Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TWD: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake


The TWD recipe this week was chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker. I wasn't sure what to expect from it. I mean Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake (recipe here)?

I decided to go with dried Mission Figs (mostly because there were no fresh ones to be found at the local grocery store). And I used Agave Nectar in place of honey. Full fat ricotta and regular cornmeal filled out the rest of the ingredients. Yep, the local store had nothing but yellow cornmeal.

I made the cake the night before I planned on serving. Dorie said that honey cakes get better the next day. I'm not sure, but that might have been a mistake. I had some overflow that I pulled off the baking sheet before it crisped up, and that was really delicious. And the batter was amazing. But the cake after a day was just... bland. Sweet, slightly dry cornmeal with bits of dried fig.

I'd like to try it again with a different fruit - maybe something tart. And serve it warm. You know, this is exactly why I hate to do just one run through of a recipe. I have to make something once to know what I need to tweak. But my waistline (and bank account these days) can't take baking twice a week.

But I have to say, I love this TWD thing. I'd have never chosen that recipe. Heck, I would have never bought the book without this group. It's such amazing fun to push out of my normal zone and try new things.

Don't forget to check out the other TWDers to see how they liked the recipe this week! And a big thanks to Caitlin for a wonderful pick!

Polenta and Ricotta Cake Mosaic

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mine Mine Mine, All Mine!


I was one of the lucky folks chosen to get a free jar of McQuade's Celtic Chutney from Blake Makes. I'm having a very hard time with it though. My natural inclination is to horde it away for some rainy day. Putting it on the pantry shelf so I see it every time I open the door, and smiling in anticipation of what I'll do with it.

As it is, I've left it pretty much as you see it here: on my kitchen counter with the pamphlet it came with. Just sitting there mocking me whenever I'm in the kitchen. I know that I should be deciding when to serve the curried chicken salad that was my entry in the contest. But someone else brought up a goat cheese and chutney tart, and holey cow, doesn't that sound good?! Or served over the cheese with crackers? Or glazed on some grilled chicken? Or on a turkey sandwich? Or eaten straight out of the jar (this one is winning the votes whenever I'm in the kitchen)?

An enterprising cook would just do all of them, perhaps holding her own impromptu tasting menu for her unsuspecting spouse. Hmmm.... what kind of wine goes with fig and ginger?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bill's Big Carrot Cake


I really, really wanted to make that beautiful three layer carrot cake from the book. A thing of beauty, wasn't it? I couldn't quite eke that third layer out. It still looks all right though, doesn't it?

The recipe is relatively simple. With the golden raisins, walnuts, and sweetened coconut, the cake is moist and dense. (My cake might have been a little too dense. Things were good until the last 10 minutes when they deflated almost completely. ) I love the hint of lemon in the icing!

Thanks to Amanda of slow like honey for picking a great recipe! Don't forget to check out the rest of the Tuesdays With Dorie carrot cakes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TWD: Marshmallows

Mango, Chocolate, StrawberryWhat's to say? Fun with chemestry! Judy of Judy's Gross Eats chose Marshmallows for this week, and I had a blast trying all the different flavors. First was strawberry, then I decided to try a double batch with mango (for me) and chocolate (for everyone else).

(I beefed up the color of the mango mallows to see if it would show up in the picture a little better. I like it! But of course, now I want to play with some of the other colors. Ooooh, maybe Avalanche colors!)

So anyway, loved the flavors. The strawberry was a little muted, but the mango and chocolate were amazing. I can't wait to try the chocolate mallows in some hot chocolate!

Take a look at the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew. I'm betting there are some amazing flavors, imaginative presentations, and gorgeous pictures.

Click here for the full recipe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TWD: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Lemon Tart MosaicKey Lime TartEdited to add: I'm horrible! I completely forgot to mention that Mary of Starting from Scratch picked this week. Sorry Mary!

Boy that's a mouthful, isn't it?

I gotta be honest here (mainly because I promised myself I would)... This week was a disaster for me. The first tart came out more like lemon soup (pictures on the left), and the second tart (pictures on the right) had a beautiful texture and a way too tart taste with a bitter aftertaste.


Onto the specifics! The first time through, I used Meyer lemons. I was excited to finally see these in my local grocery store since I'd heard about them on the web and had never seen them. (Sure enough, all of these were gone a day later. Everybody must have jumped on them.) I started the lemon curd/cream the night before I wanted to serve the tart. I had all of the equipment ready to go, including an instant read thermometer we've been using for years. I read up on the problems and questions thread and I thought I was all ready to go. I used my stainless steel bowl, and whisked constantly. It was tricky trying to get the thermometer turned on and in the bowl while whisking, but I managed it. And here's where the first problem comes in: I listened to Chicken Little between my ears instead of going with Zen Gut Girl. The cream had just started to thicken and I took a temperature reading. It climbed past 183 and I panicked and took the cream off the heat.

It was a little runny even after I added the butter, but I remembered some of the comments and hoped for the best as I put it in the fridge to cool. When I took it out the night of the party, it seemed fine. Until I whisked it to smooth it out and it turned into lemon soup. Tasty lemon soup, but lemon soup nonetheless. I forged ahead because a couple of the guests were big lemon fans, but it was pretty much a bust. (Oh, they liked the taste and were very nice about the whole thing. I just had visions of the tart from the book.)

DSCN1412FSCN1459I decided to try one more time, only with Key Limes instead of lemons for my man. He's not a lemon fan and has been itching for a Key Lime pie for months.

I think this time around that my technique was fine, but my plan was dorked. Instead of looking for a key lime recipe as a touchstone, I winged it. I just substituted the limes in place of the lemons and guessed how much zest would be the equivalent. (Umm... yeah... I figured that three key limes was about the same volume as one lemon. That's nine key limes that we zested to make the cream. Any surprise from you more experienced types that the cream came out bitter? Dur...)

I served the lemon tart soup with creme fraiche and blackberry coulis, and sweetened whipped cream with the lime tart to try and offset some of the bite (didn't work).

Recipe Links:

As always, please check out the rest of the Tuesdays With Dorie group to see how they fared with the tart!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

TWD: Gooey Chocolate Cake


Alternate title: I Got Your Molten, Right Here!

Okay, maybe not quite molten lava, but totally a checkaroonio on the gooey. Leigh over at Lemon Tartlet totally knew what she was doing with this week's pick.

Easy? Check!

Chocolate? Double Check!

Gooey? Check!! (For me, anyway. From some of the comments on the problems and questions thread, a few people had problems with that. I wish I could tell you why mine worked, but I honestly have no idea.)

I waited until the last minute (Monday night after dinner) to throw these together, and it couldn't have been easier. Wham, bam, mmmmmmmm!

Dorie said to use a chocolate you liked, so I went with the Ghirardelli Semisweet. I forgot to pick up a disposable aluminum muffin tin like she suggested, so I punted and used some of my foil muffin liners on a baking sheet. Easy, peasy! I wasn't sure if there would be rise so I left space in the muffin liner. Once I tasted the batter though, I wasn't letting any of that go to waste and I put another one on the sheet and scraped every last bit out of the bowl.

No ice cream in the house (another comment in the book was to serve these with something to compliment the chocolate, like ice cream), so I whipped up some cream and piped it onto the plate just for fun. Then the whipped cream kept washing out in the pictures, so I threw some cocoa powder at it until the peaks showed up a little better.

The semisweet chocolate was incredible in these, and I wouldn't make them any other way! I'd go for some ice cream next time though. How can you go wrong with that melty goodness?

I wasn't sure how these would be after they cooled, but I tried one today. Nothing is going to beat that warm gooey chocolate, but even a day later, it was moist and tasty. (They'd probably make fantastic cupcakes if you pushed the chocolate down in the batter some - and didn't mind a dip in the top when they cooled. Hmmmm....)

For the full recipe, click here. And don't forget to check out the other TWD entries this week!

Gooey Chocolate Cake Mosaic