Thursday, December 29, 2016

Spiced Honey Cake

Spiced Honey Cake is Dorie Greenspan's version of pain d'epices, a French spice cake traditionally made with rye flour.  Dorie's recipe uses lavender, peppercorns (Sichuan, white, or black), ginger, and orange peel for spicing, and all purpose flour instead of rye.

I left out the lavender and used black peppercorns, fresh ginger, orange peel and local honey.

The batter was difficult to mix, much stiffer than muffin batter.  If I make this again I will try using less flour.

The recipe suggests adding dried cherries.  I went with the raisins that I had on hand.

The cake bakes at a low heat, 300 degrees, for 75 to 85 minutes.  I wrapped the finished baking in plastic and left it for several days before cutting a slice.  The flavor is strongly orange.  I could not taste the pepper or ginger.  As other bakers commented the cake is dry, and would likely be good toasted.

The great thing about this recipe is the number of variations possible.  I can see trying it again with tea, different spices, a stronger flavored honey, or other dried fruit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Spice Cookies

Christmas Spice Cookies is a recipe from Dorie's Cookies that uses the Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough as a base.

We started by making half a recipe of the cookie dough.  There was not quite a cup of flour left in the bin, so we used white cake flour and all purpose whole wheat flour to make up the required two cups of flour.  We had ample supplies of the other ingredients:  butter, sugar, salt, egg whites, and vanilla extract.

The spice cookie recipe is written for 1/4 recipe of the cookie dough, so we doubled all the spices (cinnamon, ginger, clover, and allspice) to work with the half recipe we had made.

We rolled the dough between pieces of parchment paper as instructed, froze it for an hour, and then cut out the cookies with cookie cutters and baked them.

The baked cookies were darker than the cookbook photo due to our use of whole wheat flour, with a delicious buttery and mild spice flavor.  The next day we used pastry brushes to top the cookies with melted white chocolate chips.  White chocolate has such a mild taste, and it combined beautifully with the crisp, tasty cookies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Chocolate Truffles

It was a choice of chocolate truffles or spiced honey cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie.  I made the truffles, and am looking forward to baking the honey cake soon.

Never having made truffles before, I was surprised at how simple they are to make.  Melt some chocolate, bring cream to a boil and add to the chocolate, stir gently, add butter, stir some more, add light corn syrup - that's it.  This lovely chocolate mixture is chilled for a few hours, shaped into balls, rolled in cocoa, and you are done.

The only difficulty I had was with the butter.  I stirred the butter into the chocolate in four or five additions, as Dorie suggests in the recipe.  When I got to the final addition the butter just didn't seem to want to mix in.  It was like there wasn't room for any more butter.  I stirred for awhile and then put everything in the fridge.  Today when I went to roll the balls of chocolate there were some pale spots on top that I think were unmixed butter.  The whitish portions dispersed as I rolled the chocolate into balls and did not mar the final product.

Dorie's recipe includes a number of flavour variations.  I want to try the ones that add texture to these truffles - coconut, peppermint, and cookie crumb all sound good.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


I've eaten pfefferneusse in December, but never made them before.

It was fun to use all the spices (cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon, and mustard!) for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Dorie's Cookies.  The cookies are easy to put together and baked up exactly as the recipe says.

The flavour is really good, perfect for a cold, snowy day.

It was a couple of days before I had time to glaze the cookies and take a photo.   The pfefferneusse will be a lovely addition to my cookie plates this month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rice Pudding and Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

I noticed the recipe for rice pudding and spiced hibiscus syrup when I first got Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi over two years ago.  I saved tea bags to make the syrup, but missed making the recipe with the Tuesdays with Dorie group back in June.

Today's rewind was the perfect opportunity to finally make this dessert.  It's been awhile since I've made rice pudding, but the stirring of the rice with milk and sugar was familiar.

The spiced hibiscus syrup was unlike anything I've ever made.  In addition to the expected water, sugar and vanilla the recipe calls for peppercorns, cardamon pods, orange peel, and dried hibiscus flowers or hibiscus tea bags.  The unusual flavour of the syrup is a nice contrast to the milky, vanilla rice pudding.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Caramel Tart

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie posting is the Caramel Tart from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi.

The crust is made with the Sweet Tart Dough that we have used before in other Tuesdays with Dorie recipes.  I chose to pat it in my brand new tart pan rather than rolling it.  I'd like to get more comfortable with rolling dough, so maybe next time I will try that.

Not having made caramel before I was feeling hesitant about attempting the filling.  I followed the recipe directions as written, with the exception of substituting two whole eggs for the four egg yolks, and it worked out fine.  There was a little bit of solid caramel that I scooped out, leaving a golden brown liquid caramel.

The tart took a few minutes longer to bake than the recipe suggests, perhaps because I used whole eggs.

The flavour of the finished product is good, and would be enhanced with whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Peanut Butter Change-Ups

This week I tried out a second recipe from Dorie Greenspan's new book Dorie's Cookies.  Peanut Butter Change-Ups are a peanut butter cookie baked as a mound rather than squished down with a fork as is usual.

The dough is very easy to mix up.  The addition of nutmeg is unusual, but I couldn't taste it in the baked cookies.

I set the oven temperature slightly lower than what the recipe states, and watched the cookies closely.  Despite this caution the bottoms were too brown when I took the cookies out of the oven.  Peanut butter cookies have a lot of fat and I often have this over browning problem, even with using light coloured pans lined with parchment paper and baking in the top part of the oven.

I used my grater to take off the brown bottoms.  The cookies looked and tasted fine and no one was the wiser.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Apple Speculoos Crumble

An apple crumble is my baking creation for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie.  The recipe, from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi, is a straightforward apple crisp except for the topping, which uses crumbled cookies.

The recipe calls for Biscoff or other speculoos spice cookies.  I like eating Biscoff cookies when I fly, but didn't see them at the grocery store.  I used Anna's Ginger Thins instead, and they worked very well.

It was really fun to break up the cookies with my hands, and then mush them up with some butter.  This cookie butter mixture goes on top of chopped apples and everything is baked for 35-40 minutes.

So easy and so delicious.  I will be interested to try this with other fruit.  Banana sounds particularly intriguing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chocolate Creme Sandwiches

My first impression of Dorie Greenspan's newest cookbook, Dorie's Cookies, is that it looks like a textbook.  It is so square, heavy, and full of coloured photos - it reminds me of my university biology textbook.  I am so looking forward to reading and baking from this book.

For this first posting with the Tuesdays With Dorie online baking group we had a choice to make chocolate sandwich cookies or peanut butter cookies.  I made the chocolate sandwich cookies because I had all the ingredients:  butter, sugar, egg, flour, cocoa, vanilla, salt.

The recipe is clear and helpful in explaining how long to mix as you add ingredients, both for the cookies and the filling.

I have a small kitchen and rolling out dough always seems like such a big production.  With this recipe the dough is frozen for an hour after rolling, and then cut into rounds.  My round cookie cutter is plastic, and I had trouble cutting the frozen dough, but as it warmed the task got easier.

These are tasty cookies, and we will enjoy eating them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Custardy Apple Squares

Custardy Apple Squares is a quick and easy recipe.  Peel and slice three apples thinly.  Make a batter with flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Combine the batter and the apples in a square pan, bake, and 40 minutes later you have a lovely apple cake.

The recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi lists variations with pear, mango or quince and additions of rum or other liquor or almond extract.

The simple, unadorned flavor of this cake is what makes it outstanding.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping

One of the challenges of baking my way through Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi with the Tuesdays With Dorie online baking group is that each recipe is brand new to me, and I never know if it is going to turn out well or not.  The uncertainty lies more with my baking ability than with the recipes which are clear and well written.  In any case I don't usually plan to serve my creations at a dinner party.

I made an exception this week with the pear tart, which I served at Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.  It was a great success.

The recipe is straightforward.  Make a shortbread crust, prepare a filling of pears cooked in butter and sugar, and top with a mixture of egg whites, confectioners' sugar, and sliced almonds,  My only goof was forgetting to butter the pie pan before patting in the crust, which made the tart a bit hard to serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Edouard's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies, with a French twist.  That's what I baked this afternoon to participate in the Tuesdays with Dorie online baking group.

The recipe is similar to the basic North American chocolate chip cookie recipe, but with more flour and the addition of hazelnut or almond flour.

"Chewy and rich" was the comment from the first taster.  The cookies are quite substantial and if I was going hiking this week I would bring them along.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Esquimaux Pops for Grown-Ups

This week I made Esquimaux Pops for Grown-Ups for the Tuesdays With Dorie online baking group.

I made several substitutions because I wasn't comfortable using raw eggs and I wanted the dessert to be alcohol free.

If you are a vegan or read vegan food blogs you will have heard of aquafaba ("bean water").  This is the liquid from canned beans.  It sounds disgusting, but amazingly it whips up just like egg whites.  I've been wanting to experiment with aquafaba and this was a good opportunity.  I used the leftover liquid from an unsalted, BPA free can of navy beans.

Here's how it looked after whipping:

It did not taste like beans, in fact it was pretty tasteless.

Because I wasn't using liqueur I wanted to add another flavour, so I put in a frozen banana.  Frozen bananas whipped up in a food processor make good banana soft serve ice cream, so I thought this would work well.  Unfortunately the cold banana made the melted chocolate mixture harden up, so I heated the mixture gently in the microwave and carried on.

Thinking that the banana was sweet I didn't add the confectioners' sugar called for in the recipe.  This was a mistake, as the final result could have been sweeter and more flavourful.  My taster suggested that almond extract would have made a nice addition.

After reading about other people's difficulties in getting the pops out of the molds I just froze the mousse in a single container.  I leave it out to soften before serving and that works well.  It was fun to play around with this recipe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart

It was truly a pleasure to get in the kitchen and prepare the tart for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie online baking project.

Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart, from the Tarts and Galettes section of Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi, is an unbaked cheesecake with two special ingredients.  I confess I didn't use one of the ingredients, fresh rosemary.  Corn, the other unusual ingredient, was right there in my freezer, so in it went, adding a crunchy texture to the topping.

All who tasted this creation enjoyed it.  Blueberries, lemon, whipped cream, and cream cheese - delicious!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cornmeal and Berry Cakes

It was fun to get back to baking again with Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Cornmeal and Berry Cakes, from Baking Chez Moi.

This is an easy quick bread recipe that uses cornmeal, lemon, and fresh raspberries.  Our raspberry bushes are not doing well this year, but I was able to pick enough ripe berries for this project.

The recipe is written for four mini loaf pans.  I made three loaves in slightly bigger pans.

I really like cornmeal in baked goods, and the other tasters also enjoyed the flavor and texture.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Betty's Chocoholic Cake and Tarte Tropezienne

The Tuesdays with Dorie online baking group made two cakes from the Fancy Cakes section of Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi this month.

Betty's Chocoholic Cake is dense and very chocolatey.  I went to the chocolatier and got a big bar, but when I got home I realized I needed even more chocolate.

I baked some of the batter in a square pan and then brought two layer cut up squares to a concert reception.  The rest of the batter went into round pans and was assembled in three layers as in the recipe.

It was good with whipped cream and strawberries.

Tarte Tropezienne is made with yeast.  I've made bread before, but nothing like this.  It took all day.  I didn't have pearl sugar for the topping, so I substituted almonds.  The cake looked lovely when it came out of the oven.

Alas many of the almonds fell off when I cut the cake to fill it.  It is chilling in the fridge now and we look forward to tasting it!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cocoa Crunch Meringue Sandwiches

Dorie Greenspan's Cocoa Crunch Meringue Sandwiches are made with chopped toasted almonds or walnuts, and no flour.  The ingredient list is short, the steps involved are straightforward, and I felt confident heading into this baking project.

My first question arose around beating the egg whites until they start to turn opaque.  I wondered what that looked like exactly, and made my best guess.  After adding the sugar the whites whipped up to nice stiff, shiny peaks.  Next I folded in a sifted mixture of confectioner's sugar and cocoa, and then the almonds.  I did all this folding as gently as possible.

I piped the batter onto the parchment paper, using the 2 inch pencil drawn circles as a guide.  In the end I had enough batter for 14 meringues, with 2 of them quite small, not the expected yield of 16.  I wonder were the egg whites not at room temperature when I started or was I too vigorous when I folded in the sugar, cocoa and nuts?

Feeling ready to get out of the kitchen I didn't make the filling as directed but simply melted some chocolate chips, which worked well to keep the meringues sandwiched together.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Odile's Fresh Orange Cake and Matcha Financiers

Odile's Fresh Orange Cake and Matcha Financiers are the two recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi that the Tuesdays With Dorie online baking group is making this month.

I made the orange cake twice.  The first time I baked it into cupcakes and contributed them as refreshments at a gathering, never taking the opportunity to photograph or taste the cakes.  So I made it again which was easy to do as the ingredients are all basic things that I always have.

The cake comes together quickly and has a lovely taste.  The texture is a bit off due I think to the altitude at which I live.  Had I reduced the sugar the top of the cake might have been smoother.  We had no problem eating this up.

Finding matcha for the Matcha Financiers took a bit of effort.  I have lots of green tea that I rarely drink, so first I wondered if I could pulverize it as a substitute for matcha.  Some internet research revealed this was not a good idea.  I checked two tea shops, where small pouches of matcha were on sale for $30 and $35.  Further research led me to a Korean grocery store, where there was lots of tea but nothing labelled matcha in English.  After studying the labels I decided that the package labelled "super premium Japanese green tea powder" might be matcha and I took the leap and bought it for $10.

At home I looked up the Japanese characters for matcha and found that I had indeed purchased matcha.

As with the orange cake the batter came together quickly.  I was left with 6 egg yolks which I used to make a delicious chocolate pudding.  I baked some of the financiers in mini muffin tins and some in my madeleine pan.  My oven bakes hotter than I realized, and the cakes browned up a bit too much before I could pull them out.  Never having baked with matcha before I used only one teaspoon, and can't really taste it at all.  The flavor is mild, the almond meal is what I notice the most.  I look forward to making these again with 1 1/2 teaspoons matcha.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta and Soft-Centered Chocolate Teacup Cakes

Both of the Tuesdays with Dorie February selections from Baking Chez Moi feature chocolate.

I prepared the Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta for Valentine's Day.  I like to make panna cotta because it is easy, yet so elegant.

The recipe really did end up tasting like a cold hot chocolate.  My chocolate was a little granular.  I may have over heated or under melted the bittersweet chocolate, or perhaps I should have sifted the cocoa.  The liquid is strained twice before is is poured into the serving dishes.  I used my finest strainer and still the chocolate was not smooth.  The taste was good nonetheless.

I baked the second recipe, the Soft-Centered Chocolate Teacup Cakes, yesterday.  These were extremely easy to put together: melt butter and chocolate, beat eggs with icing sugar, add flour to the egg mixture, and then add the melted chocolate mixture.  I wasn't sure how my teacups would fare in the oven so I baked the cakes in Pyrex custard cups.  These cakes are really delicious.  I will definitely make them again.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Carrot-Orange Cake and Lemon Squares, French Style

The Tuesdays With Dorie online baking group made Fluted Carrot-Tangerine Cake and Lemon Squares, French Style this month.

The cake is in the Simple Cakes section of Baking Chez Moi and it comes together very easily.  I used an orange instead of a tangerine, as well as the medium carrot and grated fresh ginger called for in the recipe.

I baked the cake in a 9" round cake pan and served it dusted with confectioner's sugar.  I found it very sweet, with a flavor oddly reminiscent of Fruit Loops.  I'd like to try making this again with less sugar and a bit more ginger.

In recent years I have come to love lemon and was excited to make the Lemon Squares, French Style.  The recipe didn't work out very well for me, unfortunately.

Usually I make lemon curd to use up egg yolks after making an angel food cake or meringues.  Dorie's curd recipe uses 4 whole eggs (yolks and whites) as well as 9 ounces of butter.  I made the curd with no problem and set it aside in the fridge.

The crust uses another 9 ounces of butter.  I was a bit concerned about all this butter.  I followed the recipe and pulled the crust out of the oven when it was a pale golden color.

The next day I stirred the curd, spread it over the crust, and topped it with the reserved crust, in small pieces, and the slivered almonds.  I baked it 45 minutes and it looked beautiful.

Alas, when I started to cut the squares some hours later I found the crust was over baked, hard and greasy, while the filling in the center part of the pan was very soft.  I had planned to take the squares to a dessert potluck and was very disappointed with the results.  I don't know what went wrong.