Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hello, Dorie!

Greetings!! I am happy to report in and give you my very first TWD post!

I was THRILLED that Stefany from Proceed With Caution chose a cookie recipe this week (Chunky Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters, page 73) because it gives me a relatively worry-free premiere week. I was concerned at first that my first week’s recipe would have been some involved recipe using baking tools that I would have to buy (not that shopping is a bad thing), or techniques that were new to me. Although now that I've had a chance to peruse the book, I realize that I have not a pinch/dash/smidgen/drop of intimidation with Dorie's recipes…I think Dorie has put my mind at ease that I am far better off for just attempting a recipe than to not try at all!

I am also thrilled that my foray into TWD coincides with the retirement of my bathing suit for the season as there are some very decadent recipes coming my way! Goodbye summer clothes—and hello Dorie and oversized roll neck sweaters!

So back to the baking…This particular recipe would have been among my own choices as I’ve always loved the oatmeal-chocolate chip combination…. I was excited to dig in and start!

Sunday late morning, I gathered all my ingredients, all revved up and ready to go—little miss homebaker---and then I heard the sudden slam on the brakes, the drag of the needle across the record album, as I read the dreaded words: “2 sticks of butter, room temperature”…Now you'd think that this would not have happened because the fact is my dear pal Cathy (who recruited me to TWD) had the very same issue with her first TWD recipe--one would assume I'd learn something there..but no...Yet there is some solace in the fact that even though these days we live miles apart (she in the South, me in the Northeast), things like this confirm we are still very much alike. So hey, if a recipe ever calls for cold unsalted butter, we're your gals apparently...(that, and if you ever need backup singers for drunk karaoke, we rock on the "mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa"'s in You Wanna Be Startin' Something..but I digress...)

I took 2 sticks from the fridge, threw on my counter with 2 eggs, and proceeded to measure out all the ingredients into the 2 bowls to keep me occupied while I waited for the butter to get to its happy temperature (with some 'encouragement' from me and the microwave...)

BAKER'S NOTE, INGREDIENTS: I used Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips, and as for PB, decided to go with ½ C chunky peanut butter, and ½ C of creamy…I’m not a huge fan of chunky to begin with, but didn’t want to abandon it altogether as it's what was recommended, so I compromised.
I did not refrigerate the dough at all--only b/c I read on TWD the issues folks had with it getting too hard/crumbly--though I did throw the whole mixing bowl+batter into the refrigerator in between scooping it out onto the parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets, baking, then cooling the sheets for the next round. I found my cookies were (fairly) even in size, thanks to the cookie dough scoop I have--which is probably between 1-1.5 TB)
My first batch at 7 min per rotation came out a darker brown than I wanted—so I cut it to 6 min per rotation and they came out perfect!! My recipe made close to 70 cookies.

The Reviews are in, and all raves!

"They're the best cookies I think I've ever had" -Dear Husband (truly, he said that--I was so happy!)

"is that cinnamon? There are so many flavors and layers to these cookies...these are amazing!" -Dear Sister
"I laughed, I cried...eating these is better than going to see Cats" - Daily Variety

I love 'em and know I'll be making them often. I also froze a bunch since it made so many--I'll let you know how they freeze/thaw in a month or so! I love the crunchy outer- yet slightly chewy inside!

I think the cinnamon competes a bit with the peanut butter taste...if I was to do anything differently next time, I will cut the cinnamon measurement in half

Well, that's it folks! My first week done and posted! Looking forward to reading everyone's posts/experiences! I'm glad to be aboard!

Scratch Cake #2:Chocolate

After trying my hand at my first scratch cake, I thought I would try again for my dear husband's birthday...and this time--chocolate! (His favorite)

Whose Chocolate cake to bake became the next question....Dorie? Martha? and then I realized I would go back to the very basics, and take out an heirloom: my great-aunt's 1940's Good Housekeeping Cook Book.
This book has been my trusted friend for some time now. My father's Aunt Margaret was the baker in his family. After she became a widow (in the 60's), she moved in with her widowed sister (my grandmother), and ever-bachelor brother (my great-uncle Jack) in our town. On any given weekend, it was not odd to see a white Duster drive up the driveway and the 5 of us (actually 7 of us as Mom & Dad loved her goodies as much as the kids did) would be waiting to see what she'd appear with...because she never came empty handed...brownies, cream puffs, tapioca, apple name it, she baked it--and well.

She passed away when I was only in 5th grade or so...and although my grandmother was not a baker, she saved her sister's cook book-and many years later, as Gram moved into a smaller place, she asked if I wanted was like being passed a family bible. It now has a special place in my kitchen and heart. You can see old oil, chocolate stains...and writing in the front cover pages for other quick recipes she did....not much is marked up in the 'cooking' pages--but the "baking" pages are filled with drops from batters long gone. The cover is worn in out of years of love of baking...and I feel so lucky to have this connection with my Aunt.

I'm getting off track, but point being, I just knew this would be the cookbook to give me THE definitive chocolate cake recipe. "If it was good enough for Margaret, it's good enough for me."

I had to melt the (Trader Joe's) Belgian chocolate over a double boiler, under very specific instructions of Sir Joe ("when water is just about to boil turn it off...wait until it is shiny and then stir to melt it...") I went through my stops and starts of: "is it shiny yet? what about now? well the BOTTOMS of the blocks are shiny, but not the top, does that mean 'shiny'?" I was able to pull it together, realize it's just melting chocolate, and so I started stirring...and soon the blocks turned into something wonderful looking:

I had already lined my ingredients up so I could move this along once the chocolate melted...and into the Kitchen Aid it went...

Overall it was a super-easy recipe...though the only glitch was that regardless of scraping down the bowl as I went along, I guess I did not realize I wasn't getting everything. Once I started pouring the batter into the pans, I saw that there was a residue left on the very bottom of chocolate and flour "cement" that went un-scraped despite my that point, it had solidified so even if I scraped it off (more like "chipped away at it"), it wasn't going to be added into the pans...maybe I added the flour too fast? I have no clue...but I lamented for about 30 seconds, licked the bowl to realize that it still tasted chocolate enough even without a what was left behind...and so be my Navy brother would say, "FIDO" (F- it, Drive On)...

Here they are, out of the oven...I was not sure of how my first chocolate cake would do, and was worried about it not being chocolate enough due to the incident with the chocolate cement--so I did not leave the frosting up to chance, and used store-bought frosting (gasp! the horror! I know, I know, I'm such a rookie, huh?) I chose dark chocolate on top--and found whipped cream 'style' frosting for the middle, which was a nice call if I do say so myself... light, airy, and broke up the total chocolate party going on with the cake and other frosting...

Once the frosting was over, I just waited for the company (my brother/sister-in-law and their 3 kids) to arrive so we could eat dinner--and then crack into the cake! The only thing with cake is you can't test it before everyone else can't even steal a taste of the first piece as that one you have to hand off to the person of honor...All through dinner I was thinking that I had my target audience (my 2 nephews and my niece) and this was make or break time as Auntie Lisa's reputation as a baker...candles were lit, subsequently blown out to an off-key rendition of Happy Birthday...I cut into it, served it, and I looked around the table to see smiles and lots of "wow, Lisa, this is amazing!" I finally let myself breathe, then tried myself to find a lovely tasting birthday cake!

So in closing, this whole from-scratch stuff was a world I never dared tread before--but wow, now that I have I realize that it's not so scary at all, in fact it's "all bake, no bite". My husband is still raving about it, and it makes me happy, proud, and excited to bake more!

Cheers, Margaret.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bakin' n Bloggin'=Blaking??

So one of my nearest and dearest, Cathy, shared with me not too long ago that she was invited to join an online baking club, called Tuesdays With Dorie.

In this club, all members purchase Baking..From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and each week a different recipe is chosen and everyone bakes and blogs about it. The only rules are members must participate in at least 2 recipes a month. (oh ya, and have a blog...which is why I started this one, dedicated to my TWD posts!)

Hearing about this baking community dovetailed beautifully with the fact that I had JUST baked my first layer cake from scratch, and was itching to do more! I am so excited!! So, sign me up!

I will post my first recipe next Tuesday, Sept 2nd. And am thrilled that my first endeavor will be a cookie recipe!! Ahh...cookies!

So stay tuned….Wish me luck!