake.  My husband loves Bundt cakes, though, so figured I’d give it a shot.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The instant espresso and coffee that go in the darker, chocolate batter was subtle enough for me that I enjoyed the dessert.  I love walnuts, so the ground walnuts in the lighter-colored batter was perfect.  I made a simple glaze with some cocoa powder, powdered sugar and milk to drizzle over the top of the warm cake, and that was all it needed.

I won’t be spending a boatload of money on coffee at Starbucks in the near future, but I might be willing to consider other mocha-flavored desserts in the future.  If you’d like the recipe and Erin’s thoughts on this dessert, check out her blog at When In Doubt…Leave it at 350.  Thank you, Erin, for helping me step outside my baking box and try something I probably wouldn’t have otherwise tried.


The ultimate chocolate chip cookie?

March 29, 2010

Most people like chocolate chip cookies.  Problem is, some like them chewy, some crispy.  With nuts, without nuts.  Mini chips, large chips, even chopped chunks of chocolate.  For the longest time I had a recipe that used shortening instead of butter, which I found made them chewy and soft, my favorite.  But I’ve never had anyone say they couldn’t live without my cookies, so I continue to search.

My baking cookbook by Dorie Greenspan has a recipe that I decided to try.  Butter, semisweet chocolate chips, walnuts, farm fresh eggs.  They turned out soft and chewy, and they were delicious right out of the oven.  They’re still great after cooling off, but I think next time I will freeze the cookie dough, so that I can bake a few at a time and enjoy them when the chocolate is still warm and gooey.  Perfect!  Even if no one can live without them but me.


TWD – Dulce de Leche Duos

March 23, 2010

Dulce de Leche, how did it take 48 years for me to discover this lovely treat?  The first time I made this decadent treat was to try a Paula Deen recipe, Banoffee Pie, which in our home is now affectionately referred to as “Crazy Banana Pie.”  When I saw the name of this week’s recipe, of course it was on my list of things to make.

I was in a time crunch, so actually used the canned version rather than doing it myself.  That made for a very simple morning of baking.

They are the right combination of crunchy and chewy, with that beautiful creamy middle.  Yum!  I was thinking of packing them up for a camping trip, but maybe they’ll find their way to a home full of teenagers.  Ah, the beauty of baking with nieces and nephews and friends around.  I get to taste and then find a home for the goodies.

Thank you, Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake, for this week’s selection.  It’s a keeper!


TWD – Chocolate Raspberry Tart

March 17, 2010

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so while I made my tart crust yesterday, I decided to finish my Tuesdays With Dorie challenge today.  I doubt that Soft Chocolate Raspberry Tart is an Irish tradition, but, hey, I’ve never met an Irish man or woman who didn’t like chocolate.

I’ve made Dorie’s Sweet Pastry Crust before,  and this baker wannabe is always pleasantly surprised at my positive outcome.  This time I decided to make a full recipe, but use mini tart pans.  I baked only half of them, saving some for another time, another experiment.

One of my favorite chocolates is Scharffen Berger, so those are the chocolates I used this time.  When I was making the ganache, I did use Agave Nectar instead of sugar.  I’m trying to learn to cook with this sweetener.  It is supposed to have a lower glycemic level than sugar, and isn’t an artificial sweetener.  I haven’t tried it yet in crusts or other recipes that might need the texture of sugar to make a difference, but I thought maybe sweetening the chocolate filling with the agave would work.  From what I can tell, the filling baked and set the way it should have.

Using the mini tarts required me to watch more closely the time in the oven, and they took about half the time that the recipe called for.

Next time I probably would not add the fruit and maybe make a caramel sauce, or top the tarts with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and chopped nuts.  Lucky me, I have some frozen tart crusts ready and waiting.

Thanks, Rachelle of Mommy? I’m Hungry!, for a great Tuesday with Dorie.


Barefoot Bloggers – Mini Meat Loaves

March 10, 2010

Yum, meatloaf!  I grew up with my mom’s meatloaf, which I have tweaked different times in my own home.  My son and husband even tell a funny story about a meatloaf where I didn’t chop the sundried tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, resulting in huge chunks of tough tomatoes in the loaf.  My son won’t go near sun-dried tomatoes to this day, and doesn’t let me forget about that experiment gone awry.

Ina’s recipe is simple, yet very tasty.  I did change the bread crumbs to oatmeal.  One, that’s the way my mom did it, but also being a diabetic, I’m teaching myself to find alternatives to breadcrumbs.  Everything else I kept the same.

I really liked the idea of the mini loaves.  There’s only two of us in our home nowadays, and this is a perfect way to bake once/cook thrice.  I rounded out our meal with some mashed potatoes (not on my low glycemic diet) and some sauteed spinach.   Thanks to Tonya of What’s on my Plate? for the great choice.


TWD – Thumbprints for Us Big Guys

March 8, 2010

This is a cookie that reminds me of Christmas.  I have a tendency to think of thumbprint cookies as more time-intensive, therefore worthy of the special time that the holidays bring. My baking challenges are helping me to readjust that mindset.  Not only were they easy to put together, why wait for the holidays for special treats, then try to cram them into a short period of a month or so?  No wonder people complain about gaining weight over the holidays.  I say spread that *holiday cheer* through the year.

I love marionberries!  Period, end of story.  So when this month’s challenge came up, I immediately knew that marionberry jam would be involved.  The recipe called for hazelnuts, also a favorite, but I decided just to use what was in the house this time around, which was walnuts.  I also contemplated pecans.  I bet they would be equally tasty.

I used my food processor to finely chop the walnuts, and then mixed the cookie dough.  It seemed crumbly when I started scooping out the cookies, and they do crumble a bit when you bite into them, so maybe I overmixed the dough a bit.  However, the taste was really great.

I’m inconsistent in my baking techniques.  So I used a scoop instead of eyeballing the size of each cookie.  I love these scoops.  I have three of them in different sizes.  Also in an effort to be consistent, I did re-press the cookies slightly when they came out of the oven.  I’m not sure I really needed to, but again, I love marionberries and wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for the jam.

These were delicious cookies, definitely a recipe I will add to my list of keepers.  I think next time I might freeze half of the dough balls, so that we don’t have a lot of them laying around the house.  Just take out a few, thaw them out, pop them in the oven, drizzle them with jam or chocolate, and, voila, Christmas any time of the year.


TWD – Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart – Part 2

March 4, 2010

I have only made custards a handful of times, mostly for ice cream, and I always have to strain them for lumps.  I thought at first I had totally messed up.  In what seemed to be an instant, the boiling custard went from liquid to lumps.  Bam!  So quickly.  I’ve overcooked custards before, but not this bad… or so I thought.  Then I added the butter as directed.  What amazed me was how the custard smoothed  out almost immediately.  Once the butter was incorporated, I did add a bit of heavy cream.  It seemed too thick.  Maybe I did overcook it a bit, but I’ve read some other TWD bloggers who experienced the same dilemma when cooking this custard.

I then blended in the toasted coconut, and let the tart set for a few hours.  The recipe works well, but since  I’m not a fan of shredded coconut, I’ll save the tart dough and custard portions of the recipe for another flavor another time.  My vote:  It’s a keeper.