Baking: From My Home to Yours: Coffee Caramel Pots de Creme and book review

I made some friands yesterday which left me with 5 egg yolks to use and I still needed to try one more recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours for the month so it was the perfect time to make pots de creme!

I’ve made one of Dorie’s pots de creme recipes in the past (not sure which book it came from) and loved it, so thought this should be a rather simple task for extraordinary results. Well…I’m not sure this has been my week cooking wise, because I’ve had an unusual amount of trouble.

First when I combined the sugar and the coffee in a saucepan and stirred to get the sugar to melt and caramelize, the coffee started burning badly. So I had to scrap that and start again. For my second attempt, I just chucked the sugar into the saucepan until it turned into caramel, then I added the coffee and the warm milk/cream mixture. The caramel immediately seized so I had to bring it back up to boiling to get the caramel to separate from the coffee. Then from there I set it aside to infuse for 20 minutes and completed everything else as per the instructions – adding egg yolks, eggs, and the remaining sugar, creating the water bath, baking in a low oven. Pretty standard stuff.

The result…well it’s nice but we didn’t really get the caramel flavour, the coffee completely overtook the dessert. Which is not a bad thing, but not what we were looking forward to. Would I make these again? Definitely, but I wouldn’t use the coffee method that Dorie recommends. I’d just add some instant espresso to the milk/cream mixture. There’d be a whole lot less coffee wastage that way (it ended up being 2 cups of beans which is absurd for 6-8 dessert cups).

Baking: From My Home to Yours is an excellent book for the home baker. It has a wealth of different types of baked goods to choose from and all the recipes I’ve looked at seem very approachable and with good results (apart from my disappointing lack of caramel flavour in the pots de creme). I am glad I added this book to my cookbook shelf.

There are still many recipes I’d like to try from the book, and I’m sure I’ll be back with more recipes from it on Throwback Thursdays. If you want to join in on the fun, check out the Food52 Baking Club Facebook group and you’ll also get a chance to see what other bakers have done this month. I love this group,  especially given the access you get to cookbook authors – Dorie commented on my cinnamon squares yesterday! It’s a lot of fun.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Throwback Thursday: Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake from Jerusalem

I’m now up to 4 – I own 4 out of the 5 Ottolenghi books that the Food52 Cookbook Club included in their June 2017 selections from his repertoire. I talked a bit about that month in this post.

The following is a major cake fail. I burnt this cake to a crisp. No joke. I salvaged it, but it was bad. So I was a bit fancy with the camera angles so you can’t see what a patchwork job it was. I sawed off the top and carefully cut away the sides before brushing the syrup on. Sigh. I’m still not sure where I went wrong with the oven temperature.

I needed a gluten free cake. I’ve dabbled a bit in gluten free baking and I thought that given that a large portion of this cake batter was almond meal, it would probably work with substituting the plain flour for gluten free flour 1:1. It worked a treat! I just had my oven too hot. But anyway…

The Clementine and Almond Syrup cake from Jerusalem is to die for.  The recipe is online, so I implore you to try it! To have had such a massive issue with the baking and to have still ended up with a superbly moist cake is a testament to how beautiful this recipe is. Clementines aren’t in season in Australia at the moment, but I have a fruit drawer full of oranges that need to be used so I just went with that. I used Grand Marnier in the chocolate icing instead of straight Cognac. No big change, but a change nonetheless.

We ended up cancelling our plans so this cake never made it past the test kitchen. We’ve rescheduled for next week though so I’m keen to make it again to see if it’s just as good if I don’t burn it. Aaron called it one of the nicest cakes I’ve made and that is really saying something. I can’t wait for our gluten free friend to try it!

Baking: From My Home to Yours: Cinnamon Squares

Trying to work out what to bake from this book has proven rather difficult because there are so many options. But when I wanted to put together something quick that I could serve for dessert tonight, I noticed this easy cake recipe that didn’t even require a mixer that cooked in 40 minutes calling my name.

It’s a cinnamon cake batter with a cinnamon sugar espresso and chocolate crumble in the middle, with a chocolate butter icing. See…it called to me!

I lined one of my square baking tins with baking paper and set to work, mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl then adding the milk, eggs and vanilla that I had whisked together in a small jug and then once those were combined, I folded in the melted butter until it became homogenous. I poured half the batter into the pan, then sprinkled over the crumble that I’d stirred together in a small bowl, then poured over the rest of the batter and threw it in the oven. Baked cinnamon goodness – it wafts through the whole house. We went to school pick up and thought we could still smell it a block away.

After it cooled I put the icing ingredients (just chocolate and butter) into the container I melted the butter in for the batter and melted it on low power in the microwave and stirred it together until it became smooth. Then I just poured it on top of the cake and spread it in swooping swirls with the back of a spoon.

This cake is definitely an easy recipe to keep in your back pocket (on your kindle app on your phone) for when you want something special but don’t have much time. And all the ingredients you’re likely to have on hand, I know I always do. Another winning Dorie recipe!

Food52 Genius Recipes: “Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad

We were invited to a BBQ over the weekend and they asked us to bring a salad – for months now I’ve been wanting to try the chopped salad from Food52 Genius Recipes (the book the Cookbook Club went through in December) and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. So off I went in search of all the ingredients and once I found them (it took me 3 different shops thanks to the scarcity at the moment of Savoy cabbage and radicchio) I set Aaron to the task of constructing this gorgeous and colorful salad.

It’s made by quick pickling some vegetables (celery and carrots and red capsicum), then once they’re ready, draining them and combining them with the remaining vegetables (cucumber, radicchio, rocket and cabbage) and apple and making a sauce from some of the leftover vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Then you finish the salad with goat cheese and toasted slivered almonds.

I’m usually opposed to eating radicchio but in this salad the bitter notes balance so well with the other flavours that I actually liked it. Aaron similarly is not a huge fan of rocket but enjoyed it in this salad. It was the perfect salad for the summer night bbq and we will definitely make this again. The only warning I feel is necessary: the vinegar smell wafts through the whole house during the pickling stage. It actually made me worry that the whole salad was just going to taste like vinegar. But it didn’t and the smell passes. And now to devour the leftovers!

Tessa Huff’s Apple Toffee Crunch Cake

My 12 year old is the King of Apples. He must go through a kilo of apples a day, and he eats everything but the seeds and the stem. I know this because I constantly find stems and seeds in couch cushions, under desk chairs, in the car…you could track him quite easily by the trail he leaves behind. I remember a few years back finding a hoard of apple stickers under a ledge on our entryway wall, not sure where he’s currently hiding his stickers these days, but I’m sure they’re somewhere. And so it’s no surprise that regardless that it’s the middle of summer, his birthday cake flavour choice is ALWAYS apple.

I’m not a huge fan of apple cakes so I’ve tried a lot of different recipes in an effort to find the perfect one and Tessa Huff’s Apple Toffee Crunch Cake is the closest we’ve gotten thus far. (To be honest there hasn’t been a Tessa Huff layer cake recipe I haven’t loved, so she’s become my go to when it comes to cake recipes.) Layers of apple cake with a honey brown sugar oat and pecan crunch, cinnamon buttercream and a toffee sauce drip…this cake looks and sounds like comfort food heaven. Her cake decorating is always so perfect, and her flavour combinations blow my mind (I’m still dreaming of the day I have the excuse to revisit her London Fog Cake or the Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake).

The cake we made turned out great, the crunch, the toffee sauce and the Swiss meringue buttercream (that I’ve perfected having made it probably a dozen times by now) but it’s the decorating part that is always the gamble, especially in the middle of summer. But the cake sat up perfectly, I iced it so smoothly, I actually thought this might be the best looking cake I’ve ever made. Poured the toffee sauce on carefully, still good…that is until I put rosettes of leftover buttercream on top. The toffee sauce became a slide and the next thing I knew the rosettes were migrating slowly down the side of the cake. I was devastated. We tried really hard to get them back up without wrecking the drip but it was no use. So some quick thinking and we’ve got a toffee swirl buttercream instead. We did get some rosettes on top eventually (I think on the third or fourth try), with lengthy refrigeration times in between.  I really have no idea how she managed to get her cake to look so perfect.

Regardless of the drip look, we all agreed it was the best apple cake I’ve made for our boy. And the leftovers didn’t last very long either. It might actually be the cake I make for him next year too, just need to work out what to do next time I’m faced with a toffee sauce drip!

Throwback Thursday: Lemon Sugar Cookies from Dorie’s Cookies

Throwback to the very start of Food52’s Baking Club, April 2017, when we were all baking from Dorie’s Cookies, a compendium of every possible cookie you could imagine, beautifully photographed and equally beautiful tasting. I fell in love with what looks like a Plain Jane cookie but are probably one of my top 3 cookies of all time…Dorie’s lemon sugar cookies.

The recipe can be found on Dorie’s website, so head over there to try them out to see what I’m talking about. They are super simple to put together, if you’re a regular cookie baker and are fairly organized, you can knock them out in about an hour.

It’s basically creamed butter, sugar and lemon zest, add eggs and vanilla, your mixed dried ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt) and lemon juice. Dorie says 1-2 lemons…my average Australian lemons that you get from Woolworths (oh to have a lemon tree or a friend with one!) are small so I always need 2, and I make sure to add the zest from both for a bit of extra zing. I set aside 1/2 cup of sugar for dredging and I use my #60 cookie scoop to portion the dough and get 64 cookies every time.

I took a container full of these to a P&C (PTA) meeting this week and watched as they slowly but surely got sampled, then another and another disappeared. They are deceptively delicious!

Marmalade Meatballs from Dinner: Changing the Game

One of the things that I’ve absolutely loved about being a part of Food52’s online cooking clubs is discovering recipes that we would never have found otherwise that have become a family favourite.

Take the marmalade meatball recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game that we found when the Cookbook Club was going through her book last August. We make a double recipe of these meatballs quite regularly and they are devoured by everyone in our house. And at first glance, the meal does not sound all that normal.

The recipe itself is fairly straight forward: beef mince mixed with breadcrumbs (we use wholemeal breadcrumbs made from leftover bread ends rather than panko), green onions, egg, garlic, ginger, allspice, salt and pepper…and anchovies…we don’t buy anchovies regularly so haven’t bothered to put them in yet, but we do eat them on pizza or in caesar salad so we aren’t opposed to them, it’s just a convenience thing. Ball them and cook them then pour over a glaze made from orange marmalade, cider vinegar, soy sauce and red chile flakes that literally takes 2 minutes to make. And the flavours just sing together.

We like to serve them with mashed potato as suggested by Clark alongside some sort of green vegetable, usually peas and green beans. We seriously have this at least once a fortnight and afterwards we’ll say we should make it more often still. I think one of these days I’ll have to branch out and try some of her other meatball recipes – there are at least 3 others!

Made in India: Vegetarian Curries and Naan

Tonight we feasted! And I really do mean feasted. It’s been a while since I’ve had my hands on Made in India, I checked it out from our local library in October when Cookbook Club was working through it, but haven’t been able to get it back out since. Now that it’s finally come back around to me at the library, it seemed appropriate that I do a bit of cooking from it, and what better way to start than a vegetarian curry feast.

What we made:

Junjaro – this is a kidney bean curry and when I saw how simple it was to make it seemed like a no brainer, especially since my daughter loves chilli con carne, especially because of the kidney beans. But of course she wouldn’t try it…she’s contrary like that…but the rest of us really enjoyed it. You fry an onion with some cumin seed and a cinnamon stick, and some garlic, ginger, chilli and spices, tomato paste, the kidney beans (I used cans) and some water and let it get saucy.

Inda nu shaak – this is a coconut milk egg curry and it was the most complex of the 3 curries we made because we had to hard boil eggs. Yeah, it was really that hard. You fry off some onions, add garlic, tamarind paste and some spices, dilute it with coconut milk and water (I used a 400 mL tin of lite coconut milk rather than 300 mL of coconut milk and 100 mL water) and add the eggs when they’re boiled and peeled and sliced. The sauce in this one was lovely and sweet and was so nice to soak up with a piece of naan or a spoonful of rice.

Chana Masala – chickpea and tomato curry. Similarly you fry off onions, add garlic, ginger and chilli, this time a can of tomatoes and tomato paste, the spices and then the chickpeas (again from cans). This was probably my least favourite of the 3 curries, but I think that’s because it wasn’t very saucy.

Aunty Harsha’s Naan – the naan, oh my goodness, the naan. So when I got home from picking the kids up from school, I mixed the dough which is a basic bread dough in terms of ingredients, but with yogurt and milk in it, and then after it was kneaded I put it in a covered oiled container to rise until doubled. Then we just split it into 12 portions, flattened it with our hands and used our flat electric grill to cook them. I was so shocked that it actually worked and was distinctly naan bread. Aaron asked if we’re planning to make naan everyday when he found out that the prep time before cooking was only about 5 minutes.

We served everything with plain basmati rice and still have plenty of leftovers for Aaron to take to work for lunch over the next few days. I’m so glad we powered through to make this meal, because to be honest today was an exhausting one, but when you look at everything we made, the hands on time was really not that long at all. This book continues to impress me and next time I think I’d really like to try some meat curries and some of the chutneys…oh and did you know there are some really interesting sounding desserts in there, too?!!