Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stilton Cheese Cakes


I despise blue cheese.

If it is not in a Gorgonzola sauce swimming with gnocchi,  
I don't want to be anywhere near it.  

So I REALLY did NOT  want to  make this recipe.  Couldn't fathom it.  
Who would I pawn offer it to?  

There have been many recipes which made my
head explode on this Heavenly Bakers/Alpha Baker journey.
Recipes that were way too difficult for a novice like me.
Recipes that just didn't sound enticing.

Some recipes actually made me want to curl up
underneath a blanket rather than face pre-heating the oven.
Others necessitated recruiting a navigator,
usually my daughter,
to keep me on the straight and narrow.

What do I do next?

Let's not forget the charts, outlines,  pages and pages
of notes deciphering complicated instructions.

There have been flour explosions, cocoa powder explosions,
spilled sugar, spilled cake pans of batter,
spilled everything.
Plus loads and loads of dishes to wash.

And then the humiliation of attempting to
take a happy snap of pathetic pie lattice,
burned biscuits and lopsided cakes.

Because while I wasn't looking
this baking train turned into a 
photography contest.

Through it all, I never wanted
to run away from a weekly bake.
Until now.
Did I mention I find blue cheese revolting?

What keeps me here instead of throwing in the dish towel?

Something new or different that 
I would never choose to make on my own.
Or something  I've always wanted to bake 
but never had the nerve.

The Alpha Bakers.
The little gaggle of bakers who bake
week after week, 
whether it's a win or fail recipe.
The recipe tales, the spectacular results,
the hilarious disasters.

I feel your pain

The amazing prize worthy photography skills,
and charming out of focus blurry ones, and thankfully 
their ability to simplify a recipe
so I have a chance at understanding
the process.
Their encouragement to keep soldiering on.
Their cheers with any bit of success.
Their willingness to instantly come to the rescue
during a catastrophe.
Their kindness in never criticizing.
They make it fun
when often times it really isn't.
And isn't that the point of baking?
otherwise who's going to buy the book?

Image result for images of audrey hepburn at cooking school

Yes, the Alpha Bakers.

Not so much Rose.  And not so much Woody.
Their priorities lay elsewhere.
They aren't in the trenches with us
bringing the recipe off the page to life
that they understand so well.
A true folie a deux.

I've stacked Rose's cookbooks.
Not counting her Romantic and Classic Cake booklet,
which is around here somewhere.

One foot, one inch
330 millimeters

Oh, here it is.
Add another quarter inch or 6.35 millimeters.

That's a whole lot of  testing and re-testing,
fine tuning and calibrating.
I get it;
it's not all dark chocolate merriment.

Still,  there was no getting around it.

This was the first recipe I did not want to taste.

So even though I badly wanted to skip this week,
I read it again.

And wondered....

Why Stilton when there are so
 many other members in the blue cheese family?

This question was easily answered and I was off and running,
searching for real Stilton.

Image result for colston bassett stilton

from one of the authenticated UK Stilton dairies,  
was luckily at the same
tiny market which provided me with French sour cherries
for the pie we all made.
Y'all remember that pie?

The pie that made me go  

In for a penny, in for a pound

Once that Stilton was in hand,
enthusiasm began to build.

Here are the ingredients assembled and ready for weighing.
The organic cream cheese found in my regular supermarket
was well worth the extra dollar.
Zero gum thickeners.

Rose called for walnuts to be toasted and the skins rubbed off,
as she often does.
I never enjoyed doing this, until now.
Popped warm out of the oven into a plastic container with a lid, 
I shook the daylights out of 'em.
All but a few stubborn ones released their skins.

Cupcake papers to line the cupcake pan.

Ground walnuts tapped into place with an espresso tamper. 

Unwrapping Sir Stilton,  I was prepared to be bowled over by the aroma.

Stilton smashed with a fork into the sour cream
and tipped in the mixing bowl with cream cheese, sugar,
cornstarch and salt;  then a few eggs.
How simple is that?

The mixture is poured into a baggy, one corner snipped 
and piped into the cupcake pan. 

Out of the oven and cooling down before a long rest
in the refrigerator.

Finally cool enough to try with a could-be-riper pear
and wine.

Hey, it's not so bad! 

Or my favorite
Sparkling Pear Cider from France
which is so exquisite 
my daughter chose it for
her wedding brunch.

For extra fun Trader Joe's organic strawberry jam.

It's even better!

As days went by, the distinctive blue cheese flavor mellowed
becoming a faint note in the background.

These little tidbits were well liked
by blue cheese lovers.
I could tolerate them but I think
I would actually love them without the blue cheese,
doubling up on cream cheese instead.
Such quick and easy little cheesecakes.

That's the other thing that keeps me here,
to be nudged to actually bake out of a collection of cookbooks
gathering dust.
I respect Rose's efforts.  I may get frustrated and annoyed,
I may swear more at my poor little Kitchen Aid mixer than I have ever sworn at anything
in my life.  

Really Rose?
Are you kidding me Rose?
Why, why, why Rose?

I wonder if her ears ring?

But I learn.  I overcome my own inadequacies and lack of patience.
The pay off is a delectable experience.

My family and friends think I'm some sort of baking genie. 
I laugh at the very idea.  I'm just holding on by the seat of my pants
along for the ride, like a water skier behind the wake of a boat.
I know the truth
I point them in the direction of picture perfect results
but they are too busy oooh'ing and ahhh'ing and asking
me to please make it again.

Which is how recipes become a part of family celebrations,
holidays, special occasions or no occasion at all.
That's pretty amazing when you think about it.

Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Miette's Tomboy and Orange Chiffon 

The best part? Reading the Alpha Bakers' posts each week..
That is always the best part.
I applaud their efforts
as much as my family does mine.


The Baking Bible is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Double Chocolate Oriolos

Can you imagine a very good cup of hot chocolate as a cookie?
Rose's Double Chocolate Oriolos are very much
like that.
A humble cookie in itself, it packs quite a lot of 
chocolate punch.

This chocolate cookie power house is simplicity itself, just six ingredients.

Blitzed together in the food processor.

Turned out and wrapped in plastic for a quick chill 
in the frig.

Rolled into balls, smashed with a sugar coated glass, 
baked for a very short while and gently removed to cool.
I find this dough scraper works like a charm on fragile cookies.

I made a second batch and baked them much less to see if the
texture would change.  They were softer and chewier, but
crumbled easier.  It's worth it because the flavor
really shines through. 

Inspired by Kim's gorgeous cookies with
larger sugar crystals, I pulled out 
The Polish Princess gold sugar sprinkles.

And there you have it.
A plate of intensely chocolate buttery cookies.
Those who are not a fan of dark chocolate may find
the flavor overwhelming and even think they taste burnt. 
Those that do like dark chocolate love them.
Cookies can be very subjective.


The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum
is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Touch of Grace Biscuits

If I could choose only one thing my grandmother made
it would be her biscuits with blackberry freezer jam.
It wasn't until years later that I realized she made biscuits just for us
when we came to visit.

So I really wasn't expecting much in the way of measuring up to
childhood memories with these biscuits from The Bread Bible.
I was pleasantly surprised
Light, delicate crumb, perfect flavor
these biscuits are a winner.

Mis en place 
that was very nearly 
Mis out of place

Whilst chatting on the phone with my daughter about the ingredients,
I mentioned yeast.  
What yeast? she inquired.
The yeast in the biscuits said I

Lo and behold I was all prepped and set and bought ingredients for the wrong biscuits.
These biscuits are super easy. The only problem which really didn't turn into a big problem,
was my vintage ice cream scoop holds a much larger portion than I realized.
I didn't have enough to put in the center of the pan which meant they probably weren't 
as high as they could have been.

It was shocking to pull them out of the oven and find burned tops.  I baked them for the lesser time, too.
Probably my oven is off but next time I'll throw a foil tent over the top.  The bottom crust was perfectly browned.

Honestly, I was so surprised by the light texture.  Sometimes biscuits can be dense and heavy.
Not these!

Warm with butter and strawberry jam they were just perfect.
But really, could I go a step further?
Curiosity consumed me.

I just knew they would make perfect American style
Strawberry Shortcake.
And they did!
This type of shortcake is usually way too heavy for me
but that never stopped me from enjoying it.
This was the right balance.
Next time I make it specifically for berries
I will add a bit more sugar.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Blue-Rhu Pie

Rose's Blue-Rhu pie is delicious!  
 The rhubarb seems to mellow out the blueberries.  The blueberries mellow out the rhubarb 
until it's a faint note in the background.

Even those in my family who don't care for blueberries like this pie. 

Rhubarb is popular in the mid west but not so much here on the west coast.  
It's finally in a few markets.
Rhubarb comes in scores of different varieties, varying from deep red to green. 
but there is only one type in my local stores.
I know one thing after making this pie;  I'm planting rhubarb!

To peel or not to peel
That is the question

The one thing I do not care for is the stringiness in rhubarb so
I chose to peel.  I hated losing all the beautiful skin.

Into the pot with fresh blueberries, lemon zest, sugar and cornstarch.
This recipe is incredibly easy.

It is so nice to actually bake one of Rose's pies with the correct ingredients.
 It thickened perfectly.

The rhubarb takes on a glorious color from the blueberries.

At this point I started suspiciously eyeing the scrumptious mixture.
I wanted more!
After a FB discussion with Faithy, I decided to make another batch
which doubled the recipe.

It filled the pie nicely and there's enough left to spoon over
ice cream when the pie is gone.  
And it's going very quickly.

Definitely getting better at mixing up Rose's cream cheese pie crust dough but
not so much with the lattice.  Not to worry, this pie crust
recipe is delicious. 

Note to self
Next time remember to chill the pie before baking
And don't try weaving lattice at midnight

Recipe available in The Baking Bible

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lemon Jammies

Cookies have long been treasured in my family.  We always want a little something with our cup of tea.  Simple or fancy, doesn't matter.  

Love creaming butter and sugar 

 There rarely was a day after school that a homemade cookie wasn't waiting for me. If I were to guess, cookies were probably the first thing I was allowed to bake on my own. 

So I wondered, while stirring up Lemon Curd, why we cookie lovers haven't banded together and baked our way through Rose's Christmas Cookies?  Something to look forward to one day.

Simple rolled sugar cookie dough enhanced with lemon juice and zest

These Lemon Jammies couldn't have been simpler to make.  The most arduous task was zesting lemons, and that isn't really arduous at all. 

Dough wrapped for a rest in the frig

Earlier in the morning I made a batch of lemon curd with two lone Meyer lemons waiting to be turned into something special.  I had to laugh when I remembered  the first time making Rose's lemon curd.
Is it going to curdle?
Is this the puddle stage?
How much longer must I stand and stir?
Oh no,  steam!

Rose's lemon curd has turned out beautifully every single time.  Now it is my favorite thing to make.

Time for rolling and cutting out the chilled dough with a biscuit cutter and lopsided heart cookie punch. I swear there's no leftover Vodka in these cookies.

Filled with lemon curd and raspberry preserves.

And the little cut outs are the perfect size for a dolly tea party. 


recipe in The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Polish Princess

May I present to you
Her Serene Highness
Crown Princess Ava
House of Wilder-Zhan

The Polish Princess
 makes her much anticipated debut amongst the commoners and loyal subjects.
And possibly cardiologists. 

1485 mg of cholesterol resides in the palace
52 mg of healthy fat in the walnuts  
Everyone knows the antioxidant  benefits of dark chocolate cancels out saturated fat grams
So there you go!.

I fear The Princess tried my patience sorely with Her endless demands..
If not for Faithy's instructions and Raymond's early post,
I would have fled the kingdom.

This was not a complicated cake to make, per se, it was just 
never ending.
I started to hear a lot of cursing.
Oh, wait,  that was me.
When I pulled out the last half inch of parchment paper in the box,
there may have been a complete meltdown.
Fourth trip to the store.
Does anyone remember the bee sting scene in Ever After?

But it was the walnuts that put me over the edge.  Toasting is one thing, but rubbing the skins off
is truly annoying.  Then it came to me in a flash, why not give them a 
a damn good thrashing ?

Popped into a plastic box and relentlessly shaken, the skins nearly all came off just like garlic. Made a terrible mess sifting the skins in a wire mesh strainer, but at this point what's another thing to wash in the growing mountain of dishes? 

Principessa is one high maintenance lady.
The scullery maid was no where to be found.

It's rather a blur but I do remember adding lemon oil to the Vodka tea syrup in addition to the lemon juice.
Alas,   back in 1917 Poyotr Smirnov fled Moscow during the October Revolution.  Eventually making his way to Lwow ( formerly Poland) before having to flee once again..  So it seemed reasonable to use Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka.
Plus my brother had an opened bottle at the back of a cupboard.

Poking the cake with a shish kabob skewer was great fun.
That cake batter was a true test of faith in Rose.  

I gave up brushing all the syrup over the cake.  It was turning gummy.

So onto a cocoa powder explosion and the cook nearly lost her head.
Once mixed into the buttery custard cream all was forgiven.
And she got to keep her head.

The Princess's crown jewels were hidden within the second layer of 
custard cream.

No one is the wiser golden raisins lurk within
blueberries, cranberries and cherries.

And she slept for the night in a grand four poster.

Image result for images  four poster bed

Or maybe I dreamt  I slept in a grand four poster bed.

Today is another day.
With a sprinkling of gold sugar over
and a grating of chocolate
she is quite delectable.

Now I must be off.
The royal Fitbit has decreed I shall be walking to Utah.
Be back in time for the Lemon Jammies.

 The Princess has one last Royal Decree~


Image result for polish royalty