Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad Bread

If you read the previous post, you might think that I would never ruin anything in baking - especially bread - since I own the tools to prevent such a thing. However, fate was not on my side last weekend when I attempted to bake Finnish Biscuit for a second time in my life while entertaining my mother who was in town, working out, visiting the local plant conservatory - and other weekend adventures.  

What went wrong?
Issue #1 The yeast was rapid rise because I tried the last of my regular yeast and it didn't activate. I thought I could just grab the 'other' yeast and substitute. I don't think so!
Issue #2 I didn't have the time to let it rise a little longer than normal, so I put it into the fridge when we wanted to leave.
Issue #3 When removing it from the fridge, I didn't let it warm up completely before baking. When I cut the dough into thirds for the loaves, it was still cool/cold in the center.
Issue #4 When I baked the loaves, I failed to adjust the time to make up for the dense loaves. I didn't use my thermometer to check the center temp (that would also mean looking in another book for the right temp - which i have somewhere, just not sure where!). 
Issue #5 One thing I did right! I let the loaves cool for several hours before slicing. However, it was not enough to save them. Two of the loaves were completely DOUGHY in the center.

What do you do with three partially doughy, practically ruined, really tasty cardamom bread? You cut all the pieces you can salvage and make BREAD PUDDING!

Bread pudding with dried apricots, dried cherries, and caramel sauce
adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

4 cups sugar divided
2 1/4 cups water divided
4 oz dried apricots thinly sliced
4 oz dried tart cherries chopped
splash of kirsh
3 cups whipping cream divided
2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
1 1/2 loaves bread - enough to fill your baking dish (cardamom bread is great for this!)

note: this calls for 3 medium saucepans. The fruit can deal with a small saucepan if you are going to run out and don't want to wash too many pans.  The milk and caramel sauce need the space of a medium pan to cook evenly and not boil over.

Prepare Fruit
Combine: 1 cup sugar, 2 cups water, splash of kirsh (cherry liqueur), apricots and cherries in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Strain fruit over a bowl and reserve liquid and fruit seperatly.

Prepare Pudding
Preheat oven to 350. Bring 2 cups cream and milk to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Whick remaining 2 cups
 sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in warm milk mixture. Cool custard slightly.

Lightly butter 13x9x2 inch baking dish (i like ceramic - Emile Henry). Arrange 1st layer of bread cubes/slices to cover the bottom and sides completely. Trim the bread to fit crevices.
 Spoon the fruit over the bread. Arrange the rest of the bread over the fruit. 

Pour custard over bread. Press bread to submerge. Let stand until the custard is absorbed, at least 10 minutes (depending on
 how dense your bread is - longer is better. I let mine stand for 35 minutes.) Bake until custard is set and bread is golden brown on top - about 55 minutes.

Prepare Caramel Sauce 
Combine 1 cup sugar and remaining
 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over low 
heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is DEEP AMBER color. This will take about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in 1 cup of reserved fruit soaking liquid. (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until
 caramel thickens slightly - about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup of cream. Bring to a boil and simmer until caramel thickens slightly - about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool sauce 30 minutes, whisking occassionally.
Caramel sauce can be made 1 day ahead and refridgerated. Reheat before serving.

Serve pudding warm with sauce.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fav Things: Digital Helpers

The digital scale TRANSFORMED my baking. Not only did my cookies stop flattening out in the oven - but I also speeded up my measuring time! Now, I place my mixing bowl on the scale and 'zero out' the weight. I add my flour (5 oz per cup), then 'zero out' the weight and add the sugar and so on. I don't use it for anything measured smaller than 1/4 cup (baking soda/pwd - i still use the spoons.) This has eliminated 'issues' and eliminated dishes that I dirty! I love it - and now I hate cookbooks that don't offer the measurement. However - you can find conversions in the back of good cookbooks or here:

Next digital 'buddy' in the kitchen in the instant read digital thermometer. I managed to find fancy pictures of the not-so-fancy version that I use all the time.

Although- i have to admit that I didn't use it to test my cardamom bread. If I had, i could have saved the loaves and actually cooked them completely. UGH. I need to take my own advice.

This is great for meat, for candy, for bread - whatever you need to be perfect that you can't see from the outside. It will save you from ruining what you've put your heart and soul into.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

new drinks

Do you have a favorite drink? Or maybe just the standby that is safe - you know you like it, you know what to expect - so even though you WANT to try something new - you don't want to be disappointed.

My 'winter' drink has been a 7 and Ginger (Seagram's 7 and ginger ale) for the same amount of time. My big change: i move to a vodka tonic when the temperature moves above freezing. It's not only alcoholic drinks - it's my coffee drink too. I go up to the counter thinking - even reading the menu - seeking out something new, something exciting, something that I am sure to enjoy... and i order my medium skim half shot of caramel latte not too hot - EVERY TIME.

So, I'm out with H last night - celebrating 3 years of bliss. We went to one of our favorite places - the bar at La Belle Vie. It's cozy, it's pretty, it's fancy - but still casual. Perfect for a weeknight dinner to celebrate. As I scanned the somewhat short menu - I was seeking something new. There it was - I almost missed it - the Kasparov. Sounds sexy, sounds like a good winter drink. And look - it has Jamison Whisky (similar to 7 - only better) and "tastes of orange, ginger, and..." something else that I can't remember and wasn't exactly memorable. If you know it - please let me know so I can replicate.

So - here is my best guess at this drink. I had 2 - just to make sure that I could remember the drink.

Kasparov (as served at La Belle Vie)
Glass: double old fashioned with ice
1.5 oz Jameson whisky
fill remaining glass with half ginger ale and half orange juice
garnish: orange slice

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Favorite Things Wednesday: Beater Blade

As I read the Splendid Table email this morning and the Rose Levy B email last night - I felt very thankful for having this great hobby/love/interest in life - and thankful to have a kitchen that I love with almost every gadget that I have ever needed to use (after a few years of collecting). It's amazing too that other people show up - and don't have the same feeling. It's great how the kitchen fits the cook! Now - remembering my last several kitchens is what really makes me feel thankful! Whether it was living without an automatic dishwasher, or not having space for another set of ramekins - I am now very thankful for my kitchen tools. So -I'm going to share my 'favorite things' and how they have made my life better!
favorite things Wednesday:
Kitchen Aid Beater Blade


Benefits: Continuously beats, scrapes, folds and mixes ingredients for KitchenAid, Cuisinart, Viking and DeLonghi stand mixers. Virtually eliminates hand-scraping and batter build-up on the blade, Made in the USA.

** You can even get it in PINK if you have a 5 quart kitchenaid! Hopefully, they will make this in fun colors for the 6 qt soon.

** Issues: Lately, it has been making loud noises when I use it. It sounds like it is coming from the scraping - not the mixer. It makes mixing batters so much easier and faster that I live with
the noise.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

College Night!

Another fun Friday night party - this time the theme was college night. Everyone wore garb from the alma mater, favorite college 'games' were played, and the menu - well see below. It was so much fun to see the elder crowd learning how to play flippy cup - i mean, when you learned how to play drinking games could you play with people in their 50's or 60's? 

Papa John's pizza
bologna sandwiches
Cosmo Jello Bites/Jello Shots
Sugar cereal "snack mix"

Cosmo Jello Bites
4 packages raspberry jello
1 1/2 cups boiling cranberry juice
1/2 cup pom (or more cranberry)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup vodka

Adjust liquid proportions to taste (if you want them stronger - decrease the juice)
Cut into triangles and stick in a popsicle stick for the 'martini' look. 
These were really tasty! I didn't have enough room on the plate to make them all into martini glasses, so i just stacked the extras in the middle. These are just like jigglers - and easier to eat than a jello shot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Single Food

Getting married changes many things in a girl's life. One major change was eating dinner - every night! As I approach my 3rd anniversary, I've learned to appreciate the nights where I can make popcorn for dinner again. There is something so liberating about a big bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine.
To give out the appropriate credit - my husband has brought stovetop popcorn into my life. Popping corn on the stove, in a big pot - just a little oil (1-2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 cup kernals) will do it. The smell reminds me of the popcorn they sold at high school basketball games.

So we do share popcorn evenings - but on the rare night that I eat alone - I always have popcorn!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fresh Blueberries!

For all of you localvores out there - I'm sorry. I couldn't help it - blueberries are here and are not $10 per pint! I was excited to see them at my favorite Lund's grocery and bought a few pints. So, not only did I make some scones to bring into work, I also brought in a few just to snack on. They really were perfect too - not tart, but sweet and almost crisp to the bite.

Enjoy! These are so fast to whip up - and very quick to bake - all in about 30 minutes to fresh warm treats!

note: I used leftover whipped cream for my heavy cream - and reduced the sugar to 1 tbsp. I added a little whole milk to the whipped cream and stirred until almost liquid - it seemed to work. tasted great!

Lemon Blueberry Scones
2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purp flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1/4" cubes)
1 tsp (or more) grated lemon peel
6 oz (small container) blueberries
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 
place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in bowl of food processer with metal blade. Process a few times (or whisk). Add butter and lemon peel and process until butter is broken up (about 12 1 second pulses). Transfer mixture to another bowl and gently stir in blueberries. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together in a rough ball. 

Turn out onto large piece of parchment and knead until it comes together a bit more (sticky/rough ball). Shape into circle or rectangle (see top photo) and cut into wedges. Transfer wedges to parchment lined cookie sheet. Can refridgerate up to 2 hours if dough is too sticky.

Brush tops with heavy cream. Bake until scone tops are light brown 12-15 minutes.

Serve warm.

If you are storing overnight to bring to work - do not store in airtight container. The scones are still releasing heat and moisture - and all will turn mushy if you seal it tight overnight. They are OK left on the countertop or in the container without sealing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Homage to Mad Men

As all things 'retro' or 'vintage' can you be surprised of my love for the AMC tv show Mad Men? My husband and I just watched the Season 2 finale - and WOW! The fashion, the three martini lunches, the hair. I will not give away any great details - but I will highly recommend this TV series. Since there are only 2 seasons, it will not overtake your life to watch them. I think the finale aired in October (we got them from iTunes) - so the 3rd season will probably start in the fall... too long to wait!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beer Cheese Soup

aka: heart attack in a bowl. What started as a fun adventure to use up some great cheese left over from the weekend's entertainment turned into a pot of yummy and rich liquid that some in Wisconsin eat as soup. I think the appropriate way to eat this is with a side of chips and a beer - and with no thought paid to the calories consumed.

This qualifies as "baking" because I used the oven to cook the bacon!

I took the recipe I found on Epicurious and added a few different cheeses and spice to deepen the flavor. The blue cheese addition was my favorite. Tasting the soup before and after confirmed that it was a needed addition - yet you might not be able to pick it out.

As I relaxed with my husband - trying to digest the cheese - we watched Good Eats with Alton Brown. His show was an "homage to fromage" and he made some soup! Check out the notes with his tips that should be implemented.

Cheddar Beer Soup

as adapted from
2 cups chopped onion (2 medium)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 (12-oz) bottle ale such as Bass (I used Harp)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably English; rind removed if necessary), grated (4 cups)

handful of other leftover cheese: blue cheese, parmesan, whatever you like and have onhand!
4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled


Cook onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add broth and cook for 30 minutes to meld flavors. Discard the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend mixture to break up and smooth out the vegetables. Strain mixture through a sieve back into the pot. Add milk and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Add cheese by handfuls (slowly), stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil).
Serve sprinkled with bacon (popcorn is another popular topping)

Great sides: rye bread, meatloaf, and a beer of course!