Toffee Softies

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
Recipe: 43/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 23

DSC_3947

     I realized that it had been a while since I had made cookies. So I made these! These cookies quite resemble,  in appearance at least, the Salted Orange Toffee Slices that I made at the beginning of this blog, but they are nonetheless different in taste. Although this recipe was just as simple to follow, these cookies were softer and more chewy than their predecessor, with a predominant taste of butter, sugar and melt-in-your-mouth toffee bits. It also does not have the hint of orange that characterizes the other type of cookies. I find these “toffee softies” (what a cute name for a cookie!) delicious, buttery and they have just the right amount of toffee bits. They are sure to be eaten quite rapidly, so enjoy them while you can! 

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Follow steps 1 to 5 of the Basic White Sugar Cookie Dough recipe.
  3. Add  the toffee bits to the cookie dough and stir well to combine.
  4. Place the turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Using two tablespoons, drop in a tablespoon of cookie dough at a time in the sugar. Roll the dough in the sugar to form a ball and coat with sugar, then place on the baking sheet. Separate each  dough ball by 1  1/2 inches. Just before baking, gently press the cookie with your palm to flatten them.
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned at the bottom. Cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container.

 

Notes from Anna:

  • If you do not have turbinado sugar, you can use regular granulated sugar instead to achieve a similar crunchy exterior.

DSC_3955

Valerie

Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding

Breads, Muffins and Scones, Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: one 9-inch bread pudding
Recipe: 42/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 204

Banana Bread Pudding

     Bread pudding. This is a concept I never really grasped. Why would you want to purposely wet bread and eat it so? In my mind the result would be a soggy and unpleasant mixture. This recipe, however, yielded a dessert that was none of that. Admittedly, I think that I slightly undercooked the bread pudding and as a result it was a bit “wet” still, but I could tell that perfectly cooked it would have tasted even better. The pudding was very good, chocolate-y and had the unmistakable banana flavor. This dessert is a bit long to make if you do not have the banana chocolate chip bread on hand, but it is definitely worth a try. It makes the perfect late-night snack! 

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wrap the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with foil to prevent leakage and grease the springform pan. Place in a roasting pan.
  2. Cut the banana bread into 1-inch cubes and spread the cubes out evenly on an ungreased baking sheet. Toast the banana bread for about 10-15 minutes, until the outsides of the cubes have dried. Leave on the baking sheet to cool.
  3. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the milk to just below a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate has fully melted.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.
  5. While whisking, add the chocolate milk to the egg mixture and whisk until homogeneously combined.
  6. Add the banana bread pieces to the chocolate and egg mixture and stir to coat. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally. Note: the banana bread cubes will begin to break up and crumble a bit at this point – this is normal.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan and pour boiling water into the roasting pan so that water comes halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the pudding for 60-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the pudding comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then remove it from the water bath before cooling it down to room temperature. Chill the pudding into the springform pan until it sets, about 5 hours.

Notes from Anna:

  • The bread pudding is best served chilled. It slices into wedges, just like a cake.

Valerie

White Chocolate Black Pepper Scones

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: 10 scones
Recipe: 41/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 225

White chocolate pepper scones

     Confession number X: I have never had a scone! Until recently, I never actually realized that such a thing existed. Since I have come to realize what a scone looks like, however, I have not been enticed to try one. I always wondered: what are they supposed to be? A cake? A cookie? Some type of bread snack? To my inexperienced eyes, scones looked dry and crumbly. How wrong I was!! Today I made the white chocolate and black pepper scones and…. my oh my. I love it! A crispy outer layer, a flavour-packed moist butter interior, what’s not to love? I feel like I deprived myself of a succulent dessert (or is it more of a snack?) for years. Oh well, there’s plenty of time to make up for it, and plenty of time to make more scones! The unexpected addition of the pepper in this recipe provided a pow that is welcomed and the white chocolate offers the flavour burst that makes these scones oh so delicious. Definitely, definitely try these. Go do them now, actually. 

Ingredients:

  • 1  2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) unsalted butter, cut in pieces and chilled
  • 4 oz. (125 g) white chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tablespoons cold milk, plus extra for brushing
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper until well combined.
  3. Cut in the butter using two knives or, even better, your fingertips until the mixture is a rough crumbly texture but pieces of butter are still visible.
  4. Stir in the white chocolate to coat with the flour.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla extract.
  6. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough begins to come together.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, flatten and fold the dough 2-3 times until the dough is an even texture. At first, the dough will be somewhat wet and sticky. This is normal. Roll out the dough to just under 1 inch thick and cut scones either with a knife to obtain square scones (which you can reshape into triangular scones if you wish) or with a 2  1/2 inch round cutter. Reroll the dough as necessary to obtain 10 scones.
  8. Places the scones 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops of the scones with milk. Bake for about 15 minutes, until they have browned evenly.

Notes from Anna:

  • These scones are best served the day they are baked, but they can be enjoyed the next day by reheating them at 300°F for 5 minutes.

DSC_3888

Valerie

Progress report !

Uncategorized

    After writing the last post, I realized that I had successfully, or for the most part at least, completed 1/5 of Anna’s cookbook. That is, I completed 40 recipes out of the 200 recipes found in “Back to Baking”. When I first started in October, 9 months ago, I purposely decided to not set myself a deadline. With my studies, work, volunteer work and other obligations, I did not want to make myself go insane by doing 200 recipes by a set deadline. As can be deduced from this blog, baking is one of my passions. When I have a joyful day, a sad day, an exhausting day or a day when nothing goes right, I bake. Baking is my little escape from the world and its obligations. It makes me happy. However, I felt that if I was “forced” to bake to complete a deadline, I might not enjoy it as much. Fortunately, so far I have enjoyed making every single recipe. I feel that with each recipe, I have learned a new trick or a faster or better way of doing something. Each recipe as taught me something new. Being accustomed to only baking cupcakes and cakes, I can now say that I have made pies, tarts, bars, bread, scones, more complex cakes and a plethora of cookies. While making these delightful desserts, I have never felt the pressure of having to do them. Nonetheless, I think it is time to set myself a reasonable, not too far-fetched yet existing deadline. I thought about it, and soon realized that the most perfect deadline that would allow me to still live a normal life and not go insane is October 21 of next year, namely October 21 2014. At this date, it will have been 2 years that I started this blog, which I think is an ideal date to close it up. That leaves me with 160 recipes to do in 1 year and 3 months. That seems like it is plenty of time, but in the end it’s about 2 to 3 recipes per week. It doesn’t seem like a problem at all but ironically, one of the difficulties that I face while completing this challenge is that I am not surrounded by many people to help me eat all these baked goods! I no longer have a roommate, my family is not a huge fan of desserts (how? why?!) and my friends are a bit far. Hence, I find myself bringing treats at work on numerous occasions or am “condemned” to eating a lot of dessert.

   On a happier note, I have just obtained a baking tool that will be a great asset and a great motivation to reach my goal. My parents made me the best (early) quarter-century birthday present and bought me a red Kitchenaid stand mixer. That seems like nothing. Just a mixer. But it means a lot to me. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted and dreamed about having a red Kitchenaid stand mixer. It must be red. I just knew that with this apparatus everything would be a lot more feasible. Knowing that these mixers are quite expensive (remember, I am a student!), I never expected that I would actually own one. As such, this present means a lot more than just an expensive multi-purpose kitchen tool. It is, I find, I pat-on-the-back from my parents; a small sign that they acknowledge and accept my passion for baking. They don’t understand it (“Why bake a cake when you can buy one for 10$ ?”), but at least they understand that I love it and that it makes me happy. Hence, with this incredible gift I will bake and bake even more! I have already used it a couple times and, I must say, it’s pretty awesome. Nothing short of my expectations. Okay, enough with this happy rambling on…

    All to say that I have enjoyed this experience thus far very much. I am now ready to set myself a deadline and complete the totality of “Back to Baking” by October 21, 2014. I am also very appreciative of all the views and comments I have received, none of which I expected. My intention was never to be seen or read. I was and am still doing this for me. To learn and to grow. The support, however, is much appreciated and welcomed. So, thank you very much for that. I hope you will follow me until the end! Lastly, I want to give myself two objectives for the future. First, I want to improve the quality of my photographs to make the food more appealing, as I feel that they don’t currently do the desserts justice and 2) I want to find more people to share my baked goods with!

Me and my mixer

Valerie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch pie
Recipe: 40/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 92

DSC_3853

     This weekend I had my family, consisting of my parents and my two younger sisters, over for diner. In an attempt to reconcile my mom with my food and baked goods (she is admittedly not a huge fan of homemade goods), I decided to make the lemon meringue pie in Anna’s cookbook. This was perhaps a risky endeavour, as my mom adores lemon pie and would thus be an honest critic, and also… I do not like lemon pie (gasp!!). That would imply that I would not really know if it is a “good” lemon pie by normal standards. Oh well, I decided to go forward with it anyways. 

     The recipe was, as usual, very well explained and detailed, so I had no problem following the instructions. The crust and filling were a success, I believe. The part that was worrying me a little bit was the meringue topping. As mentioned in previous posts, whipping egg whites and knowing, or rather not knowing, when to stop (i.e. when it reaches the perfect soft, medium or stiff “peak”) has always been one of my setbacks. However, I think that I have learned from my mistakes because the meringue came out great. It was shiny, glossy, did not slip ‘n slide off the pie and, even better, it tasted great. Like my sister said, it almost has a marshmallow-y flavour.

     Of course, even though I do not generally like lemon pie, I had to taste my own concoction. Or to be more precise, my re-creation of Anna’s concoction. I liked it enough. I still think that I don’t like lemon pie, but it didn’t taste bad at all. The meringue, however, was quite to my liking. Needing constructive criticism, I gathered feedback from my family and friends. The general consensus seems to be that this lemon meringue pie is very good, but very rich. Also, although everyone raved about the meringue, they thought that the meringue to filling ratio was pretty high and that it rendered that pie almost too sweet. I have noticed, however, that most recipes for a lemon meringue pie have a similar meringue to filling ratio. My family and friends must be unaccustomed to it. I am at least glad that I made this recipe and am happy that I can now successfully make an Italian meringue!

Ingredients for crust:

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1  1/4 cups sugar
  • 1  3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue!)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) unsalted butter

Ingredients for meringue:

  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • candy thermometer (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions:

  1. Pull the prepared and chilled dough from the fridge about 30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick, making sure that it is at least 11 inches in diameter. Line a 9-inch pie shell with the dough, then trim and cinch the edges. Chill the dough for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Over the dough, line the pie shell with aluminium foil and weight it down with pie weights (alternatively, you can use rice or dried beans). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and aluminium foil and bake for another 10-12 minutes, until the centre of the pie shell is dry and the edges lightly browned.
  3. While the pie is hot from the oven, whisk the egg white to loosen it, then brush it oven the surface of the pie shell. This step is important to create a barrier between the lemon filling and the crust to prevent sogginess. Allow the shell to cool down before filling.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the filling by combining the water, 1 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest in a saucepot and bringing the mixture up to a full simmer.
  5. In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the cornstarch.
  6. Whisk in the lemon juice and the egg yolks until well combined.
  7. Pour the boiling water over the lemon egg mixture, then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepot. Whisk over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to form bubbles, about 4 minutes.
  8. Put the butter in a large bowl and strain the lemon egg mixture into the bowl. Stir until the butter is melted and place a piece of plastic wrap over the filling. Let it cool to room temperature, then scrape the filling into the cooled pie shell and chill to set, about 2 hours.
  9. For the meringue, preheat the oven to 375 °F. Pull the filled and chilled pie out of the fridge 30-40 minutes in advance to warm it up a little. If the pie was filled and chilled more than a day in advance, let it warm up for about 75 minutes before topping with the meringue.
  10. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and 1/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture holds a medium peak.
  11. Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar plus the 1/4 cup of water in a saucepot over high heat and bring to a boil. Without stirring, boil the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 239°F, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water to prevent sugar from crystallizing (this takes about 3 minutes).
  12. Carefully and slowly pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl of whipped egg whites while whipping at medium-high speed. Whip the meringue at high speed until cooled, about 3 minutes.
  13. Scrape the Italian meringue onto the centre of the lemon filling, making sure to cover the surface of the pie. Gently spread and swirl the meringue. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 4-6 minutes, just until the top of the meringue is lightly browned.

Lemon pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Notes from Anna:

  • This pie can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Italian meringue is the most stable type of meringue and is thus well suited for this dessert. The cooked sugar is what keeps the meringue in place and prevents weeping. It is, however, sweeter than a common meringue.
  • Do not overwhip your egg whites. You want them to be at the medium peak stage once the beaters are lifted. Overwhipped egg whites may lead to a weeping or sliding meringue, neither of which is desired.

Valerie