Category Archives: baking

Come to the dark side

We have cake!

clementine 4

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Ginger snap icebox cake

My Christmas dinner dessert:

One sleepless night, I turned on Netflix and watched a couple of episodes of The Barefoot Contessa, a program I used to love back in the days when I had cable. (Whatever you think about Ina Garten, her recipes always work out and I have a couple that I’ve used with great success for years.)

She was making an icebox cake. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a cake you assemble by layering thin, crisp cookies with whipped cream, and then put in the icebox (an earlier incarnation of the refrigerator) overnight. The cookies soften and you end up with a cake-like consistency.

My mom used to make the one they have on the package of Nabisco chocolate wafers, which was really good, but the presentation was never all that fancy.

For hers, Ina Garten, lined a springform pan with chocolate chip cookies, and proceeded to make layers of a whipped cream/mascarpone mixture and more cookies until she came to the top of the pan. She then covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. You can find her recipe here.

I like ginger for Christmas so I decided to adapt this. I found ginger snaps that have crystallized ginger baked into them. And then I adapted the cream mixture.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 ounces mascarpone
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 tsp orange extract

And this is how it came out!

I think if I made it again, I’d sub out Grand Marnier for the brandy and maybe put some candied orange peels on the top.

But very very yummy just the way I made it.

Komono – Finished!

Reader, tonight I finished the miscellaneous category of my possessions.

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Look I made pop tarts!

No seriously, I made homemade pop tarts.

 Homemade poptarts

This is like an actual thing that some people I work with have made in the past. I was intrigued enough to want to try it. The recipe they use comes from Smitten Kitchen.

I am considering the dough to be a major victory, because I have issues with pie crust type doughs. Frankly I had issues with this dough. you can see from the photos that they’re not terribly pretty.

Jammy goodness

I even made the jam. It’s blueberry – recipe courtesy of Food in Jars. I achieved set in this jam to an extreme extent, but when I heated it up per the pop tart recipe instructions, it came out just fine.

Lemon Brownies

Lemon Brownies I have no idea where this recipe originated. There are a couple of variations out there. This is the one I made. Upped the amount of lemon juice slightly in the glaze.

If you’re thinking these will come out like lemon squares, you’re in for a disappointment.

They’re very much like a light non-chocolaty lemon flavored brownie. Light and tart and delicious. Easy to do too

Christmas dinner

Gingerbread Cake

Appetizers:

  • Shrimp (bit boring, but so little prep that I continue to do them every Christmas)
  • Deviled eggs
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Turkey summer sausage and homemade mustard (more on that in the next blog post)
  • Brie with walnuts, brown sugar, and rum

Main meal

  • Lasagna roll ups – pretty much how my mom has always made them with the addition of spinach, but if you want a recipe, Giada de Laurentiis has one here. I omit the bechamel sauce.
  • Marinara sauce recipe here
  • Salad
  • Rolls

Dessert

  • Cookies (Mexican wedding cakes, rum balls, cherry drops, ginger snaps
  • Gingerbread cake with whipped cream/lemon curd topping

So let’s talk about that gingerbread cake. It’s a Bon Appetit recipe. Think delightfully dense spice cake, but gingery.I add a little more ginger and use blackstrap molasses in lieu of the light kind the recipe calls for. I’ve made it before (with and without the topping), and had gotten a little cocky. I decided to make it for a work holiday function and without paying much attention, used a 8 inch round pan instead of the 8 inch square pan.

Turns out math is important after all! Who knew? (Yeah, you can all stop snickering at me now). I ended up with gingerbread cake soup and had to add on like 10-15 minutes more cooking time.

Gingerbread Cake Slice

I opted to use a 9 inch round pan for the one I made for Christmas and other than panicking at realizing I was out of parchment paper (thank you, Joe for calming me down and explaining that wax paper would work just fine), it came out quite nicely.

The topping is whipped cream with a bit of lemon curd folded in. Add a bit of grated lemon zest and you have a really nice dessert.

Plum tart

We’ve been getting tons of plums from our CSA. I love them, but you reach a point where you have to start baking or canning stuff before they go bad. I had been going with an ersatz plum crisp, but I was getting sick of that, so I opted plum tartto make a tart. I ran into a few difficulties. Surprise surprise.

Sadly, it looks nowhere near as pretty as the one in the Epicurious recipe. This would be due to the fact that I was using a bunch of different types of plums. That meant I had different sized slices (first problem). Second problem was that I didn’t halve this the way I was supposed to. That realization came to me as I was dumping in the juice and sugar mixture and had crossed the rubicon as it were. The result was that I had way too much liquid and it was way too sweet. Live and learn!

Quiche Lorraine

I don’t do crust. I need to learn to do it though because really, homemade pie crust is so much better than anything store bought. That said, I present to you one of Saturday’s efforts. quiche lorraineYes, it’s quiche. How ’80s can I get? Well, I don’t care. I love quiche. Also I had a fair amount of the ingredients already.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. Only thing I did differently was sub out Canadian bacon for the ham. It came out quite well, but in retrospect I wish I’d made the effort to make my own pie crust. Maybe next time. Her recipe called for sour cream and it really did add a nice richness to the custard.

For the win!

They say you shouldn’t try out new recipes for parties without a test run and normally I am a firm believer in that rule. But every so often I break it usually with lackluster results. Sometimes though, there are wondrous exceptions. Here is one of those exceptions: Jam Crostata

Doesn’t it look splendid? This would be the Italian Jam Crostata from Chow. This one has more of a shortbread like dough. Came together quite simply per the directions. There was one ambiguous direction — you halve the dough; take one half and press it to a plate, cover it with plastic;  and put it in the freezer, but it doesn’t say for how long. After some frantic internet searching, I went with 7-10 minutes and hoped for the best.

I probably shouldn’t have taken it out of the springform pan as I was taking it somewhere and travel became a bit interesting…

Tasted pretty awesome. I used some Wilton’s seedless raspberry jam. I didn’t use any mods to the recipe. Next time I may change up the proportions of the extracts to give the almond a bit more oomph.

Birthday Feast!

It was my mother’s birthday yesterday. My present to her was her favorite meal: homemade pasta and sauce.

So we have a green salad (courtesy of my mom), rosemary olive bread (more on that below), meatballs, pasta, tomato sauce and my go-t0 green beans with lemon zest and pine nuts.

Making pasta is one of those things looks harder than it is. Really when you come down to it, it’s more tedious to make than it is difficult. It’s worth the effort though. There is nothing quite like it. The meal came out well, I think.

I  really wish I did not have to use canned tomatoes for the sauce. They’re ok, but not the same as sauce from fresh.

So this summer I am determined to get a bushel of tomatoes from a farmer’s market and make and freeze sauce from scratch.

Anyhow, I am really really proud of the bread. 

I have made the Mark Bittman no-knead bread before, but I’ve always done the shortened version (the one that takes about 12 hours). This time, I went for the 24 hour version. Half whole wheat flour, half white. flour. I added in chopped, pitted oil cured olives and fresh rosemary. Coated the dough in olive oil and let rise for 18 -20 hours. This is the result (well there’s another rising in there, but you get the idea).

It was great to celebrate with friends and enjoy this meal.

And now, I think I am going to go enjoy some salad and a slice of this bread for my supper.