No, We’re Not Dieting Here

Although it may not look like it, we have been eating here in this household. Mostly there have been things like sausage sandwiches, homemade pizza, and other quick but good meals. One such meal was our specifically designated MWV meal, which included the Corn Bread from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Cookbook. The BBA Challenge was begun by Nicole of Pinch My Salt and has been a source of great joy and rejoicing, as well as increasing waistlines, in this household. I’ll leave you with a photo of the bread and this short note.

This is the first recipe we’ve been disappointed with in this stellar cookbook. First let me admit I left out the corn and bacon, the corn because we were already having a corn dish with the meal. Other than leaving out these optional ingredients, the recipe was followed. We found it to be more cakey than cornbread and quite sweet, perhaps better suited to a breakfast corn muffin.

The other half of the meal isn’t quite ready for recipe publishing yet. I’m still tweeking the amounts of a few things. Still, it is excellent, lightly cheesy and flavorful. Corn Florentine:

To come over the next few posts: an amazing Carrot Cake, Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce, and hopefully the recipe to go with the above photo!

And if you’d like some bread to go with any of your meals this coming week, you might try checking out the BYOB Roundups at the blog At the Baker’s Bench. Sandy gathers up all the bread (often including quick breads and other baked goods) of those participating and lists them all in one handy place. Yum!

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BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine

Yesterday I shared a review, as well as a recipe, from a wonderful cookbook. I hope that whetted your appetite, because I wanted to share a bit about the wonderful organization that provided the opportunity for that review: BloggerAid.

BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine, a group of food bloggers determined to help relieve world hunger, is currently involved in a project called the BloggerAid Cookbook. With recipes from devoted and experienced foodies and cooks, the book, which will soon be ready for purchase, promises not only great recipes, but also a way to further the goal of feeding our planet’s hungry. 100% of the proceeds from the cookbook will benefit the United Nation WFP’s School Meals Programme.

To find out more about the UN’s School Meals Programme visit:

WFP’s School Meals

BloggerAid is also running an initiative to help raise $500 from The Cookbook People. For each BACFF member who blogs about their site, they are donating $20. The Cookbook People ( is a company which has created a software solely for the purpose of helping families collect their favorite recipes all in one place. You really should check them out! My mom recently did something similar for myself, my sister and my brother. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have all of the recipes from my grandmother(s), relatives, friends, and her all in one place

To join BloggerAid or just learn more about them, go to their website:


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A Cookbook Worthy of a Place on Your Overflowing Shelf

I’m always interested in new cookbooks. But I’ll be honest; I’m looking for something more in a cookbook these days. That word, more, can refer to a number of things actually —these things are always very subjective, yes? What I can tell you is that one of the things which fits my more list is what Michael Ruhlman suggests makes the difference between a recipe book and a cookbook: the ability of the reader to learn, as well as follow a recipe. So when BloggerAid offered the chance to review the book, The Craft of Baking, subtitled Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own and published by Clarkson Potter, I was very excited. Of course, there’s the gorgeous cover, which doesn’t hurt in the least, either!

The Craft of Baking is written by Karen DeMasco and co-authored Mindy Fox, both respected names in the baking industry. Ms. DeMasco, James Beard Award winner and former pastry chef for Craft —yes, that Craft!—, brings her considerable knowledge to the book and makes it accessible to home bakers. She begins with a short and personal introduction, then takes a few pages to talk about ingredients, naming each and offering hints for good products, choosing less expensive options and their properties. The book also has a section that talks concisely about various techniques, useful for many bakers. 

Small sections throughout the book, such as Building Your Craft and Varying Your Craft, offer advice on adjusting ingredients and flavorings to make recipes your own. For instance, in the scone section, DeMasco offers, “Use the Chocolate Chip Scone recipe… as your base. By maintaining the proportion of the dry ingredients (…) to liquid (…) and fats(…) you can let your imagination and palate guide you in creating your own flavors.” She then proceeds to talk about varying amounts of sugar, salt, and liquids to create a new product. These sections, combined with the beautiful abundance of photos, are inspiring!

We tried several of the many recipes in the book, including the Ultimate Chocolate Brownies (nice mix of cakey and fudgy and flecked with chocolate chips), Coffee Cake Muffins with Pecan Streusel (enjoyed by not only us, but my husband’s work buddies, too), and the Pine Nut Tart with Rosemary Cream. A grownup version of Pecan Pie, the Pine Nut Tart is delicious and nutty when served alone. But the Rosemary Cream complements the pine nuts and makes the dessert really shine! So here it is, the recipe for an elegant ending to a meal:

Pine Nut Tart with Rosemary Cream
adapted from The Craft of Baking
Makes one 9-1/2 inch tart

Filling and Cream Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups Pine Nuts
Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, for rolling
1/2 recipe Almond Sablé Dough (below)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed Dark Brown Sugar
1 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
3 large Eggs
1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
2 sprigs Rosemary
2 teaspoons Confectioners’ Sugar

Almond Sablé Dough ingredients:
2 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup Almond Flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) chilled Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Confectioners’ Sugar
1 large Egg
1 large Egg Yolk

Preheat the oven to 350F

To make the tart shell, whisk together the flours and salt. To another bowl, or bowl of stand mixer, add butter and confectioners’ sugar. Mix until well combined, about 4 minutes. To butter add egg, then yolk, incorporating the egg well before adding the yolk. Add half the flour mixture and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the second half of the flour.

Divide the dough in two, shaping each into a flattened disk of 11 inches. Wrap one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. You can also freeze this for up to a month. Place the second round of Almond Sablé Dough into a 9 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim the excess dough, prick the bottom all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.

Line the dough with parchment or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden. Remove lining and pie weights and bake for another 5 minutes until dry. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

As the shell cools, spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Let them cool on a wire rack. Leave oven on!

In a small saucepan, melt butter until golden brown and nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla. To mixture, add eggs and combine. Add brown butter, stirring well, then fold in pine nuts just until combined. Pour the filling into the tart shell and place on baking sheet to catch any that may bubble over during baking.

Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through to ensure evenness, for about 45 minutes. If the crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil. The tart should be first about the outside edge, but still a bit loose in the center.

To make the rosemary cream, bring 3/4 cup of cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the rosemary sprigs. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and cool in a bowl over an ice bath for about 5 minutes. Combine rosemary cream with remainder of cream and confectioners’ sugar and whisk until the cream forms soft peaks.

Serve the tart by removing the outer ring of the pan and garnishing with cream.

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I Love it When the Gnomes Bring Me Breakfast

Ok, we don’t really have gnomes who bring me breakfast. However one of my very favorite things is when breakfast is already prepared and waiting for me. I wouldn’t complain if someone else got up early and made it either, of course. But I love making it myself and having it already ready already. So it was with great joy I began the recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread. Notice that the walnuts have magically disappeared from the recipe, too. How great! I’m not a huge fan of those nuts, finding them bitter most of the time.

Thanks to Nicole of Pinch My Salt, I’m heavily embroiled in this challenge of making each bread from Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Each recipe is good enough that I’m mightily restraining myself from buying his newest book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, quite yet.

The dough itself mixed up beautifully.

To make this bread I actually had to go out and buy some raisins, because while we do keep several types of dried fruits in the house, raisins are not one of them.

It rose alongside a loaf of multigrain sandwich bread.

After its second rise, the loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Bread was done.

Just like that, there was breakfast brought by the gnomes. Well, by me, but it was ready and waiting when I woke the next morning. And isn’t that magic?

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Not Your Mom’s Pumpkin Soup

You know it’s pumpkin season when the TV special for the evening is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”. Well, there’s that and the playoffs. Two big tip-offs; even I would have to be living under a rock to miss those.

So it’s pumpkin season, and I’ll admit it. When it comes to squash, my favorite way to eat it is usually in a baked good. Oh, I do like acorn squash roasted with butter, but pies, muffins and the the ubiquitous tea cakes are really my favorites. That means that for a main dish I want different ingredients than the usual pumpkin companions, leaving me continuously on the lookout for another interesting way to cook those winter squash. The following recipe uses pumpkin, however I’m betting it would be equally good with butternut, acorn or some other lesser known squash such as buttercup.

This bisque has no apples. It has no cinnamon, no pumpkin pie or apple pie spice mixes. No nuts here, and barely any sugar. What it does have are some incredible flavors in the form of caramelized onions, marsala and bacon. Other than the bacon, there’s little fat in the soup, because it calls for milk rather than cream.

I’ve also made it easy on myself by using canned pumpkin. Feel free to substitute your own roasted pumpkin if you just happen to have one lying about.

Pumpkin Bisque with Marsala and Bacon (Printer-friendly recipe)

4 pieces Bacon
1/2 Onion, diced
3/4 cup dry Marsala
1 15-ounce can Pumpkin Puree
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
1-2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 1 1/2 cups Milk

Note: With the understanding that the bisque will be sweeter, a sweet marsala may be substituted for the dry. If this substitution is made, omit the sugar and use only 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

Fry bacon in pan until crisp. Remove to drain, reserving bacon drippings in pan. To drippings, add onion and cook until caramelized.
Deglaze pan with marsala, then add pumpkin, chicken broth, sugar, spices and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Puree pumpkin mixture using immersion blender or in batches using standard blender.
Return soup to heat and add milk to achieve desired consistency. Heat through and serve topped with crumbled bacon and a dollop crème fraîche.

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Excitement in the Kitchen (Daring Bakers October Challenge)

This month’s baking has brought a flurry of excitement to the kitchen, at least half of which is from this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge. This is my first month with the Daring Bakers, and while I was a bit nervous, the idea of a baking challenge was what ultimately made me plunge into the proverbial water. Imagine my delight when my first challenge was to make something that I’ve been interested in, but have been keeping on the back burner: the macaron.

Suffice it to say that given the reputation of the Daring Kitchen, I expected nothing less than a real test and learning experience. And that’s what I got!

I chose to flavor the macaron with a combination of loose ground Russian Country tea which is very smoky, both in leaf form and in brew, and orange peel.

My first try yielded a batter that I had great hopes for. I didn’t feel I’d overmixed it, but as most of us know, sometimes things in the kitchen can be tricky.

Piping the rounds out onto the cookie sheet was messy work, made messier by the years between now and the last time I actually used a piping bag and tip! When the cookies were fairly round in shape, I called it good and sent them into the oven.

While I’d love to declare the first batch a resounding success, something wasn’t quite right. They weren’t nearly as tall as they ought to be and the macarons had no feet!

Still, after being filled with a pumpkin buttercream, they were absolutely delicious, if not exactly the correct texture.

Time for another batch!

What I didn’t realize when I joined the Daring Bakers, is that there would be a great resource of help available for all my learning needs. The Daring Kitchen site is a fantastic resource for those completing the challenges. There I learned that the most likely culprit for the problem I was having was that I just wasn’t beating those egg whites long enough. This time I beat the heck out of those things. I whipped them with my KitchenAid mixer until the whites started to draw away from the sides of the bowl and cling to the whisk.

That did the trick! The second batch wasn’t perfect in shape, and perhaps the next time I try them, they’ll be higher still. But I’m really happy with the texture and yes, feet, on the second batch. And wow, did we zoom right through eating those things. They were amazing both in flavor and texture: lightly sweet pumpkin filling in a crispy, airy and slightly chewy cookie.

Second batch (again Smoky tea and Orange Macarons with Pumpkin Italian Buttercream)

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

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The Recipe for your Fall Cookie Cutters

Yesterday’s baking project was loads of fun. The recipe, scored from the blog, Cupcake Project, is called Pumpkin Graham Crackers. The name doesn’t just refer to the cute pumpkin shape; there’s a bit of pumpkin in the batter, as well. What could be better?

Just a few notes on this one. I didn’t have graham flour in the house, although how this feat was managed, I’m not sure I could tell you. Currently I have 2 types of wheat flour, white flour, whole spelt, multigrain, grain, rice and buckwheat flours. No graham flour means I went with the wheat. I also used 100% honey, buckwheat honey to be exact. I was hoping the flavor would boost the earthiness of the cookies, which it did.

The dough came together nicely. Not too wet or too dry. It rolled out really well also, and my daughter and I began cutting. We used mini cookie cutters, so we cut and cut and cut. Then we cut some more.

Although it took quite a while, we eventually cut out all the shapes. Cute little fall leaves, apples and pumpkins. These have just a hint of pumpkin, and they are so good! After baking we ate at least a quarter of the batch.

No lie! I brought my daughter about 8 of these cute things, and not 2 minutes later she looked at me quizzically. “Where’d all the cookies go?”, she wanted to know. As if I’d taken hers! I was too busy eating my own, thank you.

As you can tell the size we made is perfect for snacking. The only problem we had was absolutely our own fault. We rolled the dough a bit too thick, so they never got properly snappy. Still they’re excellent. Wonder how they’d be with a bit of icing?

Run on over the Cupcake Project for the Pumpkin Graham Crackers recipe. Make sure to look around at the cupcakes, too. I haven’t tried any yet, but they look excellent. And the reviews are good, too!

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