Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers January 2009 - Tuiles

Palmetto Tuiles
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. The savory option (tuiles/cornets) was from Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook.

This was something I hadn't done before, and I have never had tuiles, just seen them in cookbooks. I decided to try two of the recipes and play around with shaping them.

If you want the recipes, please go to the blogs of the hostesses, listed above. Including them would make this entry far too long! There were two recipes I didn't try that I'm interested in doing in the future - nougatine and chocolate tuiles. I've seen some amazing versions of those already today!

Scrapbooking stencils for tuiles
The first thing you have to figure out is the shape. I didn't want to make my own stencils, and found a huge pack of good ones in the scrapbooking section. I used a circle to make into cornets, and a palmetto for the sweet recipe.

Savory Tuile Cornets with Goat Cheese Mousse
I made the Thomas Keller recipe one night, and I was in a hurry because I wanted to bring them to book club. To speed things along, I softened the butter in the microwave and it went a little too far. As a result my cornets were never crunchy, just a little soft and greasy. Not what I would have hoped at all, but at the same time, I wasn't really sure what I was going for. They still look cute, and the mousse recipe was simple but tasty.

Palmetto Tuiles
The sweet tuiles recipe from The Chocolate Book worked a lot better for two reasons - I let the butter soften on its own, and the step where I had to chill the dough for 30 minutes made for a much more even baking consistency. These were not greasy at all, but rather crisp and sweet. You can't really tell from the photos, but I did lay the palmettos over a rolling pin so they had some dimension to them. I served them with peach sorbet.

What do I think of tuiles, now that I've made two versions? I'd like to go back and make the savory version the right way. The recipe itself was simple but baking them takes a lot of time for the end result. I think I might make them again for a special occasion, because I like how you can make them into anything.

Categories: Cheese, Cookies, Daring Bakers

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Sometimes I'll eat something at a restaurant and all I can think is "I could make it better." I know, I'm sure that makes me a joy to be around, but I try to keep it to myself.

We ordered lemon ricotta pancakes at the hotel we stayed at in Miami, much to the chagrin of the waiter who was trying everything in his power to get us to just order the breakfast buffet. He was rude, the pancakes took forever, and we had paid $16 for a big plate and three thin little wimpy pancakes with a tablespoonful of something vaguely fruity. We pushed the bad experience behind us, but I have had this nagging suspicion that they had just not done the concept of lemon ricotta pancakes justice!

I have had ricotta in my fridge for a few days, so this weekend I decided to make those pancakes that I knew could be better that what we had. I turned to one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, where she had made the same recipe that everyone across the internet seems to have made - the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples from the September 1991 issue of Gourmet Magazine.

I didn't bother with the sauteed apples; we had leftover fruit syrup to use. These were light and fluffy and flavorful, no wimpy here. Not too sweet, but the lemon and ricotta allowed for a nice depth of flavor not found in pancakes-in-a-box.

Categories: Breakfast, Lemon, Pancakes, Ricotta

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Elliott Carter

Yellow Layer Cake
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
While I love to bake, in my day job I am a music librarian. I just put up a display featuring Elliott Carter, a composer who recently turned 100 years old and is still writing music! If you want to know more about him, there is a great summary of his life and work in the New York Times article about his birthday. I feel like his life is an example to all aspiring artists - although he mastered many things at a younger age, the first time he published an opera was at age 90!

At the music library, I decided that even without his presence, we could at least celebrate his birthday with cake. (Or I'd been wanting to try something from The Modern Baker, the newest cookbook by Nick Malgieri, one of my favorite bakers and baking teachers.)

I chose simple yellow cake layers. I paired them with a quick powdered sugar/butter/cocoa powder frosting, although Malgieri's Italian buttercream would have been much more decadent. The cake was lovely - dense, flavorful, and would have been lighter had I not overcooked it slightly. Guitar Hero and baking do not mix!

Making a cake from scratch is just about as simple as throwing the ingredients together necessary to use a mix, especially Malgieri's way. He experimented with separating the eggs and adding the whipped whites separately and found it made little difference, and adjusts the mixing time of other steps to aerate the dough. Any time a recipe makes something take one fewer bowl, I am not going to complain. You can tell it is not from a box the minute you slice into it and take a bite.

I'm going to put the recipe into this blog, but I think any of Malgieri's cookbooks are worth buying, so please do. They are always very well explained, and flawless. I have learned a lot over the years by watching him on Baking with Julia and Sara's Secrets.

Yellow Cake Layers

Makes two 9-inch (23-cm) round layers

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk or buttermilk*

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 F (180 C).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well to mix.
3. Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-4 minutes.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5. Decrease the mixer speed to the lowest and add half of the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.
6. Beat in the milk and after it is absorbed, beat in the remaining flour mixture.
7. Stop and scrape the bowl and beater. Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes.
8. Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well risen and deep golden, and feel firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, 25-30 minutes.
9. Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then unmold, turn right side up again, and cool completely on racks.

Tips for serving and storing are in the cookbook. Buy it!

*I try to always use buttermilk when I can.

Categories: Cake, Chocolate

Friday, January 09, 2009

Review - Tea at the Biltmore Inn

Living an hour from Asheville means we live an hour from the Biltmore, "America's largest home!" My husband and I have been several times to see the house and grounds, and discovered that you can have afternoon tea at the inn. They serve you in the library, which overlooks the grounds, including a view of the Biltmore House. Our favorite time of year to go is autumn because the leaves are spectacular, but the holiday season is another great time to go. The tours of the house include live music, and the entire property is decorated for the holidays. The trees inside the house are all themed and memorable, although this year we didn't brave the crowds to see them.

From December Holidays 2008

During the holidays, we had family here, and we all trekked up to the Biltmore Inn for tea. Something to know is that the best seats are given to couples, since the smallest tables are by the windows in the library, but larger groups will still have excellent service and a great atmosphere. Because of the holidays, there was a pianist entertaining us most of the time, which was nice.

From December Holidays 2008

Once you decide if you want tea with your tea, or if you want something a little stronger (there are options for Kir Royale or champagne), you can choose a tea from the box with little samples on each table. They offer teas from Mighty Leaf which is one of my favorite companies, and I tend to go with one of the more strongly flavored black teas, but they have a nice variety of herbal, black, and green. (That's my husband Nathaniel, pondering his tea selection. I'm sure he'll be thrilled I included that picture).

From December Holidays 2008

The afternoon tea comes with savory and sweet treats. Did I already recommend skipping both lunch and dinner the day you come for tea? It is a lot of food. The selections have been different every time I have gone, but this particular day the savory plate (vegetarian options only) included cucumber sandwich, butternut squash crostini, artichoke hummus, quince paste with brie, mushroom on baguette, and cranberry chutney. Everything was excellent and the flavors and textures were a nice contrast.

From December Holidays 2008

The sweet options included muffins, scones, chocolates, cookies, and mini tarts. Also on the table were clotted cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd to spread on various things. This particular day the scones were raisin and the muffins were something like banana. The chocolates were delicious, but the tarts and cookies were somewhat mediocre.

One thing I want to make sure you understand - to get to tea at the Biltmore Inn, you need to either be staying as a guest at the inn or have a ticket to get in to see the house that day. I would recommend making plans for tea in the midst of spending the day there. We are season passholders this year, and hope to be able to get up there more often than we did before. If it seems too steep "just" for tea, Biltmore Village (a tiny town right outside the property) also has Chelsea's Tea Room which is excellent.