Monday, August 31, 2009

baking the day away...

before i can even blink, it's time to post another challenge of some sort and today, it is time for bread baking day and challenge #23 which is hosted by nick of imafoodblog. this one was easy, just bake something (must be a bread) you've never done before. my first instinct was to lift my copy of baking with julia and look through it. it is a beautiful book that has recipes guaranteed to work if you follow the exact instructions. reading the instructions is like listening to julia-they sound exactly like she would have said them. this is especially true if you have ever watched her on tv.

whole wheat pita bread, baking with julia by dorrie greenspan

first step, make a sponge and let it rest up to 8 hours. next add the rest of the ingredients, knead it well and let it rise until it has doubled. when it is ready, divide it into 16 pieces, roll them out in a circle and then it is time to bake them. you have a choice of baking them in the oven on stones or pans or of doing it stove top in a skillet or on a griddle. since i do not have stones and i didn't want to use the oven, i opted for the stovetop with a cast iron skillet.

with a light coat of oil, the dough is briefly placed in the pan and then quickly turned over.

the pita cooks on this side until bubbles form and then it is turned again.

it is amazing to watch because all of a sudden, it puffs up like a balloon!

to fully inflate the bread, press down on the bubble and the flat areas will puff up too. it only takes about 3 minutes per round.

the best part, a sandwich for lunch with warm pita bread!

thanks to nick for a wonderful challenge. even my husband enjoyed the bread. i turned my head and he scarfed down 3 rounds! see you next month!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

cake therapy for those who dare

when i tell people what i do, often they get excited and say "oh that sounds like so much fun!" honestly, working in a busy restaurant is not that exciting. we call it work for a reason, and there isn't much about it that is truly fun. while many of us enjoy what we do, for many, it is all they are qualified to do and that is a whole story on it's own. yesterday was a bad day; egos clashed, tempers flared and the stress meter was on high. so what's an angry, frustrated and trying hard not to scream and cry pastry chef to do? especially if the trip to the gym didn't fix it? if she is me, and she was, it is time to settle down in the kitchen at home and bake something. go figure, the one thing that pissed me off earlier in the day was now going to be my salvation. somebody help me, i'm baking again and i can't get up...

luckily for me, the posting deadline for this months dare was looming large and less than 24 hours away. i hadn't decided if i would even make this month's challenge but...stress levels demanded that i do something productive and i didn't want to relieve the stress by doing something negative or by eating it away. so of course baking a cake seemed like a smart thing to do...

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

and so it starts...eggs yolks, sugar and vanilla in the mixer bowl

egg whites and sugar whipped to a soft peak

after folding in the flour, the batter is spread in circles on paper and baked

i wanted lots of layers so i made 7" circles and ended up with 9 layers

the finished cake with the caramel topping and my pretty red cake stand. another great thrift shop find!

the top view

i think this week calls for cake, anyone care to join me? i should be back from the gym in a bit...

thanks ladies for a satisfying challenge and lower blood pressure!

Friday, August 21, 2009

it could have been a cake wreck...

several months ago, a young co-worker approached me about making her wedding cake. she was hoping to find an inexpensive alternative to some of the quotes she had received. we spoke in detail and that was it, she didn't say anything about it again. finally, with less than 3 weeks to go, i asked her where she was getting her cake. she told me then that she hadn't ordered it yet and was planning to go to the supermarket bake shop and order it that week. the mother hen in me was forced into action.

after consulting with management, i was given the green light to make the cake. she emailed me the photo of the cake she wanted; we discussed flavors and frostings and flowers. this will be a small affair, held at the home of the groom's parents and the budget was conservative. the flowers would be silk. even with all the lobbying i did for the supermarket florist because they can have some really nice flowers, she stuck with silk. one less thing to worry about. or was it...

the week before the wedding, she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and a set of tonsils in need of removal. these last few days, while trying to recover, she has been working on all of the little details of the wedding. too sick to shop for the silk flowers, she let her future mother in law pick them out and purchase them for her. she told the woman that she wanted purple flowers, roses if possible (i know what your thinking). what she got was just that, bright purple silk roses, obviously fake roses covered with little plastic dew drops...when i saw those awful things, i told another co-worker, "those are hideous, there's no way i can make them look good on a cake!!!" beth and i channeled our inner mother hens and we came up with a plan. a quick trip to michael's arts and crafts, several photos sent via cell phone, a long conversation and some text messages later and we had some pretty silk hydrangeas and ivy for the cake.
today was cake day. since it is an outdoor affair in august, i needed to get the cake done today to make it travel safe. it turned out nice considering that it is covered in silk flowers. what was that woman thinking-does she not like her future daughter in law or is she just lacking any taste at all??? here's to hope and phillip, good luck, congratulations and hope-get well soon!!!

want to have some fun, check out the website cake wrecks. this site has cake disasters of unbelievable proportions and every sunday a post of sunday sweets-well done cakes to marvel.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thats just nuts!!!

nuts i tell ya, just plain nuts!!! what a week it's been. a nasty storm blew out my phone/internet connection when the line was struck by lightning. it took a week to get back up and running because i only have residential service, business services get first priority. thanks at&t for making me feel appreciated, the competition is beginning to look real good at this point. i actually had to venture off to the public library to read my email and research information for the book i am working on which is now on the shelf due to contract issues-thanks guys for making me feel like part of the team. the bright spot in an otherwise crappy week, it was pie time again and i nearly missed it but thanks to holly, i made it into the round up even though my post wasn't up.

this month's theme was nuts. so fitting this week, everything else in my world was going nuts so why not the pie too? the hostess this month was jacque of daisy lane cakes and we were challenged to bake a pie using nuts-any kind of nut, however we pleased as long as it was obvious that it was in there. i was tossed up on what to do. peanut butter came to mind but i am a little saturated with peanut butter right now. chocolate and nut combos came to mind but it's a little cliche. fruit and almonds, booringgg. then i spied a jar of sorghum in the closet; the wheels began to turn...why not all of the nuts i have handy in a translucent custard (think pecan pie) with some sorghum?

the finished tart, all gooey and nutty. the combination of toasted walnuts, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts with a hint of cinnamon and sorghum is incredible. the sorghum, while sweet, cuts the cloying aspect of the corn syrup and sugar that most recipes call for. it adds a different dimension of flavor and sweetens the pie without it being too sweet. just beware, if you decide to try this, use part sorghum to corn syrup, consider adding a tablespoon or two of flour-it adds moisture not found in corn syrup, and don't substitute molasses for sorghum-it is too strong and will add a bitterness that will mask the flavor of the nuts and spices.

gooey and sweet all on it's own, perhaps with a little unsweetened whipped cream...mmmmm...

thanks jacque for a sweet ending to a sour week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

dreaming of cinnamon must be bread baking day

i have been craving cinnamon raisin bread. there, i said it and i am not sorry that i did. so what you say. well what this means is that i can now satisfy my craving all in the name of bread baking day since this month's theme is sweet breads. maybe it's just a childhood comfort food thing, i don't know and i don't care. toasted cinnamon raisin bread with a thin brushing of butter...what more could anyone possibly need?

this has been cinnamon week at my house. knowing that this challenge was due, i made my loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and saved the extra cinnamon filling from the swirl. when it was time to make the sukkar bi tahin for the bread baking buddies challenge, i pulled out the extra filling and substituted it for the tahini filling. the scent of warm bread and cinnamon has been wafting through the house for days and i will be lucky if i can fit through the doors. i guess the cinnamon rolls i brought home from work (where i made them from scratch) really won't help here. honestly, how can anyone resist soft and tender bread with cinnamon and butter and raisins and let's not forget that it is warm and fresh...

my cinnamon raisin swirl bread. sliced and ready for the toaster. has anyone seen the butter dish...

please be sure to check out the round up and all of the entries on the website hefe und mere and my sincere thanks to stefanie for indulging my cravings.