Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pecan Sticky Buns I was supposed to post this on Tuesday, since the project I am in is called Tuesdays with Dorie, but somehow this week it just did not happen.  I did make the pecan sticky buns on Tuesday; that counts for something right?  This may have been the most difficult dessert or sweet recipe I have made thus far.  It took me a couple of tries as well.  Before making the actual sticky buns I had to make the brioche bread the buns were made with--which was the hard part.  Brioche is a french egg bread, very similar to challah.  The bread calls for a sponge, which is the starting point for most breads.  The sponge was supposed to crack.  The crack is an indication that your yeast will work.  My first sponge (there ended up being three...) did not work, so I threw it out.  The second sponge came out perfect, as did the rest of the dough. The dough was doing everything it was supposed to do...I know this from watching the demo of Julia Child and Nancy Silverton making the stuff.  It was silky and glossy; a sight to behold.  As I made the dough I heard it slapping in my kitchen aid, "music to the bread-makers ears," Silverton said.  After the first rise it was all puffy and pretty looking.  I must say I was really proud.  The last step was to let it rest.  I DID NOT read the part that said, "in the refrigerator."  When I woke up the next day my perfect dough was sunken in and fizzy looking.  I had to throw it out.  I felt kind of pathetic.  Erik, my husband, told me to let it go.  It was just dough...I tried and it did not work out...perhaps it was time to give up, but this is not how I operate.  I proceeded to make the dough again.  It came out perfect, but man what a pain in the ass!

The brioche took a day and night and the buns themselves took quite a few hours to make.  There was lots of time needed for dough to stiffen in the fridge and rise once again before going in the oven, but in the end it was worth it.  These suckers were good.  It was the first sugar and gluten that I have eaten in over a month.  The friggin things may have been what kept me up the night I ate them, but no matter---they were GOOD and even better for all the love put in.

On a totally different note last week I got some blood work done.  It ends up I have a type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis, fabulous right?  This particular type of psoriasis is caused by a strep infection, which I tested positive for.  I am on antibiotics and the have lessened quite a bit, but are still there.  Usually in most cases the psoriasis goes away.  It may take time.  We shall see.  I keep telling myself it is something external.  It is not deadly, just uncomfortable at times.  I have eased up on the cleanse (after I caught myself binge-eating chicken I figured it was due time), but am going to follow what many people say seems to work for them--eating mostly vegetables and fruit with minimal meat products and dairy.  The dairy part is hard.  I really love cheese, and I kinda feel like I have been so restricted all ready, but I really want this stuff to go away.  While doing this I am going to utilize all the skills I teach to others such as staying positive, praying for my higher power to assist me, and to straight up relax because this too shall pass.

Peace Out!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hungarian Shortbread

This past Tuesdays with Dorie was Hungarian Shortbread. I actually made the short-bread on Tuesday and planned on writing the blog that ver day, but life does not always go as planned. Erik, my husband, got tickets to something (at the time I did not know what), and as the day passed I proceeded to get sicker and sicker. The shortbread came out great, though I could not eat it due to the cleanse. Though I did take a bite, but spit it out, sorry, I know, gross, but it just smelled so good. Why did I spit it out? For the passed month I have had psoriasis all over my body, including my face. It almost looks like hives or the chicken pox. Sugar makes it worst. I am not willing to see what "worst" looks like, because in my mind, worst is kinda where I am right now, and it has been a month. Anyhow, by the time we got to the concert I was ready to turn back around. At this point I knew it was some sort of concert. I felt feverish, boogery, and generally terrible. I was willing to take a cab home, until I discovered what/who we were seeing...Roger Waters doing The Wall. I have always wanted to see Roger Waters and regretted not going when Learning to Fly came out. I have been a huge fan of Pink Floyd, since I was a kid. Sick as hell, feeling like I was about to hurl...I stuck it out, at least for the first set. It was a great show. His voice isn't what it used to be. I did not cry during Goodbye Blue Sky like I thought I would (I really love that song), but it was one of the coolest concert experiences I have had...and I have been to some cool shows (if I do say so myself). The next day was a whole other story. I was sick...not just cold sick, but fever, aching, nose-dripping sick, the kind of sick that lays you up for days. I am better now, but still weak and coughing...thus, my post for Hungarian Shortbread today. Oh, and the psoriasis is still there. It is very, very slowly getting better. Getting psoriasis this bad has been a humbling experience. Psoriasis is not a life threatening disease, but it is uncomfortable as hell. The Hungarian Shortbread came out great. I used a cherry jam as the filling. Shredding the dough made it fluffy and was a cool trick. The girls really like them too. We still have some in the fridge. Usually I give my treats out to people, good karma and all, but this time around, I stayed real close to home. I am looking forward to the next treat from Tuesdays with Dorie, pecan sticky buns. Hopefully by the time I make them, I will be psoriasis-free or at least back to some semblance of normal. Peace out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lemon Loaf Cake

For this month I chose to only make one of the Tuesdays with Dorie assigned recipes. I knew that would sometimes happen. Sometimes I become a bit torn. I love to bake. I love the way it makes my house smell. There is nothing better than biting into some type of homemade sweet something or other that comes out of the oven. Baking is meditative and comforting. Baking also is something special to do with my children. I love our baking projects-how excited and proud my two little girls get as they wait for their creation to bake in the oven. The girls completely made these lemon cakes; I just directed and taught them what to do. I say cakes because they made two, well Amara made one cake and Maya made the other. One of the cakes was made to give away at the cake walk their school had at the Spring Carnival this weekend. I was proud because it looked like it was the only simple, homemade cake there (at least that is what I thought...I may be wrong).

I cannot describe the way the lemon loaf cake tastes because I was unable to try it. Four days ago I started a three week cleanse. On the cleanse there is no gluten, sugar of any kind, corn, tomato, nothing white, from a box, no soy products--essentially I am only eating vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables and fruit with a spattering of fish and olive oil for good measure. The cleanse is for food allergies and my immune system. Two weeks ago my psoriasis got really bad. Well first came a bladder infection, which I have never had before. After the infection I got the flu, and then my psoriasis spread and my scalp itched like crazy. My acupuncturist (whom I love and go to for most ailments) suggested a cleanse, I am. What crazy person goes on a cleanse and then bakes two!

It was tempting to take a bite of these cakes though, I must say. I love lemon and when they baked the house smelled lemony, almost clean, yet homey too. The cake is very pound cake like and was super easy to make for two 4 year old girls. My husband said they were the perfect consistency and tasted just like a lemon pound cake should taste--meaning nothing was over-mixed. They are plain and simple, but sometimes plain and simple are best---kinda like the way I am eating right now. I am eating as simply and healthfully as I can to help heal myself within and externally. Did I just compare my cleanse to pound-cake??? So be it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade Rugelech

The next Baking with Julia recipe is for rugelech. The cookies are perfect for the Jewish holidays, well all aside from Passover. During Rosh Hashanah I bet they'd be great filled with apple butter too. Making the levkar may seem like a hassle, but it is super easy and well worth it, but if you do not feel like making the levkar any kind of fruit butter or jam will suffice. Making your own is a pain in the ass, but well worth it. In our house it will be what we make for the Jewish holidays, or to add some confusion, I may bake them for my annual Holiday Christmas Cookie Swap, so I can "school" all my goyim friends. Rugelech somehow reminds me of home. We never made it, but in Long Island, NY there is rugelech in most bagel stores and Jewish delis.

The rugelech take several stages to make over a three day time span, but doing it this way made it much less overwelming. In fact, they are cooking right now and the end product smells amazing. The dough is a lightly beaten, barely stuck together mash of cream cheese and butter, left in the fridge over night. Meanwhile, apricot and prune levkar is made. Levkar is a Hungarian fruit butter made from either dried apricots or prunes, sugar and some kind of nut. The levkar was super easy to make, all it took was some dried fruits simmered and thrown in to the food processor. The cool part of making the levkar is the left overs. I chose to make both apricot and prune levkar to have two different tastes. Dorie says it is good smeared on bread. The gals usually do not like jellies or jams, but I am going to try it out on them for a snack.

The rugelech had a lot of steps. After letting the dough rest in the fridge and making the levkar I was able to actually make the rolls. Rugelech is made like a jelly roll. First cinnamon, sugar, chopped nuts, dried fruit and the levkar are layered onto the dough. The girls had so much fun adding the layers to the dough and pressing all the yummy ingredients in, though I must say the counter and floor where quite messy when we were done. The cookies are rolled up lengthwise, kinda like a burrito, taking care to make sure you add pieces of the filling in as you go. Then you put the roll in the fridge for a night. The next day before going in the oven they are dipped in a nutty cinnamon sugar mixture. When the cookies bake they smell incredible (did I mention that???). The house smelled like the best cinnamon sugar candle mixed with baking pastry or bread...but better because it was the real thing!

On a side note, currently my face is a blotchy, red mess from eating these delicious cookies, but even so, I cannot stop eating them. Through this baking experience I am realizing that sugar really does not agree with me, no matter how much I want it to. I am wondering if I can make some of the recipes with coconut sugar? Or I need to just eat a little bit of whatever it is that I make, then bake some kind of concoction with coconut sugar or agave nectar to ween myself onto something sweet, but a hell of a lot better for me. The plan with the rugelech was to eat a few of the cookies, then stop, but they are addictive. The mixture of the light cream cheese dough with the not so sweet jammy levkar filling and crunchy, carmelized cinnamon sugar crust just keeps begging to be eaten again and again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

This weekend I made the chocolate truffle tartlet from Baking with Julia Child by Dorie Greenspan. The first part of the recipe was making the chocolate pie crust. Pie crusts and I have a mixed relationship. I am constantly trying to "get it right", but have not figured out how...until now. I only had frozen butter, which was a good thing because it was really, really cold and cold butter is key to making a great pie crust. Initially I tried to make the crust in the food processor, but it was not jiving (the butter was actually too cold!), so I used my hands. I think using my hands helps, so I can FEEL the texture. Pie crust flour mixture should be really crumbly, the crumb the size of peas. I rolled it up, but it in the fridge over night to let the flavors meld and hoped for the best.

I get kinda nervous when I have to roll dough out for crust. I bought some tartlet pans for the occasion and a dough scraper at Amazing Cake Supplies, an everything you need for baking supply store in Bellaire, Houston area. I was not sure how 6 tartlet pans were going to make it to the oven in tact--1 tart or pie is usually hard enough to keep in one piece, at least from a dough rolling perspective...until now. The dough scraper and cold dough are the keys to a good pie crust. I must tell my mom this. She asked me the last time we were talking "dough" how not to make the dough stick to the surface when rolling it out and the answer is a dough scraper. When rolling out the dough use the scraper to get underneath the mixture that way the crust does not stick and get stuck. I was able to use the scraper to push the crust up, getting perfect tartlets crusts---just make sure you flour the surface now and then and if the dough starts to stick, just put it the fridge to get cold again if need be.

This recipe also made me realize I need a kitchen scale. I had to chop up amaretti cookie snaps, milk chocolate and white chocolate for the recipe. Since I did not have a scale I guesstimated 2 oz of each chocolate, and I wonder if I used too much. Either way, this tartlet is cool looking. I whipped up egg yolk until frothy and thick and folded it in with bittersweet chocolate for the filling, then mixed in my chocolates and cookies. The coolest part of this super chocolate tart is that the bits of chocolate do not melt, so when you cut a piece there are little flecks of milk and white chocolate throughout the tart adding texture. The amaretti cookies are also cool. Some of the cookies melted into the tart, but I added some hunks, so it gives some pieces a crunchy almond flavor-yum.

The tart reminds me of an ewy-gooey brownie when it is at room temperature. It requires vanilla ice-cream and a nice glass of milk (or almond or coconut milk if you prefer!). I personally found the tart a bit too rich (if that is possible) at room temperature. When the tart is cold from being in the fridge is when its truffley nature comes about. I like the tartlet better cold. When it is cold it tastes like a pie encrusted truffle...yum.

So...there is a bit of bittersweet irony in this love of mine of sweets and baking. Sugar and gluten both kinda sorta make me itch, no joke. Sugar also gives me a sexy looking red spot on the tip of my kinda sucks. I take salt baths to alleviate the itchiness. When I bake with sugar I know the red spot soon follows. I have to taste what I make right? The thing is though, I really enjoy baking and the fruits of its labor. My husband thinks I am wacky or perhaps a masochist but it hurts so good...

Next month I am making rugelech,which I am super-excited about. In the meanwhile I am going to lay off the sugar and gluten. Perhaps I will make myself some homemade gluten free bread and muffins, drink me some smoothies, and take a few baths.

PS: This afternoon I made veganish almost gluten free banana muffins (I added grain sweetened chocolate chips...I figure grain is better than sugar and this girl needs some kinda chocolate fix when she is sugar detox mode...). Instead of butter I use coconut oil and there are no eggs. Still yum just in a healthy way!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baking Bread

The first assignment for Tuesdays with Dorie were the white loaves in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. I never made bread before. To be honest, I was a little scared at how the loaves would turn out. Bread always seemed like a lot of work (at least that is what my mom told me), but I have this fantasy of becoming this amazing bread-maker, perhaps it is all that sexualized socialization taking it's toll. Making bread seems so simple. All that is needed is a few ingredients. Plus, the house smells so nice as bread bakes and the idea of making bread just seems to emit feelings of warmth and comfort; perfect for a January winter day (though I am ignoring the 60 something degree weather we have here in Houston as I write this...).

The girls were so excited. Maya, my daughter, LOVES bread, particularly toast with butter. When they heard the timer go off on the oven both Maya and Amara came running to see what delights where about to emerge. They were so excited and wanted to eat the bread as soon as it came out.

After eating all their veggie and protein the gals were permitted their fresh-from-the-oven bread. Maya said, "Wow, this bread is yummy," and I got about 3-4 "really" yummies from Amara. They ate two pieces each. Erik, my husband, gave the bread a 7.8 out of 10. He is a hard critic.

Erik gave it a 7.8 because it had a beautiful, crunchy crust, but it was a little dense. I am not sure if the density was caused by using the dough hook on the Kitchen Aid instead of kneading by hand, or if I did not knead/mix it for quite enough time, or perhaps the dough may have even over-worked it. It does not matter though because density aside it was damn good with and with-out butter. Plus, we have bread for the week, and another loaf in the freezer for the week after. How cool is that?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Baking with Julia, my new creative outlet...maybe.

My life has become incredibly busy with two almost 4 year old children to play with and working part-time writing and much of what I used to do to be creative has gone by the way side. Most of the time when I read a book it is for learning purposes...unless it is a cook-book or my new obsession, The Game of Thrones series. Recently I bought a cook-book for my sister-in-law, Melissa by Dorie Greenspan. I borrowed it from the library over the holidays to make sure it was a good present before buying the gift for her it was, Baking, From My Home to Yours. I loved it, and as I do with most cook-books these days, read it like a novel, salivating over the beautiful pictures. For my cookie-swap this year I made the rugelech, which came out delicious (if I do say so myself), and I made yummy chocolate ginger-bread for Christmas. While researching Dorie's other books I came across Tuesdays with Dorie, a blog network of bakers who actually spent 4 years blogging and baking through Baking. It sounded so cool.

In February the blog network will start all over again baking their way through another cookbook Dorie wrote with one of my all time favorite authors and cooks, Julia Child. So...I am going to sign up. I am not sure I can bake from the book every week, but I believe it is 2 recipes a month starting in February. If it ever becomes stressful or hectic I can stop, but it sounds like fun. It sounds like it could be a possible creative outlet, one in which I will learn a thing or two...I need some fun in my life that is my own. Sometimes life gets busy and I forget what fun was like, what with the running around and crazy schedules. So, I am signing up...God help me, to bake with this community of people who will bake their way through Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. I will be making all different types of breads, french pastries...perhaps even a wedding cake (maybe I can have a block party for that one!). I am excited, but also want to be aware of taking on too much or having added pressure and stress in order to "do" the recipes for the month. I want to, "be" and breathe my way into baking enlightenment, so I am back. Hello...Again.