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Baking Chez Moi: Soft Salted-Butter Caramels and Cocoa Linzer Cookies

So with a lot going on lately I used the few extra days off to make both December recipes.

The caramels were probably one of the biggest hits that I’ve made so far from this book.  I was worried initially making them that the amount of effort wouldn’t have as big a pay off but I was totally wrong.DSC_0062.jpgDSC_0083.jpgThe ingredients for caramels were super simple and didn’t require any store trips.  I even had some sel gris that a friend had given me to use.  I was extra excited to finally use the copper candy pot that Scott had bought for me a few years ago.  DSC_0064.jpgDSC_0071.jpgI was pretty nervous that this wouldn’t turn out but keeping a careful eye and making good use of my candy thermometer helped.  The copper pot also worked out great.  It’s tall and narrow and was so much easier than the regular short or wide pots I’d used in the past.DSC_0080.jpgDSC_0081.jpgDSC_0079.jpgThe caramels turned out really tasty and some of the friends we shared them with find them a little addictive.  The instructions said not to scrape the pot but I just couldn’t let it go to waste. After I had poured most of the caramel into the pan I took my wooden spoon and scraped out the excess in clumps onto some paper.  I shaped those into some more homely pieces that were just as delicious for us to try and taste.  I think caramel making may become a tradition after this year.  I’m hoping to try a few different kinds of salt next time we make these.DSC_0059.jpgThe cocoa linzers had a more interesting ingredient profile and I was so glad Scott was able to find the cacao nibs for me at the store.  I loved them in the cookies and I’m finding I like to eat a little bit on their own as well. I was really lucky that Scott helped me out a bit with this recipe since he’s becoming quite the cookie expert.DSC_0054.jpgDSC_0055.jpgThe cookies were basically a cocoa spice cookies with little cacao nibs in them.  I think these may be my favorite spice cookies that I’ve tried from either Baking Chez Moi or Dorie’s Cookies so far. DSC_0077.jpgDSC_0078.jpgDSC_0076.jpgI decided to fill with both chocolate ganache and cherry jam.  The flavor profile was really interesting and satisfying.  It felt right for a winter holiday with the spice notes and something that could have been put away in the cupboard during peak cherry season.

-Christie

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Baking Chez Moi: Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping

Well I only just got to this recipe this week with a big assist from Scott.  We’re always busy in the fall here.  With perfect Phoenix weather and changing leaves up north there’s lots to do.DSC_0004.jpgThe tart really relies on good tasting fruit.  We found some pretty good pears, they could have been a tad riper but the end product tasted pretty good.DSC_0006.jpgMost of the work for this was in peeling the pears.  Scott’s also been working on his rolling pin skills and made the tart crust with minimal instruction.  DSC_0014.jpgThe almond topping was very unusual for me.  I would have never thought that a simple mix of almonds, egg white and powdered sugar would end up being such a delectable topping.DSC_0024.jpgDSC_0026.jpgSadly our pan was super hot and the liquid wouldn’t catch fire.  Secretly I was pretty relieved but I think Scott was a little disappointed. DSC_0035.jpgDSC_0037.jpgI kind of had my doubts at this stage.  The topping is what I would consider less than appetizing at this point.DSC_0040.jpgLuckily everything came out beautifully toasted.DSC_0044.jpgDSC_0051.jpgDSC_0047.jpg

This tart was simple and tasty.  If we make this again I’d love to play around with different fall tastes and maybe slicing the pears or other fruit to get different textures.  I also love that this is pretty simple to make but ends up looking pretty impressive.  I feel very lucky to have had Scott’s help to get this done so we could share a tasty treat together.

-Christie

Post from Scott’s New Blog

Enjoy a wonderful post from husband’s new blog.  Excited to see what he has to share.

-Christie

McMurdo, Antarctica, set apart from the eyes of the world, far from any major city, is an oasis of peace unlike any other. Nestled on the frozen shoreline of the Ross Sea, it serves as the last refuge of society. There are no lush gardens teaming with life, no waves crashing along sandy beaches, […]

via Frozen Serenity — Quicksilversailor

Baking Chez Moi: Apple Tarte Flambee

Yay for apple season!  I absolutely love fresh Sedona apples and luckily they are in season a little early this year.  So thrilled to see an apple recipe for this month and lucky to have Scott helping with this recipe.DSC_0931.jpgOn our way back from a trip to Flagstaff we drove down the 89A that follows Oak Creek.  I was so thrilled to see my favorite apple stand up and some Slide Rock State Park apples available.  We decided to use some imperfect apples for this recipe since they would be peeled and sliced.  One of my favorite things about road stand apples is the imperfection. DSC_0938.jpgDSC_0939.jpgScott has been loving using the new stand mixer and it was fun to try the crust for this.  We both love rye bread and the bit of rye in this dough was perfect with the apples.  I did the rolling and Scott did the pricking.DSC_0940.jpgDSC_0957.jpgThe cheese mixture for this was perfect.  A thin little bit was all that was needed. Scott figured out how to use the slicing attachment for my food processor and it was wonderful for this recipe.  I tend to have very little patience for gadgets and he just loves them.DSC_0959.jpgDSC_0961.jpgWe made two of these since the size of our stone and amount of dough just worked out better that way.  We used vanilla sugar to top one and rose sugar for the other.DSC_0970.jpgDSC_0968.jpgDSC_0974.jpgI was so glad to have Scott helping on this.  I recommend a two person team for the oven opening and sliding of tarts to hot stones.  Our house got ridiculously hot and having two of us to get them in and out seemed safer and much easier.dsc_0977DSC_0979.jpgThis dish is hard to describe and as Dorie suggests you could describe this as pizza.  However, I prefer the taste flambée title as this was so unique and incredibly tasty.  Super crispy and somewhat savory crust with gooey cheese and slightly tart and sweet apples was such a wonderful combination.  We definitely overindulged on our sampling in the name of tasting and not letting things go to waste.  It’s hard not to imagine all the possible combinations that could work with this idea.

-Christie & Scott

P.S.-Scott as been doing some therapeutic baking and I’m trying to get him to write about baking along with #cookiesandkindness.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share his posts soon:)

Baking Chez Moi (Rewind): Tiger Cakes

I had a couple months of being incredibly ill that started near the end of 2015 and I’m finally catching up to all the wonderful recipes I missed.

Tiger cakes are little chewy egg-white based nuggets of chocolatey almond flavor.DSC_0837.jpgNothing too complicated about the ingredients.  I was initially worried these might be too bland or unbalanced with the intense chocolate and light egg white.DSC_0842.jpgDSC_0850.jpgDSC_0840.jpgDSC_0838.jpgThe ingredients came together quickly.  I was pretty surprised how simple it was and I even cheated a little by chopping my chocolate in the food processor.

DSC_0854.jpgThis may have let to my final cakes having more of a mottled look than a tiger striped look but since I was planning on dunking them in chocolate it didn’t matter much.DSC_0861.jpgDSC_0862.jpgThe end result was chewy with intense chocolate goodness. The texture actually held up well for a few days.  DSC_0867.jpgDSC_0883.jpgDSC_0874.jpgThe tiger cakes were pretty great and I’m feeling relieved to get on the road to catching up.

-Christie

Baking Chez Moi: Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart

When I first cracked open Baking Chez Moi I came across this recipe and was absolutely horrified. I couldn’t imagine making a dessert topped with raw corn.  One of the best things about Tuesdays with Dorie is that it often challenges my concept of what can and should be baked.DSC_0077.jpgLots of summer ingredients for this: rosemary from the garden, honey from my local stockpile and fresh corn. Overall it wasn’t hugely complex but seemed completely strange.DSC_0089.jpgDSC_0093.jpgThe blueberry topping is super fragrant and so different with the rosemary added to it. I loved that the blueberries were cooked to bursting-it changes their texture in such a lovely way and really helped all the scents and flavors of the additional ingredients infuse.DSC_0097.jpgThen the corn gets added.  I was grimacing as I added the fresh corn to the blueberry mixture.  My senses were saying no but my recipe was saying yes.DSC_0100.jpgDSC_0110.jpgThe filling was no-bake which was great and perfect for summer.  Having pre-made the crust it meant no additional oven time.  Simple and tangy I was dreading having to top it with corn.DSC_0117.jpgDSC_0118.jpgDSC_0124.jpgDSC_0125.jpgAdding the topping really did make the tart look beautiful.  The bright and pale yellow with the deep purple blue on the white creamy topping is quite eye-catching.DSC_0138.jpgDSC_0143.jpgDSC_0164.jpgThen it came time to take a bite.  I grit my teeth and tried a bite…and it wasn’t terrible.  The more I tasted the less scared and horrified I felt.  It was actually pretty good and the rosemary made it very interesting. Declaring it pretty all right I sent it to work with Scott.  To my surprise it got rave reviews with one co-worker telling me it was the best thing they’ve tasted out of all the goods sent. Turns out that corn and blueberries is pretty genius.  I should have known that Dorie wouldn’t steer us wrong.

-Christie

 

Baking Chez Moi: Summer-Market Galette

IMG_2925.jpgThis galette was pretty perfect timing for what was going on in my market.  Lots of stone fruits and berries on hand.IMG_2909.jpgI had left the nectarines off my list but had picked up some cherries for snacking.  Rather than making a second trip I just subbed in some cherries figuring it still counted in the summer category.IMG_2910.jpgI’m still really on the fence about the combination of mint, lime and ginger with my particular set of fruits.  I’m not sure if the cherries threw it off but I was really wishing I had subbed in some cardamom.

IMG_2911.jpgI cut my cherries in half and followed instructions for the rest of the fruit and this is where I made a crucial error.  I should have tasted all my fruit.  I was worried that the plums were a tad underripe but it turns out the apricots were incredibly sour.  It was very surprising given their texture and fragrance. IMG_2912.jpgIMG_2914.jpgThe lady fingers were a perfect way to catch the fruit juice.  I like making these myself but they were super easy to just purchase and use and made the overall work for this galette a breeze.IMG_2916.jpgIMG_2919.jpgRolling up the sides of the galette was fun and I loved the rustic look of this.

IMG_2927.jpgIMG_2922.jpgIMG_2928.jpgOverall this galette was pretty fabulous.  I had a piece with a little honey greek yogurt which was great and light.  I ended up having to pick off the apricot slices on subsequent bites.  They were so sour it was like sucking on a fresh lemon slice. Overall the recipe was pretty great although I might mix up the flavor profiles depending on my fruit for future attempts.

-Christie

Baking Chez Moi: Nutella Buttons

Nutella Button Top Post

Nutella buttons really should have been a simple and quick cupcake recipe.  Sometimes I have a way of complicating what should otherwise be a breeze to get through and this was one of those instances.  Typically I make a recipe as close to the original as possible but I no longer buy US Nutella so I had to find an alternative*.  This turned into a little experiment and ended up being more of a Nutella substitute test than a cupcake test.

Nutella Button Ingredients

I tested three Nutella alternatives: Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter, Wild Friends chocolate sunflower seed almond butter and homemade hazelnut chocolate spread.

Yolk and Flour Nutella ButtonsMixed Yolk Nutella Buttons

The recipe for the cupcakes is pretty simple.  Yolk and dry ingredients get lightened up with beaten egg whites.

Egg Whites Nutella ButtonsMixing Egg Whites Nutella Buttons

Then comes the fun part.  A little batter gets put into mini muffin paper-lined tins and then a little dab of chocolate hazelnut spread gets added and covered with batter.  Dorie also suggested using jam in the center and I bet this would be wonderful in these.

Spooning Batter Nutella ButtonsHomemade spread Nutella Buttons

Justins Nutella ButtonsWild Friends Nutella Buttons

My cupcakes came out with cute little domed tops but they deflated a bit once cooled.  Since I was covering these with chocolate it didn’t matter too much.

Cooling Buttons

Three Varieties of Buttons

*Reasons I don’t use Nutella

1. It’s really bad for the environment. (Supposedly they are working on this.)

2. Orangutans are really awesome.

3. This affects people too.

If you use Nutella that’s cool, maybe drop them a note that you would prefer they speed up the whole sustainably sourced thing though.  We all make choices every day on who to support and I just decided that the taste of Nutella just wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me personally.  I also gave up peanut butter m&ms which occasionally brings me near the point of tears. I may have to give up my beloved Reese’s eggs too; thank goodness the regular cups are ok.

I noticed a few years ago that I got major skin break outs after sneaking some Halloween candy.  Turns out palm oil has been sneaking into our manufactured foods for quite some time now. The Justin’s hazelnut spread that I tested was made with sustainable palm oil and it definitely triggered some major skin breakouts for me. Go figure, my body doesn’t like the cheapest oil out there? I tend to give most baked or sweet foods a pass on the nutritional value of their contents but if something has a negative consequence on how I look or feel I don’t really have a compelling reason to eat it.

Baking Chez Moi: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

Final Crispy BarsSometimes you come across a recipe that surprises you. I never thought something so simple as caramelizing cripsy rice could be so delicious. This simple treat had to be re-made several times for me to capture a picture of the end result. Somehow these bars kept disappearing before an image was taken.

Crispy Bar Ingredients

The ingredients are simple enough but it’s how they are put together that makes them special.  The trickiest part was caramelizing the rice but I enjoyed the taste so much that I did it for every batch I made.

Bubbling Sugar for Crispy RiceAdding Crispies

The first time I tried to caramelize the cripsies I threw out the batch thinking I had messed up.  When I went for in for a second attempt I learned I had to just keep going until the rice started looking wet and developed a caramel coating.  Every time I’ve made it since then I get the feeling things are going wrong and I just keep going.  The powdery sugar coating that develops is so unlike any other caramelization process that I find it a little disconcerting every time.  Well worth the effort though-I could munch on this treat all day.

Caramelized Cooling

The cookie base comes next and is about as simple as you can get.  A simple mixture of butter, brown sugar and flour with a little vanilla flavor.  The base was described as “chewy” but I made this several times with varying degrees of doneness and every time the base was more crispy and crunchy than chewy.  However, it was also amazing.  With all the taste testing that we and our friends did it was decided the the most done, almost a little over-baked version was the best.

Bar Base SpreadingCrispy Batter in Pan

The hardest part of the process was getting the batter into the pan.  It’s quite sticky and fights being spread.  I found that keeping a little cup of water nearby to occasionally wet my fingertips helped keep everything in check.

Crispy melting chocolate

Once the base is done chocolate pieces are added to the hot top and it’s all placed back into the turned-off oven for a minute or two.  Once the chocolate is nice and melty it gets spread across the base and you can add the caramelized crispy rice.

Cripsy Chocolate SpreadAdding Crispy Rice

The only problem is that the whole thing now needs to cool to room temp and then go into the fridge to cool.  It’s already warm in Phoenix this time of year so I kept the bars in the fridge even after they had been cut.

Stacked Crispy Bars

Cripsy Close Up

The bars are a wonderful mixture of brown sugar toffee flavor, earthy chocolate and a delicious crispy, caramel topping. The reminded me of the delicious saltine and brown sugar bars that I’ve found called both bravo bars as well as matzah toffee.  These were however elevated to quite another level while still maintaining the simple flavor ideas.

-Christie