Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I'm a bit apprehensive as I type this and soon you'll understand why. When my mother came home yesterday she brought along a small bag of peaches from her best friend's backyard. She told me that she would be out of town for the next two days and knowing that most of my clandestine baking happens while she's gone, she commissioned me to make a peach cobbler. Nothing fancy, no individual ramekins: just one simple cobbler.
Well I guess I don't take directions well unless they're part of a recipe that promises something delicious at the end. I convinced myself that if I made an alternative to cobbler that was simple, yet delicious enough to win over my mother, I would be in the clear. So I began my search for the perfect simple peach recipe. I found my answer in Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum (Well, Anything) Cake. I've always been an obedient daughter, but I suppose baking must bring out my inner rebel, because I had the audacity to make miniature cakes as well.
The cake smelled delicious sitting in the oven and I was so sure of my success. The first downhill turn was when I pulled the cakes out (the 6" cake and the 3" mini cakes) at 20 minutes and found them a little too dark along the edges. I tried to stay hopeful as I proceeded with picture taking and when I finally shut off my camera, I grabbed a slice and took a bite straight off the prop fork. Dry. Well, at least, not moist enough for my liking. Nothing too spectacular in terms of taste, but I'll also admit that the peaches from her friend didn't taste so good on their own to begin with.
Even still, I was disappointed and consequently worried about how my mother will receive the not-so-cobblery cakes when she returns. Whenever I run into a recipe I don't favor, especially from a source as reliable as Dorie Greenspan, my first assumption is that the fault is my own. Can someone please let me know if the cake is meant to be slightly dry? Am I missing out on something?
I'll be sure to give it a try again tomorrow morning and hope for the best, but my expectations aren't high.
You can find the recipe here.
* Just as I went to retrieve the link for the recipe, I skimmed through the recipe commentary over at Bake-En and am instilled with new hope. "Dorie says that the first day the cake is like corn bread and the 2nd and 3rd days it's soft and moist. Perhaps I'll fall in love with it tomorrow." This is somewhat reassuring and now I am a little more excited for what breakfast might reveal. Perhaps it's the juices of the fruit permeating through the cake that makes it more moist over time...but for now that's just speculation. I'll find out for sure tomorrow. I knew Dorie wouldn't let me down so hard...
Meanwhile below is a Before & After project I took on, my first really. I saw this worn-out, shabby chic end table outside of a neighbor's house as I drove to work one morning. When it was still there on my way home from work the next day, I quickly pulled over and timidly went to go knock on the door and inquire about it. Fortunately for me, the homeowner walked right out to retrieve her child's toys outside and when I asked her about it, she gladly let me have it for free. I giddily placed it in my trunk and drove the half a block to my house where I immediately got started. After smoothing it down with a power sander, I vacuumed it and wiped it down. Then the next day I spray painted it bright white. Dozens of adorable color combinations flooded my mind, but for my first project I decided to keep it simple and clean...and easy to coordinate. It took me years of admiring Before & After projects for me to finally tackle one myself. Now I won't hesitate to pull over when I see a promising find. You can click here and here to see the "before" photos.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Remember how I confessed to just not being a "cookie lover"? Well, there must exist some technicality that prevents rugelach from being classified as a cookie, because as of today...I love rugelach. More realistically, I could love rugelach. I made an almost classic variation with raspberry jam, walnuts, and semisweet chocolate chips. The recipe is great, but I had mixed feelings about the batch I made. For one, I'm not a big fan of chocolate. I know...a food blogger that isn't fond of chocolate or cookies, some might consider it an oxymoron. If and when I make these again, I'll probably cut down on the chocolate and definitely make the trip to go buy some currants or dried fruit, because although the cookie itself was flaky and tender, the texture of the filling left much to be desired. I'm also sure that the fruity flavor of the currants would lighten up the richness of the chocolate. So I suppose what I'm saying is that I'm not in love with these cookies as much as I am in love with the idea of what they could be.
Please don't let my rambling stop you from trying these cookies. The fact that they're Dorie's should be enough motivation to get you in the kitchen. And besides, the majority of my reservations are based solely on my inability to stick to the recipe in the first place...as soon as I add those currants, I might as well delete this whole rant and simply post five gold stars underneath picture.
Enough, enough. Run away before I start up again, you can find the recipe here.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
One of my favorite cookies there is the simple Lemon Pout. A soft, chewy sugar cookie with an undeniable lemon zing, perfectly offset by the crunch of sparkling sugar. I finally convinced myself into buying a microplane zester just so I could make these cookies. The recipe I found yields the most perfectly soft and chewy cookies. But beware: "store them in an airtight container to keep them nice and soft" is not a suggestion, it is a must. I left a few of the best looking cookies on a paper plate and covered them in plastic wrap so I could save them for picture taking later and within a few hours they lost their delicate texture. Nothing a quick zap in the microwave won't fix, but not ideal nonetheless.
Another note, I didn't have any lemon extract on hand (but after this incident, I will soon), so I took a cue from here and substituted four tablespoons of lemon juice. The result? Sadly not at all lemony. More like sugar cookies with a subtle hint of zest. Good, but just not tempting enough to cram down my mouth. I will, for certain, try this recipe again as soon as I get my hands on some lemon extract. Until then, for all you lemon lovers...don't settle for a substitute!
On a lighter, purely aesthetic note: next time I would definitely opt for rolling these cookies in sparkling sugar. Again, I only had granulated on hand, which lent nothing to the texture. Well, there was turbinado in the pantry, but I didn't want to risk discoloring the cookies with caramel-colored flecks. Just another reason to try it again, I'm missing out on that delicate crunch!
Lemon Sugar Cookies (adapted from Crepes of Wrath)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup granulated or raw sugar for rolling cookies (I used raw sugar, which I think was an awesome choice)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or tin foil and spray lightly with Pam.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Rub together the zest and granulated sugar until the sugar is a pale yellow color. This helps to infuse all of the oils in the zest into the sugar and gives your cookies an even more lemony flavor. Using a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and very fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
Beat in egg, vanilla extract, and lemon extract.
Gradually blend in the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.
Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls, and roll in sugar. Place on lined cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly golden and set.
Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks. As soon as the cookies have cooled, store them in an airtight container to keep them nice and soft. Makes around 20 cookies.