Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daring Bakers April challenge is...


The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

We got to use the basic recipe linked above, and we could flavor it anyway we wanted. Really lots of wonderful experimentation this month. Even if you don't normally browse other DBer's sites, you ought to this time. Especially check out this one. Really, click the link if you want to see which kind of cheesecake I'm making next. ?*&
!# Brilliant!!

I did not do anything so notable, but it was just fine. I added a little pomegranate to the batter; otherwise the filling was as written in the recipe. I made them in miniature in the cutest removable bottom pan. The crust is crushed frosted oatmeal cookies mixed with cinnamon and butter, and is really delicious. It's kind of chewy and sweet but not too sweet. The cheesecake batter is tasty, nice and creamy. I tend to like my cheesecake a little on the dry side, but this was very good for a creamy/wet one. The tart contrast of the kiwi was quite nice and sort of pretty.

Everyone in the foodie blogosphere seems to be ga ga for little spoons, figured I might as well jump on the band wagon.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The beginning ...

...of something good?

You know how it goes. You make something terrific and people say- Ooh, you should sell this! You hear that enough and you start to wonder if you could sell some things. How would it work? What exactly could you sell? Where could you do it? Who would buy your stuff? How could it happen without disrupting your life or costing too much to get started? Etc. Etc.

Let it be said, I'm interested in cooking for money again. Not as a full time gig, however. I enjoy cooking and entertaining, and I enjoy the rest of my life which does include a 1/2 time job teaching. I don't want for that to change. But, how great would it be to have some people who regularly or occasionally bought some baked goods from me or hired me to cater parties?

I've mentioned this to several people in the last couple of months and I intend to put together a reasonable list of things I could offer, including some prices. That's in the works, but not yet ready. In the mean time, if you're in need of any items or catering don't hesitate to give me a call.

One of my dear friends, who has listened to me ruminate on this project, had an occasion this last weekend where my services were exactly what she needed. She'd gotten in over her head a little bit in throwing a birthday brunch for a family friend. The guest list grew and grew and things took a serious turn when she discovered that the menu needed to be kosher for passover. Yikes! No bread for brunch?? What about birthday cake? This put a serious wrench in her well laid plans. We talked and she offered to hire me to provide some quiche and a cake, and she handled the rest.

Kosher for passover is different than regular kosher- the main restriction for us was no flour, no leavening, and for those of you jumping to the logical birthday cake option of a flourless chocolate cake with ground nuts, due to an allergy, no nuts were permitted either! You can use ground matzoh as a substitute for flour, but without time to do a trial run and tweak a recipe, I figured I would use a recipe that I knew. I chose the Chocolate Oblivion cake from the Cake Bible. It's a pound a chocolate, a half pound of butter and 6 eggs. This satisfied the dietary rules, and is darn tasty.

A flat, dark, kind of dull looking single layer simply would not do for a birthday cake. The dense texture of this "cake" made it a little challenging to fancy up. I decided on a raspberry whipped cream piped on top with some pretty fresh raspberries. This was not the time to try new things, since I had to make the delivery in less than an hour, but I wanted to make it even more dazzling. On the second try, a band of white chocolate lattice/scroll work/squiggles whatever you want to call it, worked! It was even sturdy enough to survive the car ride and made it in good shape.

For the quiche, large potato latkes served as the crust, and the filling for one was mushroom, spinach, sun dried tomato and feta. The other was caramelized onion, asparagus and chive. I made a third for our own brunch on Sunday of the remaining fillings and it was really good. I like the Silver Palate quiche custard formula of 1 1/2 cups of cream to 3 eggs. And, if you can use flour, their pate brisee recipe makes a perfect crust.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pignoli Cookies

My friend Greer joined me one Tuesday and we made some cookies together. It was nice to have company in the kitchen again as Robb has been MIA for a while now.

These cookies came to be made because Greer bought some at an Italian market and totally loved them. She found a recipe and we got to work. They are very simple. You mix almond paste with sugar and egg whites and roll in the nuts- voila!

The only difficulty we observed was that in mixing the almond paste at the start, it was easy to end up with lumps, especially if the paste is a little dry. We pushed it through a sieve when we noticed this. I made the cookies a second time later and with really fresh paste and a thorough mixing, no lumps. I also made a discovery about almond paste. I prefer the smoother texture of the Solo brand paste in a can over the Odense brand in a tube.
(This turns out to be smooth enough so long as the paste is soft, just mix pretty well once you add the whites.)

The cookies end up sort of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are insanely sweet; Kevin loved them!

Fooling with the almond paste made me crave almond croissants and linzer torte type things. Almond is just darn yummy. Maybe more almond-y things will be coming...


1 cup pine nuts
2 egg whites
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c powdered sugar
12 oz. almond paste

Mix paste until it's pretty creamy. Add sugars and mix in egg whites. Roll in nuts. This made about 15 cookies, you could make them smaller and that might be better- the ratio of less soft middle to more crispy outside would be better. Bake at 375 for 20-25 min., less for smaller cookies.