Friday, February 29, 2008

A Leapin' Good Daring Baker's Challenge!

Today is of course Leap Day and the last day of February, so what better way to "celebrate" than by baking and eating some delicious, homemade bread! In this installment of the ever-so-exciting Daring Baker's Challenge, we were given the task of baking Julia Child's French Bread. I have to be honest and tell you that I almost did not attempt this one because after reading the recipe and the very detailed instructions, I felt a bit intimidated by it all. I am also leaving for a 3 week trip to Asia tonight so I didn't think I had the time dedicated to baking the bread. But miraculously yesterday, I woke up early (3:40am to be exact), feeling willing, ready and able to tackle the challenge after all, and since I had the whole day off from work, I went for it. The bread making process, though a long one with 3 different risings, was very enjoyable and even relaxing. There's something quite meditative and peaceful about bread making, isn't there? And though my French bread may not be the prettiest on the block ( I had a hard time forming my long baguette), it sure tasted delicious! We toasted a few slices for breakfast this morning. I loved the crispy crust and the slightly chewy inside. My boyfriend slathered his with peach jam but I ate mine plain and simple. I will definitely be packing some of this with me for our plane trip this evening! If you would like to give this challenge a try for yourself, check out the recipe which was chosen by Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like To Cook.
Since I'll be on vacation, this will likely be my last post for the next several weeks. So thank-you Mary and Sarah for February's French Bread challenge. I'm happy I made it! Aur revoir for now!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Back To Baking

Unfortunately, baking and cooking have been put on the back burner lately because of my upcoming trip to Indonesia. In just 3 days we'll be flying to Jakarta and then to Bali for several weeks, so as you can imagine, I've been busily getting packed and organized, working my full-time job as usual, and trying to fit in some quality baking and cooking time whenever I could. Well, last night was one of those times. Flipping through the February 2002 issue of Bon Appetit recently, this recipe for sour cream-orange coffee cake with chocolate pecan streusel immediately caught my attention. The photograph of it in the magazine was simply mouth-watering and just thinking of the lovely combination of pecans, orange, and chocolate all in one dish made my taste buds dance and sing. Well, that ingredient list alone pretty much put me over the edge and had me running to my mixer in no time. I wish this post was one of those scratch and sniff ones because seriously, the heavenly smell of the coffeecake as it baked was just that, heavenly! I'm bringing this cake into work today to share with my co-workers. I have a pretty good suspicion that they won't last very long sitting in our kitchen area because man, are these good!
Sour Cream-Orange Coffee Cake with Chocolate Pecan Streusel (Bon Appetit, Feb. 2002)
1 and ½ cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled salted butter, diced
1 and ½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups AP flour
1 and ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/3 cups sugar
¾ cups (1 and ½ sticks) salted butter at room temp
1 and ½ teaspoons grated orange peel
1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and ½ cups sour cream
¼ cup orange juice
Powdered sugar for dusting

Streusel directions:
Whisk brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend; add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture holds together in small, moist clumps. Mix in pecans and chocolate chips. (can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate).

Cake directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended and smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then orange peel and vanilla extract. Mix in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with sour cream in 3 additions. Mix in orange juice. Spread half of the batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Drop remaining batter over by heaping tablespoonfuls; carefully spread batter to make even layer. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.
Bake cake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, lay a sheet of foil loosely over pan and bake for an additional 35 minutes or until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and allow the cake to cool in the pan on rack (about 20minutes). Dust with powdered sugar; serve warm or at room temperature (can be made 2 days ahead; cool completely and store airtight at room temp).
Yields 12 servings

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm A Heart Baker

Happy Valentine's Day!

Any Time Pumpkin Bread

I used to think that baking pumpkin bread was reserved only for the fall baking season, or for holiday gift-giving, but that silly notion was immediately put to rest after I started making this delicious, lowfat pumpkin bread. It's from a recipe I found on the Allrecipes website which uses applesauce in place of any oil or butter. Now I know you might be thinking that the lack of fat must also equal lack of taste, right? Wrong! This bread comes out as moist, tender, and rich in flavor as any full-fat quick bread I've ever made before. In fact, friends who have tasted this bread cannot believe it's actually "low fat", and usually, I just don't tell them. See for yourself and bake some of this luscious pumpkin bread. You'll make your tummy and your waist line very happy, and you don't even have to wait til Christmas or fall to do it. Enjoy! (click here for the recipe)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feeling Crabby--More Superbowl Eats

Another winner at our Superbowl munching fest was this recipe for hot crab dip. It's a creamy, spicy concoction of cream cheese, mayonnaise, and crab meat adapted from The heat comes from any hot sauce of your liking. I chose good old Tabasco sauce but if you want to kick it up some more, how about adding some diced jalapenos? I loved the ease in preparing this dip. Simply combine 6 tablespoons of softened cream cheese, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 six-ounce, drained can of crab meat, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce (more or less depending on your taste buds), into a bowl and mix well. If you want to get a little fancier with it, use real crab meat. Once everything is combined, place the dip into a small to medium oven-proof bowl that has been coated with cooking spray, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees F, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top gets bubbly. After I let the dip cool a bit I transferred it into a hollowed out sourdough bread bowl for serving. Don't forget to save all the chunks of bread for some yummy dipping. Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Some Super-Good Appetizers

To me, Superbowl Sunday means more than just a world championship football game between two of the best NFL teams in the country. It also means indulging in some yummy treats, and enjoying the afternoon with good friends.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the Superbowl, a 7-layer bean dip pops into my head. This dish simply rings “PARTY!” to me. I think the colorful mélange of tomatoes, avocadoes, and cheese gives it that perfect, festive feel. One of my favorite food sites, Simply Recipes, recently featured a bunch of Superbowl party fare and I was happy to find a recipe for, wouldn’t you know it, 7-layer bean dip! It was so quick and easy to put together that I also had time to make some crispy potato skins, again found on the Simply Recipes website. The potato skins were stuffed with crispy, crumbled bacon and lots of cheese (yum)! The best part about these recipes is that you don't have to wait for a big game or even a party to make and enjoy them. They are simply delicious any time! Enjoy!