Archive for March, 2012

Bake 52 Week 13: Crème Brûlée

March 28, 2012

I’ve been excited about this week for a while for three reasons.  First, one of my favorite movies of all time is Amélie, and one of her favorite things to do is crack the sugar on Crème Brûlée (I would have included a clip here, but everything I found on youtube included inappropriate scenes….the copy we watch is edited).  Second, I’ve never eaten it before.  And third, I have a friend who received what she thought was the lamest gift ever in a kitchen torch and set of ramekins, and she gladly handed it over to me when I said I could use it.  Otherwise, I’m not sure I would have invested in a torch, so it was fun to have the right tool for the job.  After last week’s bomb, I hoped that this week would be a success.

Overall, the process of making crème brûlée is fairly simple and it didn’t take long to stir the custard up.  I skipped the authentic vanilla bean and went for extract instead….I have a hard time justifying paying so much for a jar that holds two beans! I don’t have a large roasting pan, so I had to use a 9×13 cake pan instead, which meant I didn’t have room for all of my ramekins and had some custard left over.  Aside from the space issue, using the cake pan didn’t affect the overall outcome.

Having never made custard before, I was a little unsure how they should look coming out of the oven, but I think I got it right this time.  After some cooling, we broke out the torch, sprinkled raw sugar on top, and started up the flame.  I wasn’t sure how brown to let the sugar get, so I was glad to let Joseph handle that part.

As for the final product, I think it turned out pretty.  I wish I’d had a strawberry to garnish the top.  For what I think of as being a rather high class dessert, there really wasn’t much to making the crème brûlée and I think I’ll probaby make it for a dinner party sometime down the road.  I’m sure it will come as no big surprise that I’m not a huge fan of custard (a little bit due to taste and a lot due to texture), so I was satisfied after a small bite or two, but Joseph’s co-workers were once again thankful for my participation in Bake 52!

Jen C. was this week’s host and the recipe can be found on her blog.  Thanks for such a fun recipe Jen!



Bake 52 Week 12: Palmiers

March 21, 2012

You know a recipe is going to be good when the it directs you to roll the dough out not on a lightly floured surfaced, but a lightly sugared surface!  I had hight hopes for this one!

This week’s pick was Palmiers, a cookie I had not heard of before.  When I read that it is make using puff pastry, I was a little stressed out.  All I’ve ever heard about pastries is that they are difficult to master.  I had no preconceived notions that I would pull this recipe off like a master, but making the puff pastry turned out to be easier than I anticipated.

It is a bit time consuming:  mix, chill, roll, chill, roll, chill, roll, chill, bake.  BUT, I was so happy to read that this dough can be made ahead and either refrigerated or frozen.  Palmiers just scored some bonus points!

I had to laugh because, as usual, I didn’t read the recipe very thoroughly ahead of time.  Most of the time, recipes will call for butter to be softened…and I never plan ahead to set it out and have it softened by the time I’m ready to bake.  I was so on the ball this time and set my butter out first thing in the morning, only to find later that this recipe calls for the butter to be chilled.  Dang it!

I also had to laugh because I secretly chuckle at Amanda and her obsessive use of a ruler in her baking.  I’m mean really….can’t you just eyeball it?  Well, guess who pulled out the ruler this time?  Yep….me.

Whenever a recipe tells me to roll the dough out in a certain shape, it’s almost a guarentee that mine will roll out in a completely different shape.  This time was no exception, but by the time I got through all the rolling required, I had the square down pat and my ruler to verify that it was the right size.  It’s possible that it might make an appearance in future recipes, though I should probably buy a new one dedicated soley to baking because I can only imagine the number of germs on my household ruler from all the grubby hands that touch it on a regular basis.  I’m sorry for laughing at you Amanda….I’ve learned that there is satisfaction to be found in having perfectly measured baked goods.

I did cheat a bit on the last chilling session required for the puff pastry.  The hour was growing late and I didn’t want to be up until midnight making cookies.  So, I put it in the freezer for 20 minutes and called it good.  The last rolling was kind of brutal on me….that darn dough would NOT roll out bigger than a 6×6 square.  It took some coaxing, but it eventually cooperated.

After the dough is rolled, it chills in the freezer for 20 more minutes and then you cut the cookies.  The recipe suggests baking for 15-20 minutes and then flipping the cookies over. Mine baked for 25 minutes and were still pretty squishy, but I managed to finally flip them. Here they are, drowing in butter in the oven.

Then, they are supposed to baked for 5-10 more minutes until crisp. Mine went for almost 15 more minutes and the only thing getting crisp was the edges, so I finally took them out. The book does not show a completed picture, so I had to look online to know if mine looked the way they are supposed to…..and I’m pretty sure they don’t.

I’m curious to see how everybody else’s look to know if I’m way off base or not.  It was quite late when I finished and the smell of all that butter had my stomach feeling a little overwhelmed, but I sacrificed and had a bite before going to bed.

Because it was so late, I left the second half of the dough in the freezer for another day.

I really enjoyed the process of making these cookies, as I’ve never ventured into anything even close to this.  However, I was not a big fan of the cookie itself.  I wish it had been a bit sweeter and not so buttery….it seemed that all of the sugar from that final rolling dissolved into the butter and the flavor was lost.  I doubt I’ll make this particular recipe again, but I’m glad to have the first attempt at puff pastry out of the way so that I’m not too intimidated to try other recipes that use it.

Bekah was this week’s host….check out her blog for the recipe!


// <![CDATA[
// ]]>


Bake 52 Week 11: Ciabatta Bread

March 14, 2012

I wasn’t worried about this recipe at all.  Bread?  No sweat.  I decided on Sunday morning that I’d make it to go with dinner that night, but when I started reading the recipe, I learned that it’s a two-day process.  There was a one-day option, but I wanted to stay as true to the original recipe as I could, so I put it off for later.

I’ve never made bread that requires you to make a sponge as part of the process.  I felt really weird leaving it out on the counter for a full day….it felt wrong, like it would go bad or something.  When it came time to incorporate the sponge into the dough, mine didn’t mix up very well (and I apologize for the lack of pictures….it was a crazy day and I was running from one project to the other).  I never felt like it got to that smooth, shiny appearance the recipe said it should.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

The next step required you to turn the dough, which is basically just folding it into itself.  The recipe suggested using a bench scraper or rubber spatula for this step, neither of which helped me feel like I was turning correctly….this step was very awkward for me and I definitely didn’t end up with the “rough square” I was told I should have.  It was more of a messy blob.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

Soon it was time to divide the dough into two halves and shape the loaves.  This was another slightly awkward step.  Ciabatta bread doesn’t make pretty-shaped loaves….and I guess since it’s supposed to be that way, then I was successful here.  The dough is very sticky, and even with well-floured hands and a well-floured surface, I was sticking to dough left and right.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

In the meantime, I got my oven pre-heating to 500°, which seems crazy hot for baking.  I put my stone in, hoping I’d have better results with pre-heating it than I did last time.  No such luck.  When I opened the oven door, smoke poured out again and it was evident that my stone was toast.  Burnt toast.  I guess 500° is enough to call all of the grease and gunk of 10 years of use to the surface and then burn it.  I immediately took the stone outside, in hopes that my house would be spared some of the smell.

I have another stone that I rarely use that I pulled out and threw in the oven to heat up.  That stone came out un-burned, but still smelling very unpleasant.  I’ve decided that I don’t care what the recipe says, I’m not pre-heating my stones anymore….it’s not worth the stench!

I put the first loaf on the stone and started baking.  After 20 minutes, I removed it to take the parchment paper off, only to find that the excess flour on the paper was burned….another lovely smell to add to the burnt stones.  At the end of the baking period, the bread came out looking fairly close to how I anticipated it should (at least I think so….it was kind of hard to see throught the haze of the smoke), but we missed out on the smell of freshly baked bread because the burnt smell was so strong.  I was so grateful for a nice weather day so that I could open my doors and windows to air things out!

When the bread was all done, I was glad.  What a process!  And then, as I stared at it, I wondered what I was supposed to do with it.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten ciabatta bread before.  A quick text to my sister, who hosted this week, revealed that you could do a bunch of things with it, none of which really appealed to me.  Joseph cut a slice and shared it with the kids.  Ryan said “This bread is weird.  It’s really hard to eat.  But we’ll get used to it.” and Joseph thought it must resemble what they ate in ancient times.  Hmmmm….not quite the response I thought I would get after all that sweat and tears.

Emily was this week’s host and she made a sandwich with her bread that looks pretty good if you’re into that sort of thing.  Check out her blog if you want to give this recipe a try (and you should, despite my experience).­­


Bake 52 Week 10: Lunchbox Brownies

March 7, 2012

It’s no secret that I’m not a chocolate lover.  However, I do enjoy a good brownie, and the lunchbox brownie was a good brownie….nothing spectacular, but better than what you can make from a box, and just about as easy too.  When I don’t need a ton, it will make a good alternative to my all-time-favorite brownie recipe, which makes an entire cookie sheet’s worth of brownies and calls for so many eggs,  cubes of butter, and cups of sugar that it kind of makes you sick to think about (but oh, do they taste good!).

My initial intent was to make the peanut butter variation, but when it came time to bake, I wasn’t in the mood for peanut butter.  So these are just plain janes and we gobbled them right up!

One thing to note is that the recipe suggested baking for 22-27 minutes. Mine had to bake for 35 minutes before a toothpick came out with just a few crumbs.

Liz was this week’s host…..if you’d like the recipe, visit her blog.

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>