Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Cream Tart

It's that time of the week again...and lately that seems to mean me in kitchen...unwrapping bars of chocolate...chopping it.......tempering eggs to make a custard....(mind you, I am not complaining, we've just had our run of custard and chocolate recipes lately!)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Chocolate Cream Tart, chosen by Kim of Scrumptious Photography.

I love chocolate cream pie...love, love it. And it's the kind of dessert I rarely buy, or order out...I was really looking forward to making this week's dish, seeing the posts on P&Q on TWD site-and hearing from fellow bloggers like Nancy, who promised this recipe would not disappoint.

The only thing I fear is I'M the one who will disappoint....Confession: I didn't make the tart crust for this....what's worse, I didn't make the crust at all..I used the frozen one that's been in the freezer the better part of 6 mos! It was another hectic weekend in the house, my 4 siblings came to town, some with niece/nephew in tow, and we were hopping back and forth between my house and my brother's a few miles away. He was putting up a basketball hoop in his driveway for his three kiddos, and needed help putting the finishing touch--backboard--up onto the pole....Some folks swung by our house as Dear Husband and I wanted to show off the progress we've made on the various paint jobs he's done around the house. So as much as this recipe called for a crowd, I did not make it until it was back to just the 2 of us on Sunday.

Since I am still "wishin' and hopin' and prayin'" for a large capacity food processor to tun out tart dough and other fun pastries (Yes, I know I can make in the mixer..but it never quite comes out the 'grainy' texture I look for) I flaked out (pun intended I suppose!) yet again and went for the frozen pie shell in the freezer that was begging to finally be used. "Use it to save it" as my grandmother would say...and so I did. It also meant I can take this recipe in piecemeal--focus on the filling, get it right, and then next time incorporate a home made crust.

The filling was amaaaazing! I loved this...It came together super easily and I'm a whiz now at the temper, stir and boil routine! Bring on the custards!
I put the filling together on Sunday morning and did the saran wrap on top-and-cool in refrigerator route most of the day. Here is the saran-wrapped filling:
Meanwhile, I baked the empty shell and it hung out on the counter until after dinner when I put it all together with the whipped cream...(is there anything more lovely than home-made whipped cream?!)

So here is the finished product....
I got a bit messy with the topping...not the best presentation (I urge you to visit other TWD bloggers for more creative takes on this!)
I'll definitely make this again--and we are enjoying it tonight, on day 2, so the whipped cream held up in the fridge....so I think it does not necessarily need to be eaten that day, as suggested.

Dear Husband (my chocolate connoisseur) admitted that with such a rich filling, a chocolate crust might actually have been too much chocolate for him, so he voted to go with a pie crust next time (I just vote that next time I make the crust..I feel like a farce using the store bought shell!)

So there you have it...not the best post I've ever had either...I'm rather distracted now that I have 'wi-fi' in the house and a new work laptop...I've got one eye on this post--and the other on my poor Yankees....looks like Detroit is not any better luck for them than Beantown was....Sigh...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesdays (Sans) Dorie

Yes, I had designs on doing my own brioche..using Dorie's recipe, using half for the raisin pinwheels the other half of the dough for the brioche-bread pudding...Then the weekend totally went out of control...I scaled down to: "I'll go buy some brioche and just do it that way.." but then the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could not be trusted with bread pudding in the house--CHOCOLATE bread pudding at that...and I have a major date with the chocolate cream tart next week and was loving the torte last week...what's a mom-to-be to do when she's gaining weight every week as it is?! Plus, the big thing is I feared I had no one to share it with beyond Dear Husband, and I wasn't so sure it was up his alley.

So, I was going to forgo all of baking this week. Then I thought that I wanted to make my guy something special seeing as we celebrate 3 year wedding anniversary Wednesday...(here we are 3 yrs ago, April 22!) and because he worked super hard out in our yard all weekend (Spring was in the air all weekend up in CT this weekend! It was sunny and in the 70's! Gorgeous!) Dear Husband LOVES dark chocolate...I thought cake at first but THEN I remembered seeing the recipe for "Perfect Chocolate Brownies" as I browsed through Phe-Mom-enon's blog last week!

It wasn't a cheap recipe by any means, as I took this opportunity to finally upgrade my cocoa powder from the rather pedestrian Nestle (forgive me expert bakers for being so mainstream!) to something better. The spree did not end there as the recipe called for 11oz dark chocolate...the higher end the better...and at about $1/ounce it did not come cheaply....but I wanted to give this recipe the best shot.

And I'm so glad I did!! Because the result were the.most.amazing brownies I have EVER had!

I did not take photos of it in progress as I was trying hard to follow the recipe (there are very specific instructions to ensure your brownies are not 'cakey' and are moist and 'fudge-like' so I had to focus all energies on that!)

Find recipe here which will take you to the day PheMOMenon posted the recipe, adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (not only is her post that day about these perfectly heavenly moist brownies, but about her new gig as a writer for Examiner.com as the Salt Lake "Baking Examiner"! Impressive!) It's a rather easy recipe to get together--no electric mixer needed--just double boiler, bowls and the yummy ingredients. I am not one for nuts in my brownies, but these are SO incredibly dense and fudgy that they could very well compliment them...but for me they are perfect!! :) So a shout-out to the Phe-Mom-enon for sharing this recipe! I'd like to think it means that one I will have a child who brags, "MY mom makes the BEST brownies!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWD: (Three-Hour and) Fifteen-Minute Chocolate Amaretti Torte

This week on Tuesdays with Dorie--the baking club made of the most fabulous members who follow a new recipe-a-week from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours--we made a chocolate torte, chosen by club member Holly of Phe/MOM/enon (another clever blog name!)

Now..it's actually called "Fifteen Minute" Chocolate Torte--but you're on the blog of someone who can never make a 30-minute meal in under 60 min....so seeing as I made this, on Monday night, while trying to make dinner....well, let's say I started it between 5 and 6pm and Dear Husband and I did not cut into until about 9pm. (OK, I "get" that the 15 min refers to the prep time to get it into the oven---but let's be real too, the recipe starts off assuming you have ALREADY melted and cooled the bittersweet chocolate...so I think its a bit of a misnomer...but hey, it's probably the most amazing torte I've ever had, so in the words of "Fish" (from Ally McBeal, not Barney Miller) "bygones")

But first a story--so way back during my holidays growing up, there was always that time of the holiday dinner where the kids had gotten up from the (kids') table and were already running every which direction, the adults were chatting...men in dad's study by his TV, and ladies around the dining room table getting out the desserts and finishing up the dishes. It's about this time I would sometimes be collared and by my mom as I ripped through the kitchen to chase someone, or run from someone and my mom would say "Go and tell your father to bring out the liqueurs"--and she'd say the word "liqueurs" with a neat sort of French accent, stressing the second syllable...always making me think that perhaps she was being fancy and did not want to say the mundane word, "liquor"...come to find out that liqueurs were indeed the a special 'type' of liquor--the after-dinner cordials...and they lived up to their fancy sounding name with their fancy and unique bottles...and the fancy pieces of mini stemware from which the ladies would sip them....So I'd go tell Dad, and sometimes help him carry in everything from his wet bar in the study to be placed out for the adults to pour along with their desserts. Everything from "the tall one" (Galliano---which was a yellow color that always reminded me and my siblings of the the amber colored liquid Actifed cold medicine we'd have to take whenever we had colds). I'd admire "the globe" (Chambord) and "the monk" (Frangelico) amongst the other random offerings like "B&B", Crown Royal, white schnapps, and all the other whiskeys/bourbons/etc...And, of course, the subject at hand today: the boxy one with the square top, aka: Disaronno.

And into the dining room buffet or table they would all be lined up with the desserts for all the aunts/uncles/grandmothers to choose their 'poison.' I can hear my great-aunt Agnes now asking my dad, "John, can you pour me a Tia Maria...." And while dad tended to the drinks, mom tended to putting out the desserts...and in the midst of Aunt Margaret's pumpkin pie, apple pie...cookies, etc was always a mysterious tall red tin of cookies. I'd always want to try one, but I'd get close, take a whiff and run the other way. Our family eventually just called them the "booze cookies" as we were told they were made with what was sitting on the table in that square bottle...so we would blow them off (yes, I was young, I thought it was gross...now, had someone told me they tasted a lot like "Stella D'oro Breakfast treats" back in the day, I would have been all over them!)

So I grown up seeing that red tin...which later stood in our kitchen cabinet and was used for other food storage..and to this day we'll kid about the "booze cookies" that we all avoided like the plague not liking the smell of them. (Remember, this was a LONG time ago...fast forward to these days--when prior to pregnancy I will definitely enjoy my coffee+amarettos!)

It was a 'flashback' for me to read that the same di Saronno amarettini cookies were in Dorie's recipe this week. Yet now, 30 some years later, when I WANT to find these darn things, I could not. I finally settled on another brand of mini amaretti cookies from another Italian distributor...but I really was hoping to get back to my 'roots' and find that red tin. I'm determined to find it again and have it at MY next holiday gathering.......where I will also be serving this melt-in-your-mouth decadent chocolate torte!

Yes...back to the torte....as I said, I threw it together on Monday night....because it took me until Sunday to find the cookies! (Thank God--no pun intended--for Easter. I think that was why I found them randomly at a shop that would not normally carry them..they had a display of cookies out for the holiday). So I don't have any photos of the torte in the making, but here it is out of the oven....

And here is my cream+chocolate sitting ready for the big stir...

and here is the glaze that went on top after it cooled...all lookin' glossy-like and yummy!

I threw the glaze on the cake at 8:30.....

and by 9pm after the required 30 min 'chill' to set the glaze, we were digging in.

FYI,I passed on making the whipped cream as I could not stand the thought of another kitchen clean-up after finally cleaning up from dinner +torte making. So I chickened out and took out the RediWhip! Plus I plan to freeze half of this as there is no way we can allow ourselves to eat this whole thing, but we could so very easily!

Here was the scene of our taste test. I cut out a small piece and plated it. Threw on some dots of whipped cream...took a fork to it, as did Dear Husband...we look up at each other, mouths full, eyes W-I-D-E open and we both just started to chuckle a laugh, shaking our heads as if to say, "there is no way we can be left alone with this thing..." I told him my plan was to freeze half and he agreed.

I can't tell you how much enjoyment we have out of these recipes each week! And I just love the fact that it seems the majority of the time, he is always telling me "this one is my favorite so far!"

Check out Holly's blog for the recipe--and check out all the blog members of Tuesdays With Dorie in the blogroll! I assure you, you'll find better bakers than I who probably did really fun things this week with mini tortes, or a different spin on the batter/glaze...I tend to do mine 'by the book' for the first go-round...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD: Banana Cream Pie!!! (aka: Gilligan & Skipper, this one's for you!)

So every time I hear Coconut Cream Pie or Banana Cream Pie I think of Gilligan's Island. Though I think the coconut variety is what was mentioned most, when she wasn't convinced she was Ginger, or singing with the Honey Bees, or switching personalities with The Professor in some crazy contraption, or doing a soft shoe dance in a talent show, Mary Ann was always walking around handing out a pie of some sort for the boys.

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, chosen by Amy of Sing for your Supper, was Banana Cream Pie.

It was almost the pie that never was....I can't believe how close i came to not even trying this...how close I came to never knowing what a knock-out-of-the-park (on baseball opening weekend yet) it was!

To make a 'long story longer' as a friend of mine says,here we go: I was doing so well baking ahead in March, but then April snuck up on me. I was out on Saturday most of the day so when Sunday came around I was out of the house by 8am to do the dreaded grocery shopping, unpacked it all then went back out to make Mass,for a change, for Palm Sunday...ran over to Kohls afterwards to see about any sales in the maternity dept as I find myself with absolutely nothing to wear to work to cover this this baby belly of mine....and then came home and thought the defeatist words, "I guess I can skip this week.." Mind you, I had already bought the heavy cream and the bananas and some extra eggs---and had all the other ingredients, the list was pretty simple this week. I even had purchased ---as a back-up in case my dough did not come out---Pillsbury 'roll out and bake' pie dough. But still, what really was stopping me was the thought that I would make the pie--and either (a) most would go to waste because it's just Dear Husband and I in the house...or (b) I would eat way too much of it BEFORE dumping the rest...

Fast forward (over a quick nap on the couch) to 3:30 Sunday when we get a call from my sweet nephew--inviting us over for dinner....the wheels start turning in my head.....I look at the clock close to 4...and wondered, "can I really do this?" What I realized was the invitation to dinner=seven people (brother, sis-in-law and their 3 kids--hoping they would try it!) to eat the pie-vs-two. It meant I would also be confined to just ONE piece so as not to tip the scales at my monthly check up on Wednesday (more than I will as it is!)

I have no photos of the pie-in-the-making because I was doing it in such a rush. Probably a good thing because it was not a pretty sight. And yes, I cut to the case and DID use that Pillsbury dough/crust!

It was the Battle of '09: Lisa-vs-Time. I won, but not without casualties. The kitchen counter looked like a war zone. Oh the humanity....as the haze of cornstarch and confectioners sugar cleared, into view came the eggshell shrapnel.....the flood---(water everywhere on one counter from the part where I cooled the pan of custard by putting it into a bowl of water which was hastily filled too high) Weapons strewn about in form of whisk, wooden spoon, and about 3 different rubber spatulas...teaspoon measuring spoons...sour cream residue in the tablespoon....3 soulless banana peels left on the field...empty carton of heavy cream...sifter, strainer PLUS an insert from our salad spinner (the brown sugar would NOT strain through anything else--so I picked the colander thingy from the inside of the spinner to do the job...it worked!)...And there, at the end of the counter, the only one left standing besides me--my trusty Yellow Kitchen Aid having gone a round with the whipped cream, still plugged in, whisk attachment still attached over an empty stand as the bowl had long been taken from it...it was the only one left in an upright position as if to say, "That's all you got? Bring it." As I gave her yellow back a pat, I told her she done good...we would live to fight another day. And in the end, a pie sat sitting in the fridge...and by 5:45 we were off to big brother's house with it in hand.

Now, back to actual 'baking' feedback. Based on other P&Q posts on twd site, I had a similar experience with the custard....I thought all was lost as I continually whipped it...and whipped it...waiting for it to boil. It was a bit frothy from the get-go from pouring in the milk--it stirred up some bubbles, not 'boiling' bubbles) It was not boiling, then all of a sudden I saw a thick edge start to form and freaked out thinking it was curdling and I just wasted a chance at my banana cream pie dessert. So I lowered the heat, whisked it more and then this great smooth custard formed. But it never boiled...? I kept it on the heat a bit longer, then threw in the vanilla and let it sit for the 5 minutes...then put it into a bigger pan of water (thus the overflow flood on the counter).

I gave up on the pan as every time I stirred it it would spill out more water. So then figured I'd just fill the sink a bit with cold water, threw ice cubes into it and put the pan in to cool its jets while I whipped up the cream. The whipped cream was not super 'smooth' I think I over whipped it...it was a bit porous..Not sure how to explain it...but it did not look like the nice smooth cream I was hoping for--but still, it tasted right, and at this point I was not hoping to win any 'presentation' awards knowing that I had to fit my 9" crust into a 9.5" pie plate as it was...I missed out on a nicer thicker crust too.

Now as for taste. My brother has three great kids (12, 10 and almost 9)..all of whom were very willing to try this. After dinner was cleared I doled out the pieces to them all...kids got their first, followed by adults. By the time I went to sit down to start eating my piece, I looked across the table and my 2 nephews (the 12 and 8yr old) were already scraping the edge of the forks on their empty plates to get the last bit of whipped cream/custard! That was all I needed to tell me it was going to be a great pie! And indeed it was! Next time I'll do my own crust, but it's the custard that makes this. My sister-in-law picked up on the cinnamon and nutmeg right away. It definitely adds a nice depth to the taste and shows off the bananas well.

I am SO HAPPY I made this, and even happier when I heard Dear Husband say to that he'd love to grab the last piece that was left in my pie plate and take it back home with us because it was one of the best desserts he's had yet! He was still talking about the pie Monday morning as we both got ready for work...saying "who knew a dessert without chocolate could taste THAT good?" Gilligan & Skipper would have loved it!! My kitchen has been put back together, so bring on the amaretto torte next week!

Here is the photo of the aftermath..with Dear Husband's piece he saved for Monday night's NC game. As I 'go to press' (and pre-publish Mon night) he is hoping for a Tar Heels win...we shall see!