Baking Blunder: Tiramisu

To be honest, I rarely completely fail when baking. Sure a bread might be a little dry or cookies a little overdone. But I can’t remember the last time I threw away a baked good, much less before it was finished.

That changed when I attempted to make tiramisu for the pièce de résistance of our Valentine’s Day dinner.

This recipe from the Flour cookbook calls for homemade ‘ladyfingers’ or essentially a sponge cake. After nearly 15 minutes of handheld mixing (a nudge for J to purchase me a KitchenAid), I spread the batter out on a pan and popped it into the oven. About five out of 15 minutes into the baking time, I glanced at the cookbook again. Despite the name of the book, I had forgotten to include an essential ingredient: Flour.

Apprehensive but undeterred, I proceeded to whip more eggs. But as I removed the ladyfingers from the oven, I knew it just wasn’t going to work. One large, rectangular crepe stared at me from the baking sheet. Normally I would have started over or tried to create another dish but it was already 10:15 pm on a work night, better known as  bedtime. I just didn’t think I’d have the energy to turn out a tiramisu worthy of Valentine’s Day. I resorted to buying an Italian dessert at a nearby bakery, and promised J I’d make it for him soon.

Flour in the bowl

Which led me to a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, checking and double-checking that each ingredient made it into the dish. In the end, it was a delicious tiramisu and well worth the time! Especially because I was reminded of the importance of mise en place.

I’m going to be really lame and not post the recipe for several reasons.

1) It’s not online, and I’m too lazy to type it up.
2) The book is incredible and I recommend purchasing it.
3) As delicious as it was, I would like to make a couple of changes to the recipe to make it even better. I’ll write a new post with the adapted recipe sometime soon.

So stay tuned for what will hopefully not be another edition of ‘Baking Blunder.’

2012 Culinary Resolutions

Better late than never…

I don’t like resolutions  (who does?), and we weren’t going to do one of these posts, but if any resolutions can be kept, it’s culinary resolutions. So here goes…our 2012 culinary resolutions!

1. Take a cooking class.

2.  Perfect our crepe-making skills. Last Christmas J gave me a crepe cookbook and this Christmas he gave me a crepe pan. Yet we’re still not very good at actually making them:(

3. Eat at one of DC’s Ethiopian restaurants. We ate at Dukem last year…want to add Etete or Ethiopic this year.

Cooking in the Moment

4. Make at least one recipe from Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment cookbook. My brother gave me this for Christmas, and it’s a gorgeous cookbook, but maybe not one I will cook from frequently.

5. Make a delicious tofu dish…we’ve never cooked with tofu so it may take a few tries to find a recipe that we really enjoy.

6. Develop low-cal everyday dinner recipes.

7. Bake something at least once a week. I think I’ve accomplished this so far, so we’ll see if I can keep it up.

8. Make sushi. J has done this, but I haven’t. J would like to perfect his sushi-making.

9. Host a dinner party. With at least 8 people attending (including ourselves). I added the 8 person caveat because we fairly frequently have 3 or 4 people for dinner. I’d like to expand our circle a little more.

Chateau Morrisette Wines http://www.thedogs.com

10. Visit a Virginia winery. We’ll be fulfilling this next month when we go to Chateau Morrisette. I’ve been there before, but I was under 21 at the time (who takes their kids to a winery?).

11. Cook a moist and delicious turkey. This is J’s.

12. Make a gingerbread house.

What are your culinary resolutions for 2012?

Christmas Baking Part II

Whew. Just like that Christmas has come and gone. Each year it seems to go by even quicker than the last. Luckily, I packed in as much baking as possible when I was home in North Carolina.

Every year, my next-door neighbors hold a Christmas Eve Open House with lots of delightful brunch foods and Bloody Marys to wash everything down.

Cheddar Biscuits

Since I didn’t have much time to cook for this, I went with an old stand-by: cheddar biscuits from the How to Cook everything app. The recipe was actually for cheese straws, but it saves a lot of time if you just form them into small round biscuits.

For a family function Christmas Eve afternoon, I used a family recipe for  vegetable dip. Basically I use 16 ounces of cream cheese (softened), a shredded carrot, 1/2 small onion (chopped), a few strips of chopped green pepper, and hot sauce to taste. So simple, but so delicious!

Since my friend’s cookie exchange several weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a reason to bake candy cane biscotti that someone brought. Christmas Eve sounded like as good an excuse as any. Unfortunately, I forgot to read the last line of the directions and I didn’t put the candy cane pieces in at the right time. I ended up crushing them into the dough once I had formed the logs on the cookie sheet. They ended up okay, but not as sweet and pepperminty as I would have liked. Also, I used white chocolate chips since my Podunk grocery store didn’t have bar chocolate, and they worked fine for me, although they did harden towards the end.

Candy Cane Biscotti

Christmas Day is spent at my grandma’s house, usually at breakfast time, but it being on a Sunday this year, we headed there after church. My grandma takes care of most of the cooking (oyster stew, sausage and egg casserole, homemade ham biscuits!), but I like to bring one dish.

Last year I didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store, so I used what we had in the fridge and I ended up with a delicious overnight eggnog french toast casserole. This year I just went with milk instead of eggnog, but the casserole turned out fantastic! I used croissants instead of brioche (see: Podunk grocery store), making it extra caloric and delicious!  My aunt also brought a crème brûlée french toast casserole, but we had so many hungry relatives, only one serving remained uneaten at the end of the day. What can I say, we love to eat!

What did you bake for this holiday season?

Christmas Baking

One of my favorite things about Christmas time is it gives me an excuse to bake. Between parties, cookie exchanges, hungry friends and co-workers, there’s always a way to use a new recipe or revisit a favorite. I think I did more baking than ever this year, and Christmas is still days away.

Here are a few of the delicious treats I baked this year.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Treats

I tested out this recipe for triple chocolate peppermint treats on a baking day with friends a couple of weeks ago. White chocolate is not one of my favorite things (heck, it’s not even really chocolate!), but it was subtle enough in this rich chocolatey cookie.

Although they were delicious, I decided against making those for baking day. I felt there were too many steps and too many supplies needed to make them when sharing a kitchen with several other bakers.

Instead the Washington Post cookie guide came out just in the nick of time, and I ended up making salty chocolate nutella thumbprints from the ladies of Whisked! My cookies spread out (I suppose my oven or ingredients were too warm), so I resorted to spreading the nutella on top. While they may not have looked as perfect as the WaPo photo, they were the perfect mix of salty-sweet and easy to make.

My nutella thumbprints are in there somewhere

I took the cookies to a cookie exchange, and hopefully they were enjoyed by all the chocolate lovers!

A good friend gave me Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook for my birthday, so I decided to make one of the recipes for her tacky sweater party last weekend. Initially I wanted to make a chocolate spice cupcake, but ultimately I baked gingerbread cupcakes since they were more Christmasy.

The recipe suggested white frosting, but I thought brown sugar cream cheese frosting would go nicely with the cupcake. I am so glad I made the substitution! The cupcakes themselves were some of the moistest cupcakes I’ve ever tasted (possibly because I used extra-large eggs). The frosting paired perfectly with the flavors in the cupcake. I didn’t have time to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but this looks basically like the one I used.  The frosting recipe, also from Martha Stewart, is as follows:

Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (I used dark because that’s what I had)

I also added cinnamon, vanilla, and a touch of nutmeg to bring a little more flavor to the frosting.  Just beat everything together with an electric mixer until it’s the desired consistency. You’ll probably also have some leftover.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m looking forward to doing a little more baking when I’m home in NC, so I’ll try to do a Christmas Baking: Part II in the coming weeks! Happy holidays, y’all!