Monday, November 19, 2012



The brownie is as American as apple pie.  According to unscientific research, Wikipedia, the brownie was developed by a chef at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel at the end of the 19th century after Bertha Palmer requested a dessert for ladies attending the Chicago Worlds  Fair. Palmer wanted a dessert  smaller than a piece of cake, though still retaining cake-like characteristics and easily eaten from boxed lunches.  Thus this classic American confection was  created. This weeks recipe for the TWD baking group is called “Best Ever Brownies.”  Now, “Best Ever” is a pretty big claim.   While on the one hand, I’m wary of absolutes; on the other hand, however, a recipe in a big fat cookbook containing over 400 recipes needs a sexy title to  grab a baker’s attention. After all, I doubt many bakers would dirty up their kitchens for a recipe titled “Mediocre Brownies,” “Plain Old Brownies,” or worse yet  “Ho Hum Brownies.”  

This recipe is fairly simple.   It calls for a half pound of butter and both unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate. (What’s not to love about that.)  While some bakers in the group found the the suggested baking time, 28 mins, insufficient, I didn’t have a problem.  My brownies baked up nicely in the suggested time. The recipe produces a dense brownie with a fudgey center and a crackly outer crust.  It is sweet and buttery but not overly sweet. Given the amount of fat the recipe calls for, 2 sticks of butter, 4 eggs, for a 9x9 pan of brownies, these are pretty rich.  Is it the "Best Ever Brownie?"  I’d say these brownies are pretty darn good,but you can judge for yourself.  Go to Tuesdays With Dorie for the recipe or better yet buy the book Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Eye of the Tsetse Fly

This weeks TWD recipe is Whole Wheat Loaves.  The recipe makes two lovely flavorful loaves of whole wheat bread with a slightly crisp crust and a delicate crumb.  The bread is perfect for toasting and slices nicely for sandwiches.  The recipe is quite easy to follow, however, tracking down one of the ingredients, barley malt extract, is akin to going on a quest for the eye of a tsetse fly.  Barley malt extract enhances wheat flavor, adds sweetness and, quite frankly, it’s seeming elusiveness presented a procurement challenge to this tenacious consumer.   After trips to two natural food stores and several trips to Whole Foods, I finally found it.  

Granted, I could have substuted molasses, maple syrup or honey but why settle for practically when you can lengthen your “to do list” and complicate an already stressful life.  Hard to find ingredient aside, I give this recipe two enthusiastic thumbs up!   Go to Tuesdays With Julia/ Baking With Julia or better yet buy the book Baking With Julia for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stone Fruit

Nectarine Chiffon Upside Down Cake is a perfect recipe to segue from summer baking to autumn baking.  Here in the Northeast, nectarines are still available, but just like summer, sadly, the summer stone fruit season is nearing an end.  So, what better way to bid farewell to summer with a dessert featuring the last, sun kissed, local crop of nectarines accompanied by a crunchy cinnamon, almond, oatmeal strudel, reminiscent, like sweaters and turtle necks, of autumn.  This recipe successfully marries a buttery layer of summer fruit, a strudel layer full of fall flavors on top of a delicate chiffon cake.  Although the recipe calls for nectarines, fall fruits such as apples, prune plums, pears, cranberries or a combination of the above would be delicious as well. Testers in my household, including a four year old, gave this recipe an enthuastic thumbs up. 

One problem I had with this recipe, however, was the cooking time.  I baked this sucker 20 minutes over the longest suggested cooking time and it still came out a tad soft in the middle and deflated in the center.  One of the bakers in the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, where you can find the recipe, cut the recipe in half and baked it in an 8-inch pan.  According to that baker, it baked perfectly. I plan to try that method the next time I bake this cake, since this recipe, makes a rather large buttery cake and served with ice cream, as suggested in the recipe, is rather rich (not that I’m complaining).  Visit Tuesdays With Dorie/Baking With Julia for the recipe.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This weeks TWD recipe, Berry Galette, gets a PG 13 rating.  With a tablespoon of sugar to a cup and a half of berries, this recipe showcases the natural sweetness of the fruit.  And while I have given it a PG13 rating, for its natural sweetness, which might cater to more sophisticated folks, you could safely serve it, with good results, to children under the age of 13.  For example, one four-year-old taster in my household, natural sweetness and all, labeled it “double yum.”

As for the crust, it has cornmeal in it; it’s genius!  The cornmeal gives the crust a nice crunch.  And while I won’t discard my favorite piecrust recipe, I certainly will use this one again for a galette.          

This recipe makes me want to invite friends over for dinner.  It’s rustic, sophisticated and showoffy all at the same time.  For the recipe go to Tuesdays With Dorie or better yet buy the book Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.      

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gold Medal Blueberry Nectarine Pie

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie  Blueberry Nectarine Pie recipe is an all around gold medal winner.  It scores a perfect ten on crust for buttery taste and flaky texture. It gets a ten on filling; the blueberries, lemon and nectarines pair together nicely.  The Presentation is a bit lacking.  What it lacks in presentation, however, it more than makes up for in taste.  Go to Tuesdays With Dorie for the recipe.  This recipe is a keeper.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I've Got Air Conditioning and I'm Not Afraid to Use it

This summer is one of the hottest summers on record.  The temperature in “my neck of the woods” today is a whopping ninety-five degrees.  If you add in the heat index, according to my local meteorologist, the temperature feels like it is in the one hundred degree range, and to prove his point, with the cameras still rolling, he fried an egg on the sidewalk. The blistering heat, however, did not deter the Tuesdays With Dorie/Baking With Julia bakers from firing up their ovens to make this week’s recipe, Semolina Bread.  So in the spirit of camaraderie, I lined up my ingredients on the counter, pulled out the food processor, set the thermostat to “meat locker” mode and soldiered on.     

The recipe is pretty straightforward. It calls for three risings, which take roughly six hours.  Given the scorching heat, I welcomed six hours in an air-conditioned house. 

Several of the bakers in the group found the bread rather salty.  Since I had a heads up on the salt, I cut it by ½ teaspoon. The bread is tasty, a perfect foil to sop up a yummy dressing or a savory sauce.  Go to Tuesdays with Dorie for the recipe or better yet buy the book, Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


If you want to know the secret to why French Women Don’t Get Fat the answer is “Genoise.”  Genoise is similar to a sponge cake and this weeks building block for “French Strawberry Cake,” today’s recipe for the Tuesdays With Dorie /Baking With Julia baking group.  Dorie describes genoise as a basic French cake used for a variety of French desserts such as petites fours.   She cautions American bakers that the cake is dryer than American cakes, therefore, may not be to their liking. As far as this American baker goes, Dorie is dead on, since, I believe most Americans aren’t lined up outside bakeries longing to gobble up the pettis fours.

Like many Americans, sadly, I am prone to excess. I like my desserts decadent; I like butter and am not afraid to use it. The recipe for Genoise, however, calls for a scant two tablespoons of butter, the equivalent used on the average American’s morning toast. In all fairness, I will say that the genoise is slathered with whipped cream (the other fat) and lightly sweetened strawberries between the layers.  More whipped cream is applied to the sides of the cake and the top, but I still found it dry. Perhaps readers, due to my American palette I lack the sophistication to truly appreciate a good dry wine or a dry cake.  The good news, however, is that given Dori’s description of the cake, how it tends to be dry, I’d say mine came close to perfection.

As for the layers:  The recipe calls for splitting an eight-inch round cake with a height of one and three fourth inches into three separate layers.  I believe it would take a skilled surgeon with a scalpel to get three layers out of this cake.  I didn’t attempt it; I settled for two layers.   Although, I suspect some of the super-skilled, knife-wielding Dorie Bakers will dissect three layers with exact precision.  

As for appearances, like French women, this cake is a looker, a showstopper.  Here’s the money shot:  

Thankfully, French women have the croissant.   Where they to rely solely on pastries made from genoise with its paucity of butter they would be thin as gossamer lace and blow like tumbleweeds past the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine only finally coming to rest when the bumped into Notre Dame Cathedral.      

While I don’t think I will make this recipe again, unless I can borrow a stick or two of butter from last month’s “Pecan Sticky Bun” recipe, I tried some new baking techniques that I may not have tried had I ventured through the cookbook on my own.    The cake was fun to make, and you too can give it a whirl if you go to Tuesdays With Dorie/ Baking With Julia for the recipe or better yet buy the book Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan and bake along with the group.