Friday, July 30, 2010

Raspberry Buckle - by Summer

Oh berry season - how I love you!  If Lisa hadn't picked this recipe, I was going to pick it!  We actually have raspberry plants in our yard, but they were too young this year to produce any fruit.  I am hoping next year I can make this recipe from our own berries!

I am starting to get good at looking at a recipe and then dividing up the steps.  I was able to make this buckle over the course of two different nap times yesterday.  I made the topping in the morning and set out the eggs, half-n-half and butter for the cake.  Then during an afternoon nap, I mixed up the cake part, added the topping and baked it. 

I had a slice for dessert last night.  It was really good, however, I could see how Lisa's husband thought this was a bit dry.  This morning I had a slice for breakfast and thought it tasted perfect!  So - maybe letting it sit for a day is the way to go?  I like this for a breakfast/brunch dish.  I can see cutting down on the amount of topping though, if I make for brunch. 

I was going to have my husband take the rest of it to work, to get it out of the house, but instead he just took one slice for himself to eat for breakfast.  He emailed me right away this morning saying that he really liked it and that I am not allowed to give any of it away! 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fresh Berry Shortcakes - by Lisa

Making biscuits was a first for me! Before this recipe, I've always had the impression that biscuits were these dry bland things. But THESE biscuits were super yum! They were sweet, a little crumbly, and tasted so good. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

I got a little creative with cutting out the biscuits from the dough and used my wet/dry Pampered Chef measuring cup. It made them the perfect size! I also wound up using my baking stone with these as I'd already packed away the rest of my baking sheets. (Yes, I am 4 weeks away from giving birth and we are moving next weekend to a bigger place down the street. Crazy, no?) I think they cooked up quite nicely and were done in about 13 minutes.


For the berry topping, I used 3 cups of strawberries and 1 cup of blueberries. I added an extra tablespoon of sugar to make sure the berries were good and sweet. Making the whipped cream was the final step and it was time for assembly!

I served up the yummy treats to hubby and my niece who is visiting us for the week. All around thumbs up with the only exception being they were a little tricky to eat. That was no obstacle to the devouring and hubby was nearly licking the plate clean! I am looking forward to having these again for dessert tomorrow night.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fudge Brownies - by Summer

Two weeks of chocolate in a row for me!  Can you tell that these were both my picks? :-)  I did another early morning baking session.  Partly because its once again supposed to be very warm here today, but also because my little guy went down for a nap at 6:30 (!!), and I could bake without having to worry about him.  I have to say, I am sort of liking these morning baking sessions.  And I really needed to get these done, because I am bringing them to book club tonight to share!

As far as brownie recipes go, this one is pretty similar to ones that I have made in the past.  The thing is, brownie recipes are really easy to make, so I haven't bought a box brownie mix in ages.  I also like to add chocolate chips to my brownies, but for this one, I left them out and stayed true to the recipe, with the exception of deleting the instant expresso.  I also finally remembered to bring my camera in the kitchen so I could take some pictures as I baked.

Melted chocolate and butter
Sugar and eggs whisked together

Sugar mixture added to chocolate mixture
Add flour mixture and stir
Into brownie pan from Lisa
For my birthday this year Lisa got me the pan above.  It's so great for making brownies because it put them into the perfect size pieces.  I thought I would try it with this recipe and they came out perfect!  I did bake them for less time - instead of 30 minutes, mine baked for 24 and they came out perfect!  

Brownies for book club
These are definitely good fudgy brownies!  In fact, that was the exact description that popped in my head when I tasted them.  I only ate a half of one since it is morning.  I can't wait to have more tonight.  I will definitely make this recipe again.  And they are so fudgy, I probably don't even need to add the chocolate chips!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake* - by Summer

Dedication.  That's right - I have dedication to this project.  So much so, that I got up at 6:30 on Friday morning to bake this cake.  The temperatures for the next couple of days are 89 and 90 degrees, so really, who wants to turn on the oven in this weather? But, I promised my dad this cake since every other time I have seen him during this project, he has ended up with breads.  He is the biggest sweet lover out there, so I wanted to make sure that he got some extra special when he visits this weekend!

Because I knew that I was going to get up early, I prepped as much as I could the night before.  I should have taken a picture of everything, but I haven't been remembering to keep the camera in the kitchen!  So when my alarm (the baby) got me out of bed, I stumbled into the kitchen and started pre-heating the oven.  My darling husband took care of the baby while I made this recipe.

This one seems like it would be difficult, but it was rather easy.  And even more so because I had done so much prep the night before.  Basically I had to melt chocolate and butter and beat the eggs.  Having a stand mixer really made the beating the eggs easy!

This cake only takes about 25 minutes to bake.  Mine was a little bit longer and I wasn't too sure if I had let it bake long enough, but fortunately it matched the picture in the cookbook, so that's always a bonus!

I also decided to make the Raspberry Sauce that is in the cookbook to go with the cake.  That was also really easy, although it took forever for the sauce to thicken - at least twice as long as the recipe called for.  But I stuck with it and then strained the seeds.

I was actually out when my parents dug into the cake.  When I got home, I saw that my dad had taken a huge slice.  Now, I knew this was going to be a rich cake, so I thought maybe he didn't eat the whole piece . . . not so!  This cake is definitely rich, but smooth and oh so chocolately!  I loved having the tart raspberry sauce to pair with it.  My dad had another piece today, and said it's even better the second day.  I can't wait to have another piece myself.  I know that I will definitely make this again.  It was easy and it truly tastes like something from a restaurant.  But you need to make sure to serve it to people who really like chocolate!

*It might look like I made the wrong recipe, but this week Lisa and I are making different recipes.  In two weeks, I'll be making the ones that she made and vice-versa.

Raspberry Buckle - by Lisa

I've been waiting months to try out this recipe. I saw it back in the winter and knew it would be a great treat to make when raspberries were in season! Sure enough, we went berry picking a couple of weeks ago and came back with a box full of berries. I made sure to set some aside for this recipe. :)

I actually made this on Wednesday afternoon and just haven't had the time to write up an entry until now! This was a pretty easy recipe to make. The batter seems to be a basic sweet bread/coffee cake style which would be amenable to a variety of fruit filling. I think this dish would be just as good with blueberries, strawberries or blackberries. Of course, raspberries are my favorite so I had no inclinations to make any changes. For the streusel topping, I tried doing the pastry cutter routine again for the butter. I don't know if I am just too impatient, but after only a minute or two I got annoyed and threw the whole thing in the food processor.
Everything seemed to come together quite nicely, tho I did have to enlist Hubby's help as I wasn't paying attention to the time and had to get to a doctor appt while the buckle was still in the oven. So he took care of getting it out of the oven, and we dug into it later that evening. This definitely would make a delicious brunch treat, and it certainly would pair well with some ice cream for an evening dessert. Hubby thought it was a tad dry, but I think that is to be expected with this style of treat. I thought it was pretty tasty myself!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding - by Summer

Since Lisa and I have been friends for years, I have been lucky enough to eat the butterscotch pie that she wrote about in her post.  It is truly delicious and she has even given me the recipe for it, however, I have never had the chance to make it.  I was planning on making a pie with this pudding as the filling, but when I asked my husband "Pie or just pudding", he responded with "Pudding?"  Really in the long run - I am glad that I didn't make the pie.  It's been a long week dealing with a sick baby, so the pudding was definitely the easier route.

I haven't really made much pudding from scratch before, but I really liked the dark chocolate pudding we made earlier in this project.  I was looking forward to trying this recipe.  And my husband's drink of choice is scotch, so of course, I included that ingredient.

As I mentioned above, this has been a rather long week for me.  It really showed on Friday night as I was getting ready to make this recipe.  First of all I looked at the amount of cornstarch that I had in my pantry and deemed that it was not enough!  My husband ran to the store to get me more.  Then while he was out, I realized that I didn't have enough whipping cream, so I had to call him and ask him to pick up some of that (of course he had already checked out and had to go back inside the store!)  I started measuring out everything, so that when he came home, I would be ready to roll.  As I was measuring out the cream - low and behold - I had enough!  Didn't I feel foolish?  Fortunately my husband was a good sport and didn't mind when I made that announcement.  So then I went to measure out the cornstarch, after opening the new one, and discovered that I also had enough of that!  I seriously felt like the biggest idiot!  Perhaps it would be a good idea to start measuring out everything before sending my husband to the store!!!

Other than those issues, it came together pretty easily.  I had everything ready to go when I started.  I had to seek the help of my husband once more when pouring the hot mixture into the egg yolks.  I wanted to be able to whisk as fast as possible, so the eggs wouldn't scramble. 
The overall consensus about this pudding is that it was sure rich and creamy.  I must have not let it thicken enough, because it was pretty runny - even after being in the fridge.  We also thought that there might have been too much scotch in it.  Next time I will just try a tablespoon instead of two.  I definitely plan on making this again and maybe next time I will even put it in a pie crust!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding - by Lisa

I am really happy with how the timing worked out for this recipe. My dad was a big fan of butterscotch (maybe that's where I get it from!), and every year for his birthday my mom would make him butterscotch pie - a true family favorite. Dad would've turned 80 today, so this week's recipe is in honor of his memory.

The aforementioned butterscotch pie is basically butterscotch pudding in a pie crust. I was really excited to see how this recipe would compare! I did make a couple of small deviations from the recipe. I opted to omit the scotch (tho I might just have to try that sometime in the future), and ended up using 1/2 dark brown sugar and 1/2 light brown sugar as I'd run out of the dark brown variety. The recipe I am used to calls for mostly similar ingredients, but instead of milk, this recipe uses a mix of half & half and heavy cream. I figured this might make for a creamier and richer pudding.

Since I wanted to make sure I didn't inadvertently burn the pudding on the stove top, I was very particular about having everything at the ready. I particularly liked Beth's instruction to whisk vigorously when adding the hot mixture to the eggs in order to prevent the eggs from scrambling. I've had the problem in the past, and this resolved it perfectly. I even made sure to use my little electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment for this step of the process. Overall, this recipe went off without a hitch! Everything was timed quite well, and I am very pleased with the results!

I'd say this pudding tastes more like "real" butterscotch - which I liked! And as I suspected, it is creamier, smoother and richer than the pie. My husband classified it as tasting like smooth ice cream. I thought the taste and texture was divine and look forward to making it again (and having it for dessert the next two nights!). I'm quite certain my dad would've loved it too! :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Blackberry Cobbler - by Lisa

Yumfest!!! Holy cow is this one yummy (and easy) recipe! I've never made a cobbler before, and I was a little leery of how the "biscuit" part would taste. I need not have been worried because I loved every bit of it! I took Summer's advice from her experience and instead of using strictly blackberries, I used a blend of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I also confess to being a bit lazy and used frozen berries from Trader Joe's. We're a little behind the rest of the country here in the Pacific Northwest, and those berries don't come into season for another few weeks yet.

I also used a pastry cutter for the first time ever when making the biscuits. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't even know what that tool was even tho it has been in our kitchen for years! (To be fair, it came from my husband's kitchen collection.) Normally, I use a food processor for cutting in the fat, but I figured I'd give this method a try. I think I prefer the speediness of the food processor, but it was nice not having to dirty up an extra appliance. I feel like the biscuit dough was a little on the dry side, but I was able to use most of it and I think it covered the berry mixture nicely. It was all ready to come out in 45 minutes, and after cooling for about 20-30 min, we dropped a dollop of whipped cream on it and dug in. (BTW, sorry for the crummy bowl shot. All of our small plates were stuck in the dishwasher!) I will definitely be keeping this one in my list of favorites!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lemon-Berry Semifreddo - by Summer

I think I should start this post by apologizing to Lisa.  If I had really known how much work this was going to be, I would have never picked this while she was pregnant!!!!  This recipe was definitely one of the more challenging ones - not so much in the skill level, but in all the steps.

Unlike Lisa, I don't have a weekend to complete this recipe because we are headed out of town for the 4th.  I decided to break up the steps rather than just making the recipe all at once. 

I made the fruit puree and the whipping cream ahead of time.  The first thing I did was the fruit.  It was sort of a disaster.  I don't have a big food processor, and it's stored away, so I don't use it much.  The fruit started leaking out everywhere while I was using it.  And then the baby started screaming, so I had to stop mid-puree.  And then I realized just now, that I never did measure out the 1 1/2 cups, so who knows how much ended up in the final product!  But the whipping cream went much smoother, and I put both the fruit and the cream in the fridge until after dinner.

I also had trouble with the egg mixture.  I whisked for 18 minutes (the recipe called for 10) and the sugar never dissolved.  I finally decided to move on to the next step which was to mix with the mixer for 8 minutes.  The volume was suppose to double, but it didn't at all.  I wasn't sure if I should have used the whisk attachment at this step or the paddle, so I went with the paddle.  I wonder if that was a mistake.  The consistency of this mixture seemed really sticky and if anything I feel like it lost volume.  It was sort of difficult to fold the whipping cream and the berry puree into this mixture.  It didn't seem to end up mixing so well, because like Lisa, you could see some of the egg mixture in the final product.

The taste was ok.  It was along the lines of a sherbet.  I actually had it for breakfast this morning because I finished too late last night.  For all the work that was involved I just don't see making this one again.  I could taste the sugar that never dissolved.  I wonder why it never dissolved, but in hindsight, I actually think the water wasn't hot enough while I was whisking it.  I would have to say that despite everything, I am pretty proud that we actually made this recipe.  Normally this would be the exact thing that I would skip in a cookbook and now we get to actually cross it off the list!

This recipe also triggered a new thing for this project.  When talking with Lisa this week, we decided that it was actually fun for us to make different recipes in the same week, because we were able to give each other our thoughts, tips and suggestions on the recipe that we made.  So - starting with our next picks, we will be making different recipes each week.  We'll still do four picks at a time and we'll each make those four recipes, but just during different weeks.