Monday, October 03, 2011

Baking with Dorie: Peppermint Cream Puff (Ring)

Okay, so technically this isn't the cream puff ring I was supposed to make and it doesn't even contain any peppermint. It's just a solitary little cream puff.

I was unsure about successfully completing this challenge but after I made cream puffs this morning all I can say is that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. I was not intimidated in the least bit and my choux pastry was perfect. The whipped cream let me down because I couldn't get it to be stiff enough to pipe rosettes and so I spooned some into just one cream puff to take the photo for this post.

Thank you for taking us out of our comfort zones and picking this challenge, Tina!

The recipe can be found on pages 290-2 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. Or you can head over to Tina's post here to get the recipe and view her pretty photos. Please see the blogroll for other participating blogs. 

Next up we're making Golden Brioche Loaves, picked by Chaya. If you'd like to be a part of our baking group, please email me at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sunday Sweets: Almond and Chocolate Chunk Biscotti

There can never be such a thing as too much chocolate. And this choc-almond studded biscotti found no lack of contenders in my house. This was my very first attempt at making biscotti and is also the first recipe I've tried from the newest addition to my collection of cookbooks: Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

Ryan, a fellow-baker from BWD, suggested we start baking our way through another book and after much deliberation we decided on this new collection of recipes by David Lebovitz. We'll slowly go through each recipe in the book and anyone is welcome to join in. Details can be found here

Baking this biscotti turned out to be deceptively simple. I prepared ingredients for half the recipe, shaped the dough into one log and then placed it in the oven to bake for the first twenty minutes. It came out looking perfect. So far so good. But then, given the 90F+ heat, my hot kitchen and the concentration of chocolate in this recipe, I was faced with a gooey mess each time I cut into the log. There was melted chocolate all over the place and it made it completely impossible to get the thinner slices I was aiming for. 

Skeptical, and a little frustrated, I popped the slices in the oven for another 20 minutes and mentally prepared myself for the alternatively titled 'disasters in baking' blog post I was going to write about the whole experience. I needn't have worried because whatever they lacked in appearance was more than compensated by flavor. They were a tad bit sweet for me so I would either cut down the amount of sugar in the recipe or simply use bittersweet chocolate. I never expected my kids to care for biscotti so they surprised me by going through the whole batch pretty quickly and, like DL, taking some along to snack on during our very long flight the next day. 

This first recipe was chosen by Ryan and can be found on Page 216 of Ready for Dessert. Please hop over to Ryans' blog to check out her take on the biscotti. Next up we'll make Orange Cardamom Flan chosen by me. If you'd like to be part of our baking challenges, please drop us an email at sundayssweets at gmail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Curry-Palooza: Eggplant with Crushed Mustard Seeds & Yogurt

This week I had the opportunity to try a brand new curry involving certain techniques that I'm not at all familiar with. Margie of More Please picked this rather unusual recipe by Madhur Jaffrey who, I am convinced, has a knack for taking a few simple ingredients and turning them into something amazing. Every single time. 

This curry uses 'Paanchporan' - a Bengali spice-mix that I have never used before but discovered is the same thing as 'achari masala/spice-mix' which I have indeed used & am very fond of. I made my own 'Paanchporan' since I had all the whole spices on hand (it requires equal parts of cumin, nigella seeds, aniseed, black mustard seeds and fenugreek). I was skeptical about using such a large (seemingly to me) amount of fenugreek because experience has taught me that it has to be used sparingly or it lends a certain bitterness to curries. The recipe also requires the unusual method of crushing the mustard seeds, mixing them with water along with a bare pinch of cayenne pepper and simmering the eggplant in this mixture. Atypical as it was I found that this technique lent a wonderful 'mustardy' aroma to the curry and gave it a deep, yet unsaturated,  note of flavor. 

That said, I had a few minor issues with the execution: I diced my eggplant smaller than indicated, so it cooked faster and  turned out a little mushy. In addition to which the yogurt split when added and I found that the fenugreek did indeed make the curry a teeny bit bitter so it did not go down well with the rest of the family. Maybe it's my/our taste buds, or maybe it's that I need to improve on the technique of cooking with this particular spice, but I intend to reduce the amount of fenugreek seeds significantly when I prepare my Paanchporan mix next time. It's a shame about the bitterness because, otherwise, I really like the flavors in this simple and quick-cooking curry.

I know for a fact that the other Curry-Palooza members had no such issues & really enjoyed this curry. The recipe can be found on Margie's blog. Please check out the participants' posts by following these links:

Curry-Palooza is a monthly event. Members take turns picking random recipes each month & next up it's Camille's pick. I'm hoping she will throw a challenge our way!

If you'd like to join in the fun, please email either Rocquie or myself

Monday, August 01, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Crème Brûlée

I've always been intimidated by crème brûlée imagining it to be a very complicated dessert that I couldn't possibly make at home. So I was very excited about this months' pick & was looking forward to halving the recipe and trying at least a few of the variations in the 'playing around' section. But then, too lazy to do the math, I ended up making only the classic version. 

Dorie's directions suggest a baking time of 50-60 minutes but the custards were very jiggly at that point and it took me almost double the recommended time to get them cooked. I chilled them overnight and caramelized a few the next morning. How best to describe it? The crème brûlée was wonderfully silky, as delicious as anything I've ever had at a restaurant with its pleasingly contrasting layers of torched sugar and cool custard. 

As usual, this is a winner from Baking from my home to yours. The variations of this recipe can be found on pages 393-4 of the book. I'm including the classic version right here. I'm hopeful that others from BWD will have played around with the recipe! For links to participating blogs this week, please go to the comment section of the related post here

Next up we're making the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring, picked by Tina. If you'd like to be a part of our baking group, please email me at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us. 

Crème Brûlée

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

About 6 tbsp sugar or sifted light brown sugar for topping

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200F. Put the baking dishes on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. 
Bring the cream and milk just to a boil. 
In a 1-2 quart glass measuring cup or in a medium bowl, whisk th egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until well blended but not airy. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter or the hot liquid - this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the cream and milk. Give the bowl a good rap against the counter to de-bubble the custard, then strain it into the baking dishes. 

Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until the custards are set - tap the sides of the dishes, and the custards should hold firm. Lift the dishes onto a cooling rack and let the custards cool until they reach room temperature. 

Cover each custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The custards can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) For the sugar to be successfully caramelized, the custards need to be thoroughly chilled. 

To caramelize the sugar topping with a blowtorch, work on one dish at a time. Sprinkle the top of each custard evenly with sugar - about 1 tablespoon for each dish - then brown the sugar, cooking until it bubbles and colors. Wait until the bubbles subside before serving the crèmes. 

To caramelize the sugar in a broiler, preaheat the broiler and fill a shallow roasting pan with the ice cubes. Sprinkle the custards with the sugar, put the baking dishes on the bed of ice and run the custards under the broiler. Don't move away from your oven - depending on your broiler, it can take seconds or minutes to caramelize the sugar, and you don't want to miss the moment and ruin the topping. When the sugar bubbles and browns, pull the custards out, remove them from their ice bed and let them settle down before serving. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Last month all of us in the BWD baking group mutually decided that we needed to adopt a slower pace and bake only once a month instead of every other Monday. For those of us who are trying to cut back on desserts, this is a welcome change! 

I made changes to our baking schedule but I forgot to fix a typing error I'd made when listing this months' recipe. This resulted in a little confusion since I had typed 'strawberry rhubarb crisp' and everyone else in the group either baked the strawberry rhubarb double crisp, or planned for it. So this week we have two different recipes, depending on who baked what. 

I baked the cherry cobbler, replacing rhubarb with granny smith apples since I can't find rhubarb where I live. I made it in advance & we were travelling the next day so I did the math and made just 1/4th of the recipe. This was perfect because it made only two servings. And the cobbler was wonderful - as usual I loved the note of flavor that the addition of ginger lent to this dessert. The tartness of the apples married well with & was subdued by the sweetness from the cherries and both were cooked to flawless deliciousness under the little balls of whole wheat biscuit dough. 

Please head here to find links to what all the other BWD bakers made this week. For the recipe, go over to Ryans' blog The Behr Necessities, or Page 415 of Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Next up we're baking Creme Brulee. If you'd like to join our baking challenges please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Curry-Palooza: Cardamom & Black Pepper Chicken

Since it was my turn to pick the recipe this week, I opted for this simple & aromatic, non-vegetarian curry.
The chicken required little preparation and was quick to put together (other than a 3-hour marination time). I assume it as well with rice as it does with flatbreads or Pitas. Camille served hers with rice & I am assuming from Rocquie's photos that she used flatbread

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

Cardamom and black pepper chicken – Madhur Jaffrey
(Serves 4)

For the mardinade:
6 tbsp onion
2 inch piece fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves
Salt ½ tsp
Cayenne pepper ½ tsp
Freshly ground black pepper ½ tsp
450 g boned and skinned chicken breasts

To cook the chicken:

150g (5 oz) onions
Corn or olive oil
1 medium stick cinnamon
8 whole cardamom pods
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
4 tbsp natural yogurt
8 tbsp tomato, grated
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp garam masala
2-3 tsp lemon juice

Step one: To make the marinade, peel and finely chop the onion, ginger and garlic and put them into a blender with ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp black pepper and 3 tbsp water. Blend to a smooth paste, pushing down with a rubber spatula when needed. Cut the chicken breasts 3cm or 1/8 inch slices and put into a bowl. Add the marinade and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours if desired.

Step Two: Peel the onions and slice into fine half rings. Pour 3 tbsp oil into a wide, non-stick pan set over a medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Stir for 10 seconds, then add the onions and fry, stirring at the same time, for 6-7 minutes or until the onion turns a reddish-brown color. Add the cumin and coriander. Stir once. Add the natural yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, and stir till it is absorbed. Add the tomato and stir for a minute.

Step Three: reduce the heat to medium, add the chicken together with the marinade, and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes or until all the chicken pieces turn white. Add 175ml (6 oz) water, salt, garam masala and lemon juice. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes, stirring now and then.


Curry-Palooza is a monthly event & all participants take turns picking random Indian recipes. If you'd like to participate, Please email either Rocquie or myself. 

In order to check out the other participants posts this month, please click on these links: 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chocolate Fudgesicles

My kids' idea of summer vacation involves endless supplies of food and entertainment around the clock. Since I try to keep their snacks homemade, I've spent the past several days whipping up simple treats that will last them all week long. 

Making ice-cream is a lot of fun even though it gets a little labor-intensive without an ice-cream maker. These fudgesicles, though, were very easy to make and as chocolaty as promised. I found the recipe while browsing on Babble and made a test-batch with half the recipe. They were so well-received that I had to immediately make a second, larger, batch. 

I can kiss my diet goodbye because I do not understand the meaning of moderation lately & have had these for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yup, they're that good. 

Homemade Fudgesicles
barely adapted from the recipe on
makes 6

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp strong, brewed coffee (I used decaf)
a pinch of salt
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla extract 

Place the chocolate chips in a medium, heat-proof bowl. 

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and cream over medium-low heat. Whisk in the cocoa, sugar, salt and coffee. Once the mixture starts steaming, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. 

Pour the mixture over the chocolate chips. Wait a minute for the chocolate to melt, then whisk till smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze at least 4 hours. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Trip to Paris

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month. I have no excuse for my tardiness except that I've been both busy and lazy. So I decided to sit down today and finally write about what I did while in France.

Remember the ever-expanding wish-lists I made before I left? I'm sort of embarassed to say I got to do barely three things out of my entire list. I was there for 6 days which I thought would be more than enough to do and see everything I wanted to. But I wasn't counting on how time-consuming my photo workshop would be and how little time it would leave for other things, especially because I had to go back to my apartment and do some (unrelated) course work before turning in for the night. We finished with the workshop around 7 p.m. which meant there was no time for museum visits or many of the other things that I had planned. .

However, the plus point was that I got to spend 3.5 days walking around Paris with 7 amazing women from around the globe who are all now friends. Despite the fact that the workshop around 10 hours a day, the pace was perfect and & we all had fun while seeing the city and learning about photography.

Sophie is very charming, extremely personable and a very encouraging teacher and I came away with a lot of practical information on technical aspects as well as a new perspective on composition.

At least I can now finally move away from the 'auto' modes on my camera and play around with more features. The workshop was definitely the highlight of my trip and I wish I could go back and do it all over again!

On my last day in Paris I took an early morning train to Vernon with a friend from the workshop. We reached at 8 a.m. and decided to walk the 7 k.m. from there to Giverny because we had read so many rave reviews online about how wonderful the walk is.

I wouldn't want to disagree because the village really is charming but we didn't have a lot of time to stop and look around given our intention to get back to Paris on the first train in the afternoon. And, for us, the long walk just meant we would have less time seeing the village and Monets' gardens.

On the way we stopped to talk to this lovely old lady here who told me how she brings apples for this horse every day. . .

When at last we reached Monets' house it was early enough in the morning that hordes of tourists weren't yet there and we could walk around and photograph some of the many, many beautiful flowers.

The house tour itself took no more than 20 minutes & looking out of the windows on the upper floor it was easy to imagine how inspired he must have been by all the colors in his garden.

My favorite rooms in his house were the sunny yellow dining room and the little sewing room on the upper story. The latter offers a broad view of the entire estate and I assume Monet's wife kept an eye on their eight children through the windows while she sewed.

We could have spent the entire day in the gardens photographing the many varieties of beautiful flowers. But an hour after we arrived the place was hit by an onslaught of tourists and it became impossible to walk without bumping into someone else who was stopping to pose for or take photos.

We spent a lovely morning there, regardless, and only wished we'd had more time to explore the gardens at our own pace. We decided then that we'd just have to come back next Spring and spend all day in Monets' gardens, taking photos!

Once back in Paris, time flew. I had just enough time to meet Paule of Promenades Gourmandes and then rush out to buy gifts for my kids before shops closed for the day.

I took a walk to Rue des Rosiers for the second time that day to get some famous Fallafel but was finally rewarded with a sign that said the restaurant would remain closed for another week. There was nothing to do but walk back and grab a quick meal at a small Vietnamese place around the corner from our apartment. My plans to take a last trip down to Trocadero & photograph the Eiffel Tower at night fell completely flat since I lacked the energy to do any more walking that day.

There's always next year . . or the next. I'm sure I'll go back. I must!
 I love Paris - just walking around the charming, winding streets and seeing the old with the new. Or the unexpected ...

This is a love affair that's not ever going to end. I can't wait to be back there again . .

Monday, June 06, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Five kinds of chocolate in a fudgelicious brownie. 

This is the gooiest, most chocolatey treat I've made in a while. Dense and so fudgy you need to chase these brownies down with a glass of cold milk. But I'll be honest. I don't like the white chocolate frosting and wish I had paid attention to my instincts and left it out. Maybe it's the quality of the white chocolate I used. Or maybe it's the fact that we're not a white-chocolate-loving family. 

But don't let me dissuade you. These brownies are good. Very, very good. Chewy & packed with chocolate flavor. I don't think I need to say a lot more to convince you what a great idea it is to bake these. 

For the recipe, please head over to Shahieda's blog Decadent Delectables, or to page 99 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. Please visit the blogroll here to check out everyone else's posts. 

Next up, we're baking Rhubarb Cherry Cobbler, picked by Ryan. If you'd like to join our baking challenges, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Curry-Palooza: Muttar Paneer

Muttar Paneer reminds me of one of my closest friends. It used to be her favorite thing to cook. I haven't seen her in a few years so while I was stirring up a pot of it for Curry-Palooza this week, I wondered if she still likes to make it.  

I'm not very fond of peas but my husband and kids are. I had a bit of a disaster with the paneer that I burned over-fried but otherwise this was a fragrant, flavorful curry that my family enjoyed very much. My curry had a thinner consistency than the ones Rocquie & Margie made and I served mine with Pita breads instead of Rice.  I had planned on making my own Paneer but was then short on time so I used a bag of cubed, frozen paneer. For those who don't know - Paneer is simply cottage cheese that has been drained, pressed into a container with something heavy placed over the top for a couple of hours so that it retains a solid shape. I did a post on making homemade cottage cheese early last year & will hopefully get around to making my own Paneer soon!

Please check out Rocquie's blog for the recipe for Muttar Paneer, or the original source at A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit. 

Curry-Palooza is a monthly event & we take turns picking random Indian recipes each month. If you'd like to participate, please email either Rocquie or myself. I hope you will join us!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

I have not done any baking in months.  Thanks to a very long & tiresome renovation and the fact that my oven refused to work. So I've been impatient to bake again and to also fall back in step with all the BWD bloggers who have been carrying on without me for weeks and weeks.

No baking and no cooking means a neglected blog . . I keep meaning to come back here and at least write about my holiday but I've been immensely busy. Too busy to write & too busy to keep up with all the blogs that I follow. Has it really been a whole month since I got back? But that's another blog post . . and I promise to get to it this week.

For now, I bring you crumbly, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth, lime-scented shortbread cookies with a surprising crunchiness.

Who would have known cornmeal could take shortbread to another level? I absolutely love these cookies! I substituted lime zest for the lemon zest because limes were what I had on hand & made only half the recipe. My kids have been sick all week so I didn't expect them to have much of an appetite. Had I known what a hit these would be with them, I would have made double the batch!

Rivki of Kosher Cooking for Ordinary People is the host this week. Please head over to her blog for the recipe, or to Page 130 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. Please check the blogroll here to check out everyone else's posts. 

Next up we're baking Quintuple Chocolate Brownies, picked by Shahieda. If you'd like to join our baking challenges please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Curry-Palooza: Rajmah

As far as indian food goes, Rajmah is one of my favorite things to order when we eat out at Indian restaurants. I'm also guilty of throwing in the occasional packet of 'Gits Rajma Masala' into the grocery cart, unhealthy as it might be.

I have actually never tried  making it myself & simply presumed that I wouldn't be able to get it right. The thing about Subcontinental cooking is that some recipes seem simple and unassuming yet getting the right flavor can seem so elusive.

For this months' currypalooza I wanted to pick something flavorful yet simple that could be put together quickly. I've been back home for over two weeks but things have been so chaotic that I simply don't have the time to make anything labor-intensive in my not-yet-quite-functional kitchen. Blogger croquecamille had introduced me to the Quick Indian Cooking website and after testing out one of the other recipes there last week, I decided to pick Mallika Basu's Rajmah curry for this challenge.

Since it uses canned kidney beans, it was a snap to make this morning though I let it simmer longer than needed so that the masalas would really infuse the beans. The only down side of using canned beans is that they tend to remain quite bland regardless of how deeply flavorful the base-curry itself is. However, simmering them on low heat for almost an hour seemed to do the trick for me. And the resulting curry was almost like the one I eat at restaurants. I had been aiming for a thicker sauce and had added only just enough water to cover the beans. This was a mistake and I should have simply added more and gotten a slightly thinner sauce. That said, the flavors in this curry were spot on & we enjoyed it as part of a more elaborate indian-themed meal this evening. 

Please head over to Sage Trifle to check out Rocquie's version of this curry and for the recipe please follow this link. Currypalooza is a monthly event and we take turns picking random Indian recipes instead of following any particular book . I hope others will join us!

post-note: I've been unable to upload photos because blogger keeps telling me my post cannot be saved. I'm publishing this without them for now & will try uploading tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Great Grains Muffins

I'm sitting out this weeks' challenge as well - unfortunately my oven has a malfunction & isn't working.
Please check out the other bakers here & head over to Laurie's blog for the recipe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Countdown to Paris

Two days to go! 

Bags packed - check.
camera packed - check.
enthusiasm - check. (well, almost. currently suffering immense anxiety at leaving my kids behind; especially this one)

My wish-list of things to see has grown. I don't expect that I will be able to do everything because most of my time on this trip is eaten up by the workshop I'm doing with Sophie Pasquet, but there's no harm in expanding the list all the same:

1. re-visit Musee d'Orsay to see their new Manet exhibit
4. Tour Montparnasse just before sunset
5. check out the exhibit 'Charmed life of the Brothers Caillebotte'
6. bread & cakes at La Fougasse 
7. coffee at Merce and the Muse
8. Musee de l'Orangerie

write to you from paris!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Links to BWD bakers this week (Big Bill's Carrot Cake)

My entire kitchen had to be packed up earlier than anticipated as our renovation comes to an end & so I have not been able to bake this cake despite every intention to make it ahead of time.

A few others are skipping the challenge so please head over here to check out the blogroll & the links to bakers this week. For the recipe, please head over to Rebecca's blog Beurrista or page 254 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Curry-Palooza: Aloo Gobi

Rocquie & I have been discussing curries forever. 

A new cooking event/group seemed the best idea to take things a step further: Rocquie gets to further explore her love for Indian cuisine and I get to try out new things because I'm not entirely new to curries. So curry-palooza was born & we decided to blog about our endeavors in curry-making on the first Friday of each month. We're not cooking from any particular book and so far the only rules are that we take turns hosting the event & that we will blog once a month. I hope others will join us!

Aloo Gobi is an every day dish and I must admit that I usually turned up my nose at it as a very young child. Since then I enjoy cauliflower a lot better but have not attempted to cook this curry more than once and, needless to say, it was terrible the last and only time I made it. I use my Grandmothers' cooking as a benchmark because she lived with us when I was growing up and all the curries she made were wonderful. I never learned to cook from her while I had the chance and much later, I had to rely on her advice and instructions over the phone but could never quite get my food to taste like the dishes she had lovingly prepared for us. 

This recipe turned out to be like a deliciously warm, comforting hug: it is as close as can be to my Grandmothers' version & I was very, very happy to finally get it right. 
The recipe can be found here on Rocquie's blog Sage Trifle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Paris Encore

(photo credit: taken by my son last summer)

I'm going to Paris again!

Here I am again, less than one year after my previous (and first) visit, counting down the days. Only 18 more to go! 

A friend and I made a spur of the moment plan to make a trip to Paris together for une petite vacance & it seems luck was on our side because once the decision was made, everything else fell into place. Our immense excitement overrides any trepidation we might feel over the prospect of leaving our respective spouses in charge of our kids while the two of us enjoy our week away. 

On the agenda: staying in & exploring the Marais, strolling through the Marche aux Puces on our first morning there, trying out Poilâne's famous bread (something I missed out on last time), wandering around the city & taking photos with Sophie Pasquet & a group of photographers, meeting the lady behind Promenades Gourmandes,  and visiting the home & gardens of Monet at Giverny. So far these are the few big things on my list. In the midst of it all I expect to unwind & get my groove back. 

I can only hope the weather cooperates.

I may not blog a lot between now & then but I hope to make some updates during my trip. 

à bientôt!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baking with Dorie: Brrrrrr-ownies

I couldn't make these because, where I live, peppermint patties have been impossible to find & I wasn't able to make my own (no peppermint extract either).

Everyone else in the group seemed to have loved these. Have a look at the blogroll here to see their posts & for the recipe. 

Monday, March 21, 2011


A lot of people said the full moon looked no bigger than average Saturday night. But to me it seemed so much brighter that night. And as always, spectacular.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tarte aux Poires (Pear Tart)

I've never met Paule Caillat, but when I finally see her next month, I'm going to hug her.

Not only is she wonderful, she has also been so patient with my constant queries these past several months. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to book a class with her but all my planning & frequent e-mailing ended in anti-climax when I discovered I wouldn't be able to take one class I was looking forward to because of non-availability and another clashed with something else I will be doing that same day. When I found out the latter, I was sure Paule might want to whack me over the head with a cast-iron skillet for being such a nuisance. But didn't I already establish that she's wonderful?

She really is. For forgiving me. And for being the source of what has become my favorite sweet tart dough recipe.

The last time I made a tart inspired by Paule, I got the creme d'amandes (almond cream) wrong. Well - almost wrong. I hadn't known what creme d'amandes was and had used the first random recipe that I found through google search. It turns out, a much superior recipe was sitting right under my nose the entire time. If only I had bothered to consult BFMHTY

So here's my latest attempt at making a tart: I used Paule's recipe for sweet tart dough but entirely substituted the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour this time. The almond cream filling comes from BFMHTY  (recipe can be found on Dorie Greenspan's blog ) & is topped with freshly poached pears d'anjou. I resisted the urge to use either ginger or cloves in the poaching liquid because Paule warned that they might overpower the delicate flavor of the almond cream. But I did use a vanilla pod. 

The tart shell is par-baked for 7-8 minutes at 350F and then cooled before filling with the creme d'amandes & topping with poached, sliced pears. It goes back in the oven & needs to be baked for 45-50 minutes or until the almond cream is puffed and brown on top. 

Taking a bite out of this tart is complete bliss. I especially love the creme d'amandes which came out so much better than my previous attempt!  I told Paule that the first time I ever had tarte aux poires was in Disneyland &, while it may have been better looking than what you see here, I cannot say that it came anywhere close to this one in flavor.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whole-Wheat Waffles & Swallowing the Frog

The truth is, I've been kind of distracted lately. I'm burned-out and have the worst case of writers' block ever. 

I sit here facing my laptop screen & the words just don't come. I blame it on the weather, the annoying renovation in our house, and the endless academic writing. As far as the latter is concerned lately I'm so un-inspired there too. I sit and stare at blank pages until the last moment imaginable because I know I have to write my essay then & a late submission will mean a big, fat, ugly 'F'. At this point, when I'm so close to the end, this current strategy of procrastination is hardly proactive.

So, what do I do? Instead of writing, I head into the kitchen and mix flour with sugar and eggs to create comforting distractions. I do this almost daily & I take several photos. But they never make their way into a blog post. Because that involves writing. And I just cannot do that lately.

This week I'll have to swallow the frog: I'll push myself to blog about at least some of the things that have appeared in my kitchen the past couple of months. Maybe I can re-direct some energy here. It is most certainly needed because in past months my blog has begun to look like a shrine to BFMHTY alone. And, much as I love Dorie & BFMHTY, I'd really like to blog more often than the obligatory BWD bakes. 

Here are some waffles to distract you while I try & get my groove back:

Whole Wheat Waffles
(from the Nordic Ware leaflet that came with my Waffle iron)

3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (the recipe didn't ask for this but I added it)
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Grease & preheat both sides of waffle iron on medium heat for 3 minutes.
Beat the yolks, sugar, vanilla & oil together in a medium bowl. Add half of the milk and stir.
Add dry ingredients and the remaining milk. Mix until just blended. Set aside.
Beat egg whites till stiff & fold into the batter.
Pour 1 1/4 cups of batter into the center of the waffle iron. Cook for 1/2 to 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook 2-3 minutes. Remove gently with a fork & serve with syrup or fruit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Honey Nut Scones

Monday mornings are my favorite day of the week. It's the only time I have the house completely to myself & so I allow myself the luxury to move about in slow motion; letting dishes accumulate &dust gather while I catch a couple of hours of reading & lazy day-dreaming.

Freezing-cold Monday mornings are perfect for snuggling up on a favorite couch & celebrating the moment with freshly-baked scones and tea.

These scones have just a hint of sweetness & so they'd pair perfectly with any kind of jam. I was out of unsalted walnuts & other nuts so I made mine nut-less. I am sure the walnuts would have added a nice texture & so I'll be sure to make them with nuts next time. I loved them! Soft on the inside with a pleasantly crunchy exterior and barely-there sweetness. A complete winner in my books.

The recipe was chosen by Tina. Please head over to her blog at My Domestic Bliss for the recipe, or turn to page 31 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. This week we were joined by a new member - welcome to BWD Rivki! Please check out the blogroll here to see everyone else's posts.

Next up we're baking Brrrr-ownies (page 103). If  you'd like to join our baking challenges, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Baking With Dorie: Brownie Buttons

It's been a year of Baking With Dorie. And what fun it has been: to get to know everyone in our small group & to bake through this wonderful book that I can't praise enough for the simplicity of its' recipes. It is absolutely, hands down, the best baking book I have ever used. Whether you are an amateur or a seasoned baker, this book is for you & I think everyone should own a copy!

These Brownie Buttons are, in Dorie's words, sensational. Fudgy yet light as air. Perfect for an any-time snack or a kids' party. I made mine with whole-wheat flour today:

Brownie Buttons

Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 stick butter, cut into 4 pieces
2.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the glaze:
2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Lightly butter two mini-muffin pans, each with a dozen cups, and place them on a baking sheet. 

If you are using the zest, combine the zest and sugar in a small  bowl rubbing them between your fingertips to blend; set aside. Whisk together salt and flour. 

Melt the butter, chocolate and brown sugar in a medium-sized heavy bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula and keeping an eye on the pan so nothing overheats or burns. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and cool for a minute or two. 

Stir the vanilla, egg and zest into the chocolate mixture. When the mixture is well-blended, add the flour and stir only till it is incorporated. You should have a smooth, glossy batter. 

Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups, using about a teaspoon of batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Put 1 tsp of water in each empty cup. 

Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the tops of the buttons spring back when touched. Transfer pans to racks to cool for 3 minutes before releasing the buttons. Cool to room temperature. 

To make the glaze: Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir constantly and don't leave the chocolate for even a minute. As soon as it is smooth, remove from heat. 

One by one dip the tops of the buttons in the chocolate, twirling the buttons so that you get a little swirl. Refrigerate 15 mins to set the glaze. 

Happy 1st Anniversary to all my fellow bakers! Thanks for being part of BWD this past year. 

Please check out the blogroll here to see everyone else's take on these adorable brownie buttons. Next up we're baking Honey Nut Scones. If you'd like to be part of our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!


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