Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bourbon Pecan Butter Balls


Wait!  Is this actually a recipe from The Baking Bible?  And yet there's no baking involved?  (Unless you make another batch of Chocolate Oriolos, of course).  I actually have some chocolate Oriolos in the bottom of my freezer, but, due to a long story that I won't bother you with, I can no longer get to the bottom of my freezer because a person put six months' worth of frozen items on top of the Oriolos and sundry other things until this person locates housing.


Rather than make new cookies from scratch (or, worse, remove the ton or so of food from the top of the freezer). I simply bought some Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers.  (While I was looking at the cookie section in the grocery aisle, I was stunned at how bad most boxed cookies look.  I have come to believe, like many of you, that sugar is probably the food villain that we thought fat was, and I've vowed to eat less sugar.  But I'm not ready to give it up entirely.


When I started baking with a scale, I was obsessive about getting the weight just right.  Now one of my scales weighs to the tenth of a gram, and yet I'm more careless.  But by breaking the last wafer into tiny pieces, I managed to get 383 grams, right on the nose.  I took that as a good omen.


Should I talk about making the cookies?  There's really not much to say because it simply involves a food processor and the ingredients in the picture of the mise en place--chocolate cookies, pecans, cocoa, butter, powdered sugar, corn syrup, and bourbon.  I don't usually use alcohol when I might be giving food to my grandchildren, but I thought that bourbon balls should be made with bourbon.  JJ took one look at the bottle of Maker's Mark, and said, "These aren't for children, are they?"


Here's the processed mixture of everything but the pulverized cookies and the bourbon.


Here's the mixture with everything.  I found this to be a little dry, but, rather than adding more bourbon or water, I just dampened my hands every few times I reached in to shape a ball, and that worked well.


The triple sugar roll (sounds a little like an Olympic event) was the most fun part about making these cookies.  A little more sparkly white sugar clung to the chocolate-pecan balls with every coating.  Yes, sugar is evil incarnate but this is why I can't quite give it up.

The thing is, these were really good cookies.  I can hardly believe that eating a few of these dainty little morsels is going to take years off of your life.  They're intensely chocolatey, crunchy, and nutty, and the bourbon gives them a wonderful mellow taste.  (I waited the recommended 24 hours before tasting them, and they didn't have a raw, boozy flavor, although they did taste like booze.)  I liked them a lot.  So did Jim, and so did the people at the office.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Tasted Great!"


Photo by Rachel
Cooking and Thinking

Because she doesn't "own nine matching mini souffle bowls" (not many people do) and because her "antipathy for precision in presentation is longstanding," Rachel "opted to make one large pudding."  I'm muttering under my breath just a little as I type this because honestly, that does sound a lot easier, and Rachel and I are usually on the same wavelength when it comes to fussiness in presentation.  She thought it was fun to slice the baguette to make the many thin slices, and she decided while she was at it, she might as well clarify three cups of butter so she'd have "plenty for making popcorn."  (Sounds like Rachel will have the best popcorn on the block).  She couldn't quite bring herself to use three cups of cream so she defatted the pudding to the extent of using half and half instead of heavy cream.  She was "willing to go with rich instead of super-rich."  Which I think is a fine compromise.

Like Rachel, Kristina didn't have 9 matching souffle bowls.  But she did have 8 (not all quite the same size), so she made 8 bread puddings instead of 9.  When she was shaping the bread, Kristina cut the slices in half because otherwise, she noted, the instruction to place the bread slices "cut side down" made no sense.  (I wondered about that too--I looked at the sliced baguette pieces, held them up, turned them every which way, and tried to figure out what the "cut side" was.  Kristina's explanation makes more sense than anything I could think of).  Despite the "chocolate advantage" of these puddings, Kristina still thought she preferred more traditional ones with custard and raisins, but then she just got back from England, so maybe she's still thinking of English things like custard and raisins.

Orin really went all out, and made her own baguettes instead of just buying them.  Orin discovered her fiance crunching away on the buttered and toasted baguette slices, but instead of giving him the evil eye, she just toasted more baguette slices.  The bulk of Orin's pudding went into four heart-shaped molds, which she presented on a plate with homemade raspberry jam.  Look no further if you're trying to think of a lovely Valentine's Day dessert.  Orin's taster "loved that it wasn't too sweet...  He loved the crunchy top and thought it added texture to the dessert."

If you've read Catherine's witty commentary over the past several years, you won't be surprised to hear about her baking adventures with her mother.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Catherine's mum described Rose (or maybe just her methods) as "relentless" after reading the multi-step, multi-container, multi-page recipe.  And they both, when faced with the question of whether it made sense to melt the chocolate separately, as specified, or simply let the chocolate melt in the warm cream, opted for the easier approach.  Whatever the method, I think you can glean from the different experiences of the Alpha Bakers that it's hard to go wrong with this chocolate bread pudding.

Next week:  Bourbon Pecan Butter Balls.  If you have some Chocolate Oriolos resting in the freezer, you can use them for this recipe.  Otherwise, you have Rose's permission to use chocolate wafers that you've bought from the grocery store.

I won't be able to do a roundup next week because Jim and I are going to Ireland for a week.  But I'll post the bourbon balls, and, hopefully, will have enough time to make the marble cheesecake for the following week.

The countdown:  We're down to 12 great recipes!





Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cadillac Cafe Milk Chocolate Bread Pudding


This is a pretty easy bread pudding.  At least the pudding is easy.  Slicing the bread, buttering it, and toasting it; then arranging in the little cups--well, it's not hard, but it is time-consuming.


I made this once before, but I didn't take any pictures because my baguette was so sturdy that it wouldn't bend even after it was soaked in the chocolate custard.  No chance of getting anything that resembled a rose.  I think I finally just poured everything in a big dish and baked it.  It was unlovely as I recall, but I seem to have erased it from my memory.


Cream and eggs--that's pretty much the entire custard.  It's mostly egg yolks, but also two whole eggs.  When Jim saw me crack an egg and put it in whole, he panicked.  "No!  You forgot to separate the egg!"  I don't need another person panicking, but I recovered enough to tell him that it wasn't a mistake.


Oh, well, of course there's chocolate in the custard.  Otherwise it wouldn't be a chocolate bread pudding.  I was tempted to use darker chocolate, but I decided to follow the recipe.  Next time I'd use at least half dark chocolate.  Milk chocolate tastes too sweet and bland now that I'm used to the good stuff.


And there's not enough color.  I don't know if I'd have had the same reaction if we hadn't just made the chocolate mousse cake, with its rich chocolate taste, so recently.


What?  8 individual souffle cups AND 8 small bowls!  Couldn't I just use the souffle cups and save a step (not to mention a lot of dishes)?  I opted to follow the recipe again, but I do think you could get away with only using the souffle cup.  I'm just trying to save you some work.


This is how they came out of the oven.  You'd have to stretch it some to say these look just like chocolate roses.  But they do have a decorative look, even if they're not as pretty as the picture in the book.  If I were making them again, I'd dust a little confectioners' sugar on them because I was reminded during chocolate mousse cake that powdered sugar and cocoa both hide a multitude of sins. And it's never bad for sins to be hidden away.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "One Cookie Won't Be Enough!"


Photo by Orin
Orin's Goodies

Uh-oh.  I can see that I wasn't diligent enough in reminding people to save their pie dough scraps.  This recipe, which is meant to be an easy and yummy way to use up accumulated pastry scraps, turned out to require this week's Alpha Bakers to start from scratch.

Orin had to make a brand new batch of pie dough, but she had a hard time of it, what with the high humidity where she lives and the refrigeration of the dough, which made it difficult to roll out at first. Orin was lucky enough to take Rose's class on cookies from Craftsy, but she said her rollie-pollies "turned out nothing like in the craftsy class."  Still, "they had a delicious caramel at the bottom that formed from all the sugar in the dough, very addictive.  Reminded me a bit of the flavor and texture of an elephant ear and a cinnamon rugelach."  And next time she'll save her scraps.

Vicki also had to make a new batch of cream cheese pie dough, but she tried it with her dough hook this time, and it worked, so it wasn't too painful to make more pie crust.  (I just hope she remembered to save the scraps this time).  Her conclusion:  "No matter what the shape, these little gems are a nice, simple treat for anyone who loves pie crust.  Count me in!"

Rachel didn't have any spare pie crust "hanging around," so she "cheated" with store-bought pie crust.  I'll admit that I have on occasion done the same, as I suspect most of us have, so her version of rollie-pollies at least had the advantage of being easy.  But she "paid the price, taste-wise."   Although maybe it wasn't the tastiest pie crust ever, it had the advantage of being very easy to work with.  And she managed to fancy them up a bit with "some leftover topping from the coffeecake muffins we made a few weeks ago.  It added a nice crunch to the cookies."  And next time she'll use Rose's pie dough for "real" rollie pollies.

Next week:  Cadillac Cafe Milk Chocolate Bread Pudding.  Do yourselves a favor and use a supermarket baguette.  The softer version of a French baguette is much easier to work with than the real thing.

The Countdown:  We are down to just 13 (appropriately, a baker's dozen) recipes to try.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

New Spin on Rollie-Pollies


If you've been a frugal baker all these months, and have dutifully saved all the scraps of pastry whenever you've baked a pie, these are truly quick and easy.  If you haven't, then you have to make some pie crust, and the whole raison d'etre for these homey little tidbits ceases to be.  I actually have been saving crust bits, but I really felt like I'd hit the jackpot when I realized that Woody had wrapped and saved all the unused pastry he'd made when he and Rose came to Minneapolis to demonstrate how to bake a cherry pie.


Blessedly, Woody's leftover pie crust was in one big circle, rather than in the unformed bits that made up my bag o' pastry scraps, so I didn't have to try to press the strips together to make a rectangle, an instruction I didn't fully understand.  I just trimmed the edges of the circle and, amazingly, got a rectangle.


Then I rolled the dough into two long, thin rectangles, and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar.  Just like I used to do many years ago when my mother had leftover pie crust.  We never called them anything, but we did love to eat them.  We rolled them into spirals, so I guess we could have called them rollie-pollies (or, as I would have spelled it, roly-polies, since "rollie" looks like it should rhyme with "dolly.")


I couldn't quite get the hang of how to shape these.  The oblongs I cut them into with the first batch were too long and narrow.


They didn't look anything like Rose's.  Not that that's unusual.  Part of Rose's "new spin" is that they're more attractive than your grandmother's rollie-pollies.


That attractiveness is only theoretical.  Still, you can tell that the dough is going to be crisp and flaky, and the cinnamon and sugar smells delicious, as cinnamon and sugar tend to do.

I really liked these.  But they're oh, so tempting to have around.  And you can easily talk yourself into having more than one because, really, they're just a bite or two.  And, as there's no chocolate or cream, how caloric can they be?  I can't wait to see how I rationalize eating next week's chocolate bread pudding, which contains both chocolate and cream.  But that's next week.  For now, I'll enjoy the relative simplicity of these rustic bites.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Super fancy"


Photo by Katya
Second Dinner

Whenever I botch a baking project, I get comfort out of seeing that other people had the same problems.  Yes, I wish I were a better person, but ....  So I got some solace out of seeing that most bakers had some trouble with the mousse being a little on the soft side, but other people at least managed to get a decent shot of either the whole cake (see above) or a nice slice.  But the world doesn't revolve around me, so let's talk about other people's sponge mousses (or mousse sponges).

Katya made hers as a birthday cake for a friend (hence the candles), who, when asked what kind of cake she'd like for her birthday, said "Surprise me."  As Katya noted, "this Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake was not what she was expecting."  Because "who would think, 'Gee, I'll bet she'll  surprise me with a thin layer of sponge wrapped loaf-like around soft spongy chocolate mousse.'"  Well, probably no one, when you put it like that.  But it turned out to be "a great birthday dessert" and "even better for breakfast two days later."  

Now Vicki reported mishap after mishap, but still she got a great picture of a slice of this cake, so I'm not sure I'm buying it.   Okay, so she forgot to put the egg yolks in the mousse, which resulted in chocolate soup, but once she discovered the missing egg yolks, she added them in, and they did what they're supposed to do.  And, okay, before the egg yolks could do what they're supposed to do, the whole mixture threatened to disintegrate.  But she just channeled the other Alpha Bakers, who told her to whisk it back into shape, and she did.  And okay, her sponge walls weren't perfectly symmetrical, but who cares?  It still "made for a mighty tasty breakfast."  Have you ever noticed that Alpha Bakers seem very happy to have dessert for breakfast?  

Vicki was unhappy that her cake walls weren't symmetrical "like Orin's."  So we will just move right along to Orin and see what she did to get the perfect piece of mousse sponge.  Oh.  She claims it was just her "lucky day."  Hmm.  She also says it was "one of the easiest cake rolls I've ever made."  So possibly skill had more to do with the outcome than luck?  And the outcome looks very nice.  "It was so divine I wanted to share this cake with everyone.  A cake that is easy to follow, a joy to make, and will make any bakery vitrine shine."  It reminds me of a song:  🎶  I'd like to make the world a cake, and keep it company."  🎶

Rachel felt a little like singing too.  Because the dog didn't eat her sponge cake.  Well, you know, that is always good news.  Other good news:  The egg whites beat perfectly.  The chocolate and cream melted perfectly.  The single egg white whipped to perfection in an immersion blender.  The "making templates and cutting the sponge cake to size" worked "better than she might hope."  All in all, a pretty great cake.  Definitely too good for the dog.

Even though Jen's cake looks great--"a wonderful, decadent and rich cake that is all about the heavenly mousse filling"--she did have a little trouble cutting it into slices and thought she would refrigerate it before slicing next time.  So it wasn't so perfect that we can't still be friends.  It's the best kind of typical Rose cake, because "even though the project took most of the day, all the components were easy to do."  Jen concludes that "this would be a wonderful finish to a nice dinner with people you love and a good cup of coffee."  And, really, what more could you ask for any day of the week?

Jen gives you a 4-point recipe for a perfect moment in time.  Catherine gives you a 4-point recipe for what you learn from making this cake.

  1. Sometimes a haphazard effort is good enough
  2.  A dusting of cocoa will hide our imperfections
  3.  One should always refrigerate
  4.  People at work are never unhappy about cake.  
Or, in which Catherine, starting a new job realizes that people at work are pretty much the same all over.  And that Rose's recipes always seem to call for an inordinate number of bowls.  Although Catherine's rules might make you think that her cake didn't turn out so well, it really did.  She didn't think her chocolate mousse would ever set up properly, but it looks great (because she refrigerated!), and, indeed, the people at work loved it.  But who wouldn't love going to a plain old work lunch room only to find it bedecked with a chocolate mousse cake!

Next week:  Rummage around in your freezer looking for leftover pieces of pastry from our many pastry adventures.  This is the week you'll be glad you saved them.  (Or you'll be sorry you didn't).

Countdown:  Only 14 more adventures in baking--and no more chocolate mousse cakes!  If you didn't bake this, you missed a special treat.




Sunday, September 4, 2016

Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake


As you might guess from seeing this photo first, I didn't get a "beauty shot" because, well, because my cake wasn't very beautiful.  When Rose said that this was her favorite recipe in The Baking Bible, I was glad she was going to be in Rio and maybe she won't see the mess this turned into.  Even messy as it was, though, I have to admit it was awfully good, especially the mousse.


When I read through the directions (several times, hoping they'd make more sense to me), and I realized I was going to have to make templates and cut the biscuit into pieces that would make up a shell and fill the shell with chocolate mousse, my heart sank.  I don't do well with templates.  This is not my sort of recipe.  I toyed with the idea of just making a trifle, which is Vicki's clever solution when things don't go together too well.  But eventually I decided I'd give it a try.


It's been so long since we've made a sponge cake that I almost forgot how it was done.  But then it came back to me because of the miracle of the eggs.


Amazing how the mixture of egg yolks and whites turns into this fluffy, creamy mixture.


And this mixture, which looks more like an icing than cake batter, actually turns into a sponge cake.  I would have been feeling happy about this if I hadn't been so fixated on the templates.  I wished Woody were here baking with me.  He'd have cheerfully cut out the templates, humming as he measured precisely.


Meanwhile, on to the mousse.  A neighbor of mine who abruptly decided to give up all sugar.  Before this decision, she loved to bake, and bought huge quantities of 70% Callebaut dark chocolate chips gave me her storehouse of chips.  She says she's very happy being off sugar.  I admire her, but I'm happy with my new stash of Callebaut, which may last me through the rest of the book.  (Or may not, depending on how many chips get nibbled).


Add egg yolks to the mixture of cream and chocolate and it becomes even creamier and tantalizingly delicious.  Yes, I tasted it.


























By now, I was starting to feel a little more confident.  The cake tasted good and it was cutting nicely.  I already knew the mousse tasted amazing, so how bad could it be?


I should never have asked myself that question.  As you can see, half of the lovely brown top of the cake got left on the plastic wrap, making it look like it had gotten a bad sunburn and was in the worst stage of peeling.  Not a yummy thought.


The end was no better, although at least the chocolate wasn't oozing out.  It's about to get worse, though.


I took it to my brother and sister-in-law's house for dinner.  By dessert time, it had been in a hot kitchen for a few hours, and it no longer looked like a loaf.  It looked like a tired, sunken mess.  And I forgot to tell Julie to clean the knife off between slices, but it clearly wouldn't have made a difference.


Cue the grandchildren enjoying chocolate pictures!  JJ got a two-dessert plate:  rhubarb pie, made by my talented sister-in-law, and chocolate mousse cake, made by Lulu.


For Lily, it was an evening of wonder.  Both ice cream and chocolate mousse, two of her favorite flavors ever!  And you don't see her complaining that her highchair tray looks messy.  I still hope that Rose doesn't see what I did to her favorite recipe.