Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chipster-Topped Brownies

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Chipster-Topped Brownies, might just be the most genius idea in baking I have ever encountered: rich, fudgy brownies topped with a chocolate chip cookie crust.

I feel like I could stop writing this post now and you would still be dying to make this recipe. But as genius as this recipe idea is, I did have some issues with the execution.

Dorie said to bake the brownie bars for 50-55 minutes. I baked these for 50 minutes and thought they were done, but discovered the next day that they were, in fact, a pile of mush (with a perfectly crisped cookie crust). I baked them for another 30 minutes but found that while the edges were beginning to dry out, the center of the brownie batter was still quite soft. Still, this dessert tasted fantastic - even better with cookies and creme ice cream. Yum.

So when I make it again - and I need to, because this kind of genius must be given another chance - I'm planning on baking the brownie batter for awhile on its own (for at least 15 minutes) before spooning the cookie batter over top. Mushiness and all, this recipe was a huge hit with my boyfriend, his roommate, and his family, so a perfectly cooked version is bound to go over even better.

For the recipe, visit Beth of Supplicious, who was wise enough to choose this dessert. Thanks, Beth!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Guinness Gingerbread

This recipe marks my first official entry into Sweet Melissa Sundays, a bake-along group that takes a page from Tuesdays With Dorie. Instead of baking our way through a Dorie Greenspan cookbook week-by-week, a group of bakers (currently standing at 38, and membership will be capped at 50 members) will tackle Melissa Murphy's Sweet Melissa Baking Book, filled with recipes from the Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Brooklyn, NY. It's an awesome little hard-covered collection with 100 recipes, so this is set to be a two year journey.

I'm kicking off my membership with Guinness Gingerbread, a spicy chocolate bread with a ton of molasses flavour and a nice richness from the stout.

I have to admit, for me, this title is a misnomer. I couldn't find a Guinness tall boy at my local liquor store (I didn't want to buy a six pack), so I snagged a big bottle of Young's Double Chocolate Stout, which I thought would complement the cocoa powder in this recipe.

I also skipped the white pepper the recipe calls for, because I'm way too cheap to buy a jar of white pepper for a recipe that only calls for 1/4 tsp. of it. I think it tasted just fine without it - the cinnamon and powdered ginger packed quite a punch all on their own. After whisking the ingredients together by hand (using the typical dry-wet-dry method of mixing cake batter), I poured the batter - fizzy from all of the beer - into a 9"x9" square pan and popped it into the oven.

The recommended baking time was 50-60 minutes. After 40 minutes it seemed done, but I let it cook for another 7 minutes -- I have issues paying attention to my kitchen instincts at times. I did find that the cake was a bit dry, and when I make this again, I'll definitely cook it for less time.

Still, the flavour of this gingerbread was fantastic, although I did wish I had a bit of whipped cream to offset the slight dryness, as Melissa suggested. My boyfriend also suggested that I added chocolate chips next time - he's a chocolate fiend. I might even make it with Dorie's icing recipe for her version of chocolate gingerbread. You can't go wrong with icing!

Thanks go to Katie of Katiecakes for choosing Guinness Gingerbread this week! I enjoyed it and think it deserves a place in my December holiday baking. Go visit her blog for the recipe.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TWD: Tartest Lemon Tart

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection is the Tartest Lemon Tart, chosen by Babette of Babette Feasts.

When I read about Babette's selection, I was immediately smitten by the title. Who doesn't love a good lemon tart? But later, when I checked at the recipe to see what ingredients I would need to buy, I got scared. Dorie's Tartest Lemon Tart is not your average lemon tart.

It contains not just lemon zest and juice, but one and a half entire lemons. You're reading this correctly. Entire lemons. The lemons are blended up with the rest of the tart filling - heavy cream, butter, eggs - until the mixture is entirely smooth and no one's the wiser.

I was skeptical. No, wait, that's an understatement. I was terrified. The last time I threw entire lemons into a recipe, it was when I decided to make lemonade using my juicer - I cut the lemons in half and threw each half right into the machine. I was 16 and didn't realize that lemon pith is very, very bitter. Have you ever had bitter lemonade? I don't recommend it - there's no amount of sugar that will remove its bitter taste.

So as I blended up entire lemons in my trusty Magic Bullet, I couldn't help but think of the bitter lemonade and make a silent prayer to the culinary gods to please, please, please let this recipe turn out well.

The tart dough (which called for almonds, although I skipped them) was sweet and crispy - too crispy, according to my boyfriend, but I loved it. I don't own a food processor, so I made it using my stand mixer. I think that made the dough harder to work with, but I love the sense of accomplishment of making my own crust.

As I pulled it out of the oven - bubbled over and looking a bit curdled - I was scared. It didn't look all that appetizing. After letting the tart cool, cutting it into slices, and taking my first bite, however, I was impressed. There was a hint of bitter aftertaste, but besides that, this tart was smooth, lemony, and otherwise very much like a classic lemon tart. The second time around, I took Dorie's suggestion of making lemon tart "brûlée" - I added a bit of turbinado sugar to the top, whipped out my kitchen torch, and touched the flame to the sugar until it was melted and brown. The burnt sugar complemented the tart perfectly. In fact, having tasted it, I wouldn't serve the tart without the sugar crust on top. It was that good.

For this week's recipe, visit Babette Feasts. Thanks for the selection, Babette!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Focaccia

Focaccia is an Italian bread that has entered the mainstream, big time. From gourmet focaccia at local bakeries to thick slices of focaccia in restaurant bread baskets, its popularity seems to be growing. And why not? Focaccia is almost always delicious no matter what topping you sprinkle on top of it. Whether it's chewy, crispy, salty, or sweet, focaccia is one of those comforting snacks that is hard to stop eating once you start. A gourmet restaurant at my university even makes salty focaccia with a cinnamon-syrup topping that is seriously addictive.

The best part about focaccia, for me anyway, is that in addition to being tasty, it's incredibly easy to make and requires just a few simple ingredients that you probably have on hand anyway. Mix them together in a stand mixer, let the dough rest for awhile, and just roll it out slightly into an oval shape and bake it. So simple. The rosemary-garlic smell (or cinammon, if you're so inclined) that permeates through your home as the bread is baking is reason enough to make focaccia.

After experimenting with a few recipes, my current favourite is Tyler Florence's version. I forgo his suggested topping and stick to the classic rosemary and coarse salt combination, with a twist. I roast a head of garlic in the oven and add that to the dough before letting it rise. The garlic flavour is surprisingly mellow and pairs wonderfully with the rosemary and salt.

Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Focaccia
Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence

2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting
Roasted garlic cloves, from 1 head roasted garlic (instructions can be found here via wikihow)

Dried or fresh rosemary
Coarse or kosher salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast with warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Add roasted garlic cloves (after squeezing or scooping the cloves out of their skin). Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise over a gas pilot light on the stovetop or other warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oval shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. Uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips. Brush the surface with more olive oil and then sprinkle rosemary and coarse salt on top. Bake on the bottom rack of oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

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