Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers March 2011 - Meringue Coffee Cake

Meringue Coffee Cake Closeup
The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. It seemed pretty simple, although I'd never thought to bake meringue inside of something else, and I had no idea how it would turn out.

I decided to make this with what I already had in my house, which meant my filling was orange zest, cardamom-sugar, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips. When the meringue bakes, most of it kind of absorbs into the nebulous center of the coffee cake (which is really more of a rich dough, almost like a brioche). There were a few crunchy parts that squeezed out between the cracks, and I liked that flavor. I wish there had been more of that texture inside, but I'm not sure how to make that happen!

Meringue Coffee Cake Slice

This is a great framework recipe that I'd love to play more with. Some of the savory versions people have been making look amazing too. Please click on the links at the top to see the recipe as posted by the hostesses.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Banana Bread (vegan)

Banana Bread (Vegan)
I was in San Diego a year ago for the Music Library Assoc, where I survived almost entirely on food purchased at Ocean Beach Peoples Food Co-op. I picked up their cookbook while I was there, and it has provided some great vegan recipes, something that has been on my mind lately.. I was thumbing through it tonight with my bunch of very ripe bananas in mind, and came across a recipe for banana bread that I had almost everything for. I adapted it a bit, and this is what I made:

Vegan Banana Bread
2 bananas + 1 cup chopped bananas
1/2 cup apple juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp banana liqueur
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350. Mash the 2 whole bananas and mix with apple juice. Add the oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and banana liqueur. Mix the dry ingredients except the nuts, then add to the wet ingredients and mix just until blended. Fold in the chopped bananas and walnuts. Place into a lightly oiled 8 x 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pan and bake for 25-40 minutes or until done.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sparkle Ginger Cookies (Vegan)

Sparkle Ginger Cookies (vegan)
Sometimes recipes change hands between friends and you don't know where they came from, and this started as one of those instances. Delicious ginger cookies that happen to be vegan! I discovered they come from Vegan With a Vengeance, highly recommended. I didn't have turbinado sugar so I used holiday colored sugar, and it added a nice little crunch.

I have a co-worker who went vegan for Lent and I was feeling badly for all her negative experiences, so I decided to provide a positive one. Not everything vegan has to be a sacrifice! And especially not these.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Never Been to Paris

I haven't been to Paris (I always have to say "yet" because I am an optimist) but books have let me travel there. The most recent was The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, which was a great travel and foodie read about being an outsider in an amazing "and perplexing" city.

I have followed David Lebovitz in Twitter and Facebook for quite some time now, so I wasn't surprised to laugh along with his stories of awkward culture clashes and trash-day outfits, nor was I shocked to find delicious sounding recipes. I wasn't quite expecting that I'd feel inspired enough to attempt making macarons for the first time, just to feel like I was somehow close to being there. I haven't made it to any of the trendy NYC bakeries that have started offering French macarons, much less Ladurée in Paris, but I can now say I have made them for myself. They weren't exactly perfect, rather fugly in fact, but delicious and easy enough to attempt again.

Spiced Nuts
I have my eye on quite a few other recipes from The Sweet Life in Paris - there are some tasty sounding fig things and more fun things to do with meringue, as well as a blue cheese cake that I can't even taste in my head. I had the ingredients for spiced nuts on hand, so I whipped those up in between steps for the macarons. I think it is safe to say that David Lebovitz himself is no longer an outsider in Paris. He has provided insight into a culture that is known as unwelcoming but may just be misunderstood (or untolerated), and this would be a useful guide for anyone considering a visit.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Bakery Review - Philly Cupcake - Philadelphia, PA

More cupcakes
Even if you didn't know you'd be passing by, it would be hard to miss Philly Cupcake. It is located on the busy and interesting corner of 12th and Chestnut in Philadelphia, and is brightly lit with eye-catching color and cupcakes in lit up china cabinets (there may have been chandeliers; I have to admit to being too dazzled to take enough pictures). Add to that later hours than you might expect (8 pm most nights!) and your eye is pulled in. This is one of the places I was taken on an evening bakery visiting spree with the friend I met at last year's Music Library Association Conference, who had already been a reader of my blog. Her taste was impeccable, and it is always better to go places with someone in the know. (Thanks Emily!)

Cupcakes from Philly Cupcake
A lot of cupcake places win on the visual aspect but then don't taste very good. I am happy to say this is not the case with Philly Cupcake. I got a half dozen that were tasted over the course of a week, but did get two chocolate coma cupcakes to give one away to a friend. In the picture, in the top row you see the classic chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream, something with chocolate and cherry (not listed on their website, may have been a seasonal/experimental one), and chocolate coma (wow, seriously, so chocolatey!). Bottom row: empty spot for chocolate coma #2, some kind of pistachio-rose cupcake with pistachio marzipan and strawberry buttercream, and black velvet with cream cheese icing. The black velvet was my favorite - a spicy but very tender chocolate cupcake!

Philly Cupcake also sells other treats like brownies, cookies, even pupcakes for dogs. There were vegan options but I neglected to try any of those flavors.

If you are visiting or live in Philadelphia, you might consider following them on Facebook or Twitter, where they often post new flavors, special deals, and other sugar-fueled excitement.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Scones & Bones & Crumpets

Scones & Bones (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs comes out today! I was happy to receive an advanced readers copy, and immediately went to the back to see what recipes were included. The tea shop mysteries are fun to read, featuring Theodosia Browning, proprietor of a tea shop in Charleston, SC. If you want to start at the beginning, look for Death by Darjeeling.

I was happy to see a recipe for crumpets in Scones & Bones. They have always been on my to-make list, so I tried that recipe right away. Crumpets are also known as griddle cakes, and to me are the perfect cross between pancakes and English muffins. They have yeast, and the dough has to sit for a while, but they are not as bready as English muffins. I love how they are cooked simply in a frying pan or griddle and you never have to turn the oven on. I made two at a time in a pan, using the only two cookie cutters with handles that would work - half my crumpets were heart-shaped!

Homemade McGriddle
Crumpets are traditionally served with butter and jam or honey, but you don't have to start there! They also are great with savory spreads or used in a sandwich. I made an egg, cheese, and vegetarian bacon sandwich with mine, and since I was mimicking the McDonald's McGriddle, I added a dot of maple syrup. Strange but delicious!