Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Almond Cream Pie circa 1959 Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book

This was my mother's signature dessert
for the bridge ladies.
She played in two groups;
one with four players and the other with eight.
My brother and I rejoiced when she
made it for the four ladies, as it meant we also
got a slice.
Not so with the eight player group unless
one or two or more were on diets.
We always crossed our fingers someone
would be on a diet.

It's very easy to make, really, it just took me
fifteen years to get it right.
Stirring the custard is a calming activity for me
now after all the batches of lemon curd.
Pie crust is no longer my arch nemesis,
thanks to Rose's cream cheese pie crust.
This is a straight butter crust that I had
to make for a baking assignment.
It's a bit more fiddly but it turned out flaky.

All that remains is to divvy it up
between my family.
There are no bridge ladies insight.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chocolat Chaud

Bad lighting~ imagine super dark chocolate

Have you seen this show yet?
I am totally obsessed!
Probably even more obsessed than
I am with  
The Great British Bake Off.

Probably not a surprise to 
anyone that I am a 
cooking and baking show fanatic.
But this one!
This one just nails it for me.
I can't wait for Mondays,
of all days
for a new episode to air.

This past Monday Phil was in Paris 
and the first place Phil
wanted to go was to Angelina's
on the Rue de Rivoli 
for French hot chocolate.
 You can watch the episode 
on the PBS link.

So of course, me being me,
I went on a blood hound search to
find out what was so special 
about French hot chocolate.
I found out
it's nothing like American
powdered hot chocolate mixes,
not that I'm opposed to said hot chocolate
on a cold rainy night.
But this French concoction is in
an entirely different category.

I dug around in the cupboard, found some
70% Green & Blacks dark chocolate,
pulled out the Guittard cocoa powder
and threw in the last of my
milk chocolate with caramel stash, 
instead of sugar.

There's oodles of recipes online, 
including Angelina's, Laduree,
Lebovitz, Dorie Greenspan,
the list goes on.

Image result for chocolate porcelain drinking china
I have one of these sets packed away

It's hot chocolate alright,
but with a completely sophisticated element.
Now I understand the exquisite French 
enameled and glazed chocolate pots
that look like fine china coffee pots.

If you want a truly decadent and rich
cup of cocoa, 
have what Phil's having.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mushroom Tart

Lesson Eight Mushroom Tart

This is the first savory tart I have ever made.
The lesson focused on
another use of butter with pate sablee
which means sweetened pastry dough.
I chose the savory option using the
all butter dough.
I'm so used to Rose's cream cheese pie dough
that it was a little odd working with an entirely
different texture
but got it in the tart pan without mishap.
And out of the oven the same.

It was difficult to tell when it was done.
Quiche is fully baked at 160 F which sounded close
enough, even though this had only one egg in the ricotta mixture.

The flavor is amazing, 
both the crust and mushroom filling.
The last really good slice of 
quiche I had was $10 per slice
which would be $80 for the entire thing.
I doubt the ingredients in this cost ten dollars total.
It never ceases to astonish me
when something I've wanted to make
for years but felt too intimidated
not only isn't difficult when instructions
are easy to follow
but tastes as good as a favorite restaurant's.

You have to know that I was only allowed to 
bring store bought rolls to 
Thanksgiving dinners
while the family matriarchs
were alive and well at the helm.
They wouldn't believe this!

Friday, October 9, 2015


Everything went well with the souffle
assignment except for the first three minutes
of broiling; it started to burn at two minutes.
I quickly put a cookie sheet on the top rack
as suggested to deflect heat if it browned too quickly.
I think one minute of broiling in my oven
would suffice.
It then baked at 400 degrees for twenty

Now that I understand the process,
I will experiment with other recipes.
This was a savory souffle with
gruyere cheese.

I learned something today,
I am more comfortable with measurements
given in grams.
It also finally dawned on me that
the first run through for a new
process doesn't have to be perfect.

Once the process is learned
that's when enjoyment
sets in.
I have no idea why that took
me so long to figure out.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Today's baking lesson was baked French meringue.
Reading over the information
was very familiar to me.
The different meringues
in Heavenly Cakes and 
The Baking Bible
have given me a solid background.
I did learn new information
and tips.

Mainly don't stop beating the 
egg whites until they have little
points like this for the stiff stage.

Before The Bake

After The Bake

They are creamy in color due to  
the vanilla extract.
They didn't brown in the least
which I've learned
is the goal with baked meringue.

I have wondered for a long time
how Pavlova could possibly be 
something people love,
namely Nigella Lawson.

On top of the "Pav", 
as she likes to call them,
is a layer of whipped cream,
lemon curd 
and then sliced strawberries.

After the first taste 
it is totally understandable;
this strange combination is divine.

I was going to turn the individual
meringues into 
Floating Islands
on the suggestion of Monica
because of an episode on 
The Great British Bake Off.

There are different ways of making it.
I chose Julia Child's recipe, however, 
a bit of unexpected company
in the form of my granddaughters.
Needless to say, they loved
these marshmallow cookies
and took the rest home for dessert!

Gluten free and dairy free,
they can be topped with so many 
different things,
sorbet being one.

this is the quickest dessert 
and guests would think
it had taken hours to make.

Sorry I waited so long.
Should have listened 
to Nigella.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pate a choux

Pate a choux
or as I know it,
cream puffs.

This is the first assignment in the free
baking school I signed up for.
It lasts twenty days.
I figure I can make it through 
twenty days.


At least I made it through days one and two.
Yesterday was learning all about eggs
and how to crack them with one hand.
I had no idea I was doing it wrong!

Today was putting those egg cracking skills
to work baking pate a choux.

I've never had luck making this dough.
I failed miserably with gougeres.
And then again with souffle
which requires pate a choux
for the base.

This recipe was a two part process.
The first on the stove with a wooden spoon,
mixing and cooking the flour, water and butter.
The second part used the mixer
to incorporate eggs into this doughy ball
which magically turns into silky batter.

It is then baked with three
different temperatures.

And poked with a toothpick to release the 

I was excited to open the oven
and find real cream puff shells.

Off to buy a vanilla bean and whole milk
for pastry cream. Luckily chocolate ganache sauce
is leftover from the Turtle Mud Pie
in the freezer.
Finally, cream puffs.

Delivered to my brother as
we both have the fondest memory
of our mother making cream puffs
but only twice, no matter
how much we pleaded.
"Too much trouble."
They probably were doing 
all the mixing by hand.
This mixer method is so simple.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Vanilla Macarons

Here they are!
My first attempt at macarons.
A few had the all important "feet"
and then sank while cooling.
I think the first tray wasn't baked long enough.
The second batch maybe too long 
because they cracked.
Boy, these guys are finicky.
I used Thomas Keller's recipe in
Bouchon Bakery.
It was hard for me to understand
the level of stiffness for the final
folding of the mixture.
I know now it was definitely too stiff.
Keller said better too stiff than too soft.
Whatever their feet shortcomings and
cracked tops, they are delicious.

I just used Trader Joe's almond flour and 
pulverized it in the mini food processor as Keller instructed.
Here it is added with the powdered sugar to sieve out the almond skin bits.

These are the bits left behind.
I can see how it would ruin the smooth texture.

That's all the pictures I have because honestly,
I had to keep my wits about me.

The recipe wasn't difficult, just so different
than what I'm used to, more generalized.

The sugar and water is boiled on the stove 
then poured straight into the soft peak egg whites while
the mixer is whirling.  It wasn't difficult and the meringue
whipped up beautifully. 
I filled them with leftover chocolate ganache
from Woody's Brownies.

My hat is off to Kim, Faithy, Patricia and Milagritos 
for being able to make these very fragile cookies.
I have enough almond flour to have another
go at it.
It was getting the courage to actually try it.
Thanks Baking Bucket Buddies!  

Oh, and the name Almond Cream Pie
is named for our family's favorite pie
that my mom used to make.
It was her signature dessert
and at the very top of my bucket list.