Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shout out to Russia & Germany

I want to take a moment SHOUT OUT to the AMAZING viewers from Russia and Germany.

я тебя люблю

Ich liebe dich.

Monday, February 20, 2012

    It occurred to me that I am a huge slacker about posting links to the recipes I am testing. So here is the link to the pretzel crust recipe by Colleen Grapes. milk-chocolate-tart-with-pretzel-crust
    BTW, don't listen to ANY of the WHINING by all the comments on her recipe.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's been a cheesecake kinda day!

    I came up with a very tasty cheesecake recipe almost instantly after the kumquat festival.  I wanted to use the tart sour / sweet kumquat glaze I made for the ice cream atop a cheesecake.  So we have sour and sweet - lets add chocolate! Yea make that a chocolate cheesecake with kumquat topping.   
    And a crust? Graham cracker - so boring. :-( What else does chocolate go well with (ok what DOESN'T it), no...cookie, again so over done...salted pretzel - hey now we are getting somewhere!!  Sweet, tart, chocolate & salty. Home run!
    Onto the cheesecake. Not hard right, google a recipe or two from epicurious or No big deal.
    HA!! Three cheesecake books, 10 cooking websites later and holy hell there are so many ways to make a simple cheesecake!! Cream cheese, ricotta cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, even cottage cheese!! Aggggg!! And the eggs - well you could beat them in one at a time, separate the whites and beat them to stiff peaks, maybe you'd like a few extra yolks!! E-gats the options are overwhelming! I found a New York style recipe with 8 - yea 8 packs of cream cheese!!! 
    So lets boil things down just a bit, shall we. Cottage cheese is used to reduce fat - HA, well that is out then isn't it? Sour cream is said to add tang, eh don't really care for that it will be masked by the chocolate anyway.  But it seems you need to cut the cream cheese with something. I like heavy cream in almost everything, lets go with that one.  The eggs, well heavy New York style recipes seem to agree on one egg per pound of cream cheese plus 2 -3 yolks for added texture & richness.  I like texture & richness.  Now the ricotta, that sounds intriguing. Really only because I have been positively dying to use my mother's homemade ricotta cheese in a recipe. As it is I sweeten it with sugar and mix it with Special K for breakfast, like a parfait of sweet yumminess.  

 The ricotta one didn't rise. Odd.
Onto the pretzel crust. Graham cracker crusts are just crushed crackers, melted butter and sugar.  So could we just replace with pretzels?  Well no, turns out that becomes just a crumbly pile of crust.  Then I found a super yummy recipe from one Colleen Grape. She adds flour, one egg & treats it like a shortbread dough. Oh my, it's scrumptious out of the bowl.  
 The cream cheese & heavy cream version puffed just beautifully and browned nicely. It created a tempting well in the middle which I happily filled with raspberry jam. Couldn't help myself.  
Now everyone says you should let cheesecake chill for 24 hours. Yea, yea. But I have a blog to post!! I will update this with the pics after the 24 chill soon. In say...24 hours! Teehee I amuse myself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Entry

Remember that caramel almond rubble I made last week out of David Lebovitz's Ches Panisse? Well it is still in my frig. Calling to me, whispering my name late late at night. What shall I do with it?? It seemed dry when chilled, do you think it could survive as a crust? Or a crumb topping - oh yea! That's it.
   To celebrate my half work day Friday (YAHOO!) I am taking that time to make Pumpkin Pie 2 ways.  Which is better - the crumble as:
                        1.  Crust      * or *
                        2.  Topping
   Those of you out there who 'know' food & have read the recipe for the almond tart filling will instantly scream that I couldn't possibly make a crust from a caramel tart filling.  Just not possible, I know - I hear you. And I agree, in theory.  But look at that rubble - it looks just like graham crackers!! Doing crazy things in the kitchen is how penicillin was discovered, right! Sorta.  You get the point.
   And the result - eh...not so much to look at, but yummy!  It did melt on the bottom.  So it's out for a competition pie that is judged on beauty & cut-ability. Ok, I can deal with that. At least we tried!
   Onto using it as a crumble topping - now we may have something here!! I poured the basic pumpkin pie filling in a ramekin and cooked it 2/3rd's of the way.  Once it is firm enough to hold up the topping without letting it sink through filling.   Now this - this is a winner. 

  Look at that! - We may have found entry #1 - Caramel Almond Rubble Pumpkin Pie.

You may have noticed I didn't go into great detail about the pumpkin filling. That's because it is a basic pumpkin pie filling of 'Libby, Libby, Libby's on the label, label, label' canned pumpkin with pie spice, milk, sugar & cream.  Nothing fancy.  Pardon the Libby's commercial melody, it's the way my mother always says it, and I can't help myself.

Happy Baking - Rachel

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This little tiny blog has reached over 100 page views!!!!!
A big THANK YOU to all my followers & those who have visited!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Caramel Dipped Almond Frenchmen

  Ok, so can I tell you how much I adore David Lebovitz, author & food blogger?  Well, it's true I have such a blogger crush on him & his fabulous French - how do you say, je ne sais quoi? While crawling all over his blog ( the boundaries between professional interest and internet stalking have become quite blurred here) I found a tasty looking recipe for an almond caramel tart of sorts.  Obviously he calls it something far more fancy and French, but it's essentially a caramel tart with lots of shaved almonds in it.  It is here if you are curious,
     I have attempted to make it twice now, both times falling short of expectations.  First time I blindly followed the recipe of above to the detriment of both a pie pan and the cookie sheet that it subsequently stuck to. Apparently combining sugar & cream creates bubbles. Lots of bubbles. My beloved warned my about the tart bubbling up, he sweetly suggested filling in what little boiled out with some left over mixture. Well, after loosing a good 2/3's of the filling to boiling over the tart pan to burn happily onto my cookie sheet - I had some unsavory words for my beloved Frenchmen.  

    After a few yoga sessions and an expensive chat with a therapist for my husband, I tried again.  This time compensating for an expected amount of over flow - I doubled the recipe.  I also calculated that the excess water present in the cream is the original culprit of the over boiling anyway.  So why not cook it almost to the caramelized stage in a tall stove top pot and then transfer to the pie pan?? This adjustment worked wonders on my sanity and inventory of cookie sheets.
     But a doubled recipe was far to thick an almond layer.  It cut hideously, breaking into almond shards instead of pretty pie slices.  Nope, this will not do. Not at all.  But.....I had an idea.  If it's gonna crumble anyway - why not pulverize it in the blender?! Make it a crumb topping for an almond pie?? Or maybe a yummy apple almond pie??
    Moral of the story – TEST, TEST, TEST the recipe. I started with a caramel almond tart and finished with a fabulous crumble topping for apple pie. 
    You never know where baking may lead – but it will always be tasty!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

This is not pie related but universally true just the same. "Women are like crock pots of passion, choose your ingredient carefully & simmer for 8 hrs. Men are like microwaves - 30 second speed setting gets the job done every time."
This was one of many truths shared while out for a girls night. Don't forget that we rule the world ladies - never let a man tell you different!

Take on the weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pinch, punch, first of the month :-) Now we are only THREE little months away from the contest! EEK! But don't worry, testing has begun. (And proved why testing is a crucial part of good baking in the  process)

So I tested that amazing looking faux cinnamon bun crust recipe and found a flaw.  In the original recipe, she rolled the dough, cut it, pressed it into the pan & baked it with the filling inside it raw. No blind bake.  Well, it was a Tuesday night and I was getting antsy to actually MAKE something toward the pie contest, but as I ran out of daylight quickly on a work night it became obvious I couldn't do a full pie recipe unless I wanted to look like a raccoon the next day with no sleep.  Then an always helpful call to my mother inspired just a blink bake of the crust. Yea, a test to see if this cool crust actually bakes properly. Other recipes call for blind baking of the crust.  I am leaning toward a custard filling for this pie and I always blind bake my crust for custard pies. It makes for a better 'chew' as they say so lets try it, right?   As you can see it pressed in just fine, looks adorable! Into the oven with it!
 EKKKK!! It shrank. I made little teeny tiny individual flat cinnamon rolls.  While positively adorable, not useful. Nope, not gonna work like this at all.  

See all the gaps in the top picture, that's the bottom of the pan.  Lesson learned - you must overlap at least a little of the mini rolls for full coverage. If you're blind baking, that is.  I may try it again without blind baking and see if it bakes through.  But I really prefer a pre-baked crust, so maybe not. But you're free to try if you are making something that doesn't call for pre-baking. 

Hey, sounds like my first blogger challenge - Please let me know how it comes out by commenting on this post and there is a freebie present in order!!

This weekend - onto the filling!!! I'll make a whole pie this time, promise. Good luck on the crust challenge! :-)

 ~ Dance like no one is watching. Bake like you'll never gain an ounce. ~ Rachel