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.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Water, Yeast, Flour and Salt

Water, Yeast, Flour and Salt

The process for making Persian Naan, this weeks TWD recipe, is as simple to make as the four basic ingredients, water, yeast, flour, and salt, used to make the dough.  This simple flat bread doesn’t require proofing the yeast or multiple risings.  You can even mix it up, set it in the fridge overnight, and shape and bake it the next day. Its rustic shape is so forgiving even - and this actually took place in my house - a four-year old can stretch it into a (somewhat ) oblong shape.  This rustic flatbread is a great vehicle for sopping up sauce or salad dressing.  It would be a perfect accompaniment for a lentil salad. The bread has a slightly chewy texture on the thicker outer edges while, as a nice contrast,  some of the thinner interior sections have a cracker like texture.  On a scale of one to ten, this recipe is an eight.  Persian Naan  is tasty, fun, easy, and great recipe to make with kids of all ages.  For the recipe go to Tuesdays With Dorie/ Baking With Julia or better yet buy Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hungarian Shortbread

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia recipe is Hungarian Shortbread. Thanks to the tips from my peeps in the group who had already made the recipe, I knew to prebake the crust for 15 mins, reduce the amount of sugar in the dough, use the food processor instead of a box grater to grate the dough, and dust with power sugar after the shortbread had completely cooled.  The recipe calls for a pound, (Yes, you heard me; I said a pound. ) of butter. However, given that swimsuit season is rapidly approaching and I’m already carrying some extra winter weight, to limit my temptation, I cut the recipe in half and only used a scant two sticks of butter. 

If you follow my blog, you know I am a tough critic and don’t hand out complements lightly, so when I say this recipe is “da bomb,” you know this is a mighty good cookie.   This is the shortbread of the gods.  It’s somewhat light, due to grating the frozen dough instead of rolling it. It has a buttery crust and a gooey jam filling. Tasters at my house gave the shortbread rave reviews.  One four-year old taster in particular requested five more pieces.  Given the amount of butter and sugar in this bad boy, that didn’t happen.  You can find the recipe at Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia or better yet buy the book Baking with Julia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lemon Loaf Makeover

This recipe is like the Plain Jane in the talk show audience who desperately needs a make over.  We’ve all seen these shows where the talk show host picks a rather plain woman out of the audience and whisks her back stage for a new hairstyle, makeup, and a snazzy outfit.  Fifty minutes later, the former Plain Jane emerges from backstage, like Cinderella in her ball gown, totally transformed.  Similarly, like the Plain Jane in need of lipstick and accessories, this Lemon Loaf cake needs some help.  Lemon curd, lemon glaze, icing, strawberries, jam, or whipped cream, would certainly improve this plain, rather dry, Lemon Loaf cake.  A good loaf cake, like a natural beauty, should be able to go au natural; this cake, in my opinion, cannot.      

Monday, March 19, 2012

Easy Peasy

Easy Peasy

You could probably make this Irish Soda Bread recipe with one hand tied behind your back, while merrily whistling “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”  All it takes is four simple ingredients, flour, soda, salt, buttermilk, and a handful of raisins or currents if you are so inclined.  I had Craisins on hand so I threw in about ¾ of a cup. 

So, bake this bread.
Bake it for a friend.
Bake it for a potluck.
Bake it with your kids.
Bake it on soup night.
Bake it for your neighbor.
Bake it for your co-workers.
Bake it for your in-laws.
You get the picture. 
Bake it.
Slather it with butter, jam or both and enjoy.

Here’s a few close ups.

Go to Tuesdays With Dorie/ baking with Julia for the recipe.  Better yet, buy Baking With Julia.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Bake


While many of my students are on spring break in Aruba, I’m at home grading papers and, as a much needed distraction, baking. It took me three days, like many bakers in the group, to make this weeks TWD recipe Rugelach.    On day one, I made the dough.  On day two formed the logs.
On day three cut and baked the rugelach. 

The recipe is pretty simple, although, labor intensive.  The full recipe makes a ton of cookies and way too much filling.  My first two cookie sheets came out better than the second two sheets.  

The second two sheets ran more; even though, I carefully watched them. Although, I kept the second batch in the fridge, I think, everything was just warmer.  The kitchen was warmer, the oven was warmer, and the cookie sheets were warmer.  I think this impacts the baking process.  Perhaps next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll make this a four day event and bake half the batch one day and the second batch in a cool kitchen on cool cookie sheets.  That said, these were delish!  I’ll definitely add them to my Christmas cookie list.  Go to Tuesdays With Dorie Baking With Julia to find the recipe.  Better yet, buy the book Baking With Julia.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baking at the Improv Kitchen

Baking at the Improv Kitchen

(Disclaimer) I baked these tartlets while under the influence of powerful, mind-altering, cold medicine, the kind of medicine that cautions users against operating heavy machinery like Kitchen Aid stand mixers, and motor vehicles.   Consequently, I made a few mistakes/adjustments along the way.  Mistake Number One: I forgot to add the sugar to the crust; I added it after I had collected up the dough to chill.  Mistake Number Two (or what I prefer to call an improvisational baking technique): I eyeballed, rather than weighed, the six ounces of bittersweet chocolate from my various leftover bittersweet chocolate sources. (I don’t own a scale. Perhaps that will be my next baking investment.)  Mistake Number Three:  I forgot to buy the biscotti, therefore, omitted it. I’m sure the biscotti would have provided a nice textural contrast to the smooth filling, but the crust also provides contrasting texture.  I did, however, add the chopped white and milk chocolate to the filling, which delivered some crunch.

Regardless of my various mishaps, I found, this recipe is quite forgiving.  The only way to goof up these tartlets would be to put them on your driveway and cruise your car back and forth over them, and, given that I’m currently on cold medication and restricted from driving, that is not likely to happen.  The recipe is also rather generous. It produced a lot more dough and filling than required for the requisite six, four and one half inch tartlets.  I scored two bonus tartlets from my batch and still had a bit of dough and filling leftover. 

All in all, I had fun.  I shared some of my tartlets with family and friends, tried a recipe I would never have selected on my own, and enjoyed a decadent dessert with my girls on a President’s Day evening.  This recipe is awesome!  On a scale of one to ten, it is clearly a ten for hardcore chocoholics.  The crust is easy to work with (you need the extra water TWD bakers recommend), the filling is a cinch to prepare, and the tartlets release easily for the pans. The crust has a delicate crumb and the filling is silky smooth and intensely chocolate. This is a good recipe to tout out for company, in that, it is relatively easy to prepare and produces a restaurant quality dessert with minimal effort.  Go to TWD, or, better yet, buy a copy of Baking With Julia for the recipe.

Bake on!   

Monday, February 13, 2012

White Loaves Recipe Redux
The arrival of my dough hook prompted a Baking With Julia White Loaves recipe “do over.”  If you recall from my last post “ The Unhappy Hooker” I couldn’t find my dough hook and had to order a new one from Kitchen Aid.  As soon as it arrived, I felt obligated to take it out for a test drive, thus the White Loaves recipe Redux.  I made a few modifications to the recipe this time.  Based on my own experience and comments from other TWD bakers it seemed that the seven cups of flour, called for in the recipe, pushed the Kitchen Aid motor to the limits. Therefore, I cut the recipe in half and made one loaf  (actually two mini loaves), using three and a half cups of flour, instead of the seven cups called for in the two loaves. My Kitchen Aid hummed along beautifully with this modification.  I made one plain and one cinnamon swirl.  They came out beautifully.  This recipe is so easy I actually baked it twice in one week and the second time enlisted a four-year-old helper.  Here’s the picture of the loaves to prove it.   

You can find the recipe for White Loaves from Baking With Julia here:

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Unhappy Hooker  2/6/12

What began, innocently enough, as making my first recipe for TWD quickly escalated to what resembled a TV sitcom, the likes of which would rival an episode of I Love Lucy.  The recipe, “White Loaves” found in Baking With Julia was the culprit of this fiasco.  It was a basic white bread recipe that called for six simple ingredients water, flour, butter, salt, yeast, and sugar, things most home cooks, except possibly the yeast, have on hand. I measured and assembled the ingredients along the counter like a TV chef, proofed the yeast and sugar in warm water, and then the drama began.  What I thought was the dough hook for my Kitchen Aid mixer, no you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, was a dough hook for some other dearly departed or long forgotten kitchen appliance. But, no problem, right?  Folks have been making bread without dough hooks and fancy appliances since the beginning of time.  Check out the Bible where you’ll find bread, leavened and unleavened, mentioned numerous times; the last time I looked, there was no mention of Kitchen Aid mixers or dough hooks in there.  How hard could it be to mix the stuff by hand?  After all, I’ve been to the gym.  True, that was years ago.  Yet and still, I have seen the inside of a gym.  

Incorporating the first three cups of flour into the liquid was a synch.  In the words of my daughter, Dawn, “I’ve got this,” I thought.   With each successive cup of flour, however, mixing became more difficult.   Frustrated but undefeated, I dumped my unincorporated dough blob into the mixer, covered the top with a kitchen towel and ever so gently turned it on.  Flour flew up through the towel into my face, up my nose, and turned me prematurely gray.  The counter top and the floor were covered with, what meteorologists would refer to as, a mild dusting.  The motor on the Kitchen Aid sighed in protest at the prospect of mixing the unyielding dough.  So it was back to the mixing bowl where after ten minutes of stirring and mixing, my upper arms were nearly as sculpted as First Lady Michelle Obama’s. After incorporating the butter into the dough and ten full minutes of kneading, both the dough and I needed the requisite 45 minute to one hour rest.

Alas, however, to my utter astonishment, after two risings, and a stint in the oven my two loaves turned out lovely.  Golden brown on the outside, with a tender crumb on the inside, my first two loaves of homemade bread turned out rather well.  Even though things got a bit hairy, I learned a few things from this experience.  First, there is an eight hundred number, similar to the Thanksgiving Turkey Hot Line, posted directly on your Kitchen Aid Mixer. I spoke to Kelly at Kitchen Aid, who informed me that for $14.95 plus shipping and handlings she could ship me the dough hook that fits my mixer.  I agreed to the terms since, I’ll need the dough hook for the next bread recipe.  Another thing I learned is that this recipe is practically foolproof.  Anyone with thumbs that can withstand a vigorous aerobic workout can make this bread. And last but not least, baking bread isn’t actually that bad. 

Here’s a picture of my bread.  There may be prettier loaves out there, but like any mother of a newborn, I have yet to see another loaf as beautiful as my twins.  You can tell from the picture they’re fraternal.    Peanut butter and Jelly, is what I call them, others may call them Lunch or Snack.  For information about the recipe go to TWD or better yet buy Baking With Julia and bake along with the group. 

On a scale from one to ten, one being low and ten being high, I give this recipe an eight. The bread is tasty, the recipe is easy to follow, and I will definitely make this bread again.  I prefer whole grain to white bread; otherwise this recipe would be a ten.  



Saturday, February 4, 2012