Sunday, December 30, 2012

Classic Shortbread with Fleur de Sel

Get on the Bus
This week we're making shortbread.  Meh.  I'm not a huge fan of shortbread.  They're good, but not something I would normally make or crave.  I find them very rich.  That of course is not a bad thing, don't get me wrong.  I like rich baked goods and baked goods that seem rich but aren't.  I was even tempted to go out and buy a cute little shortbread pan with some cute little designs in it.  (was?)    Plus, the Baked boys say Shortbread is fickle.  Sounds like my good buddy caramel.  Hmpf.
Did I mention shortbread is not a fav of mine?

Folks I think we have a runner here.....someone is going rogue.

 No, no.  I'm not going rogue.  I don't do that.  That's crazy talk.  I follow the rules.  I am NOT going rogue.   I think I would call it more of a look back....or revisit.  You know, I came to this party late.  So I've missed a lot of the recipes that have been made for the Baked Sunday Morning challenges.  And I thought wouldn't it be great to try some of those recipes that I've the Carrot Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze.  See, that's not rogue.

 Ooo, ooo, can I tell her she's going rogue???

Okay, maybe I am going a little rogue.  But just a little....the recipes both call for flour.    huh?  Huh!
Fine, I roguishly made the scones.
I love the combination of carrots, coconut and orange.  You just can't go wrong with scones. (unless they weren't the recipe for this week)

I think the scones turned out really well.  And didn't taste at all like guilt.  They tasted more like coconut with maybe just a smidge of guilt or perhaps it was the citrus glaze I was tasting.  All in all very yummy.  They will go in the freezer for a breakfast down the road.  (I'm picturing the Littlest Hobo with a hobo bag filled with scones)  I've even got the song in my head. (wait, this may just be a Canadian thing)

This is the end of the post and by standard convention should have ended here..... but because I'm all rogue and don't follow the rules it isn't ending here.  That's right! 

So anyhoo, I've taken a couple of days to think about it and I'm ummm.....I'm...... I'm making the shortbread.  Rogue in reverse?

It seems that I had everything for the shortbread.  Even had the rice flour in the pantry.  What the heck did I buy rice flour for?  Hmm. 

The dough went together pretty easily.  I opted for the stand mixer rather than a wooden spoon.  So much easier.  And besides, I'm on vacation....and wooden spooning my dough seems like it would have been work. (and after reading this sentence seems kind of naughty)

The dough felt nice to handle.  Feels like it should make for a tender shortbread.  (oh it better!  I didn't just go un-rogue for a meh shortbread!)

And here are the discs of dough just chillin' next to the dill pickles.  'Cause nothing says chillin' like dill pickles!  (sorry to break it to the cheez whiz like that) 

Now for the clean up and make like nothing went on in the kitchen.  I got a drying mat as part of my christmas gifts from my in laws.  I don't know how I've lived without one for all this time.  They really are great.  And my new favourite kitchen item.

So the day got away from me (as days can often do) and the shortbread did not get baked.  The discs of dough got to chill in the fridge all night long....all night....all night.  (you've just been Lionel'd) 

This morning I got my butt in gear and baked off the shortbread.  I think it went okay.  Have never actually made shortbread, so I'm not totally sure how the dough should be. 

I did have to leave the dough on the counter for 10 minutes to warm up a bit, as I couldn't roll them out very well when they were so chilly.

I cut some into wedges.

And some I cut into sticks.
 But I forked them all.  And threw a little salt (fleur de sel) on them for good measure.

The baking of the shortbread was pretty uneventful.  Though I did keep them in a few minutes longer than called for, as they didn't seem done.  The time they spent cooling on the cookie tray seems to be the key to ensuring a properly baked shortbread cookie.

The shortbread does look pretty cut into wedges.           

But I think I like the look of the sticks better.  Especially for serving beside a nice cuppa tea.

 I'm glad I tried making the shortbread.  I think they are a nice cookie.  (if you're into that sort of cookie)  If I ever make them again, I would try different flavourings as suggested by the Baked Boys.

Okay fine...they're good.  Really good.  I know though, (just like caramel) that the next time I try to make them they won't turn out.  But that's okay.  That's what baking is all about.  Until then, they will be a happy baking memory. 
No doubt I will ride that bus again.
Short(bread) Bus

May I just point out that I was able to write this whole post without once mentioning Randy Newman's song, Short People.  And even when I was all 'meh' about shortbread and singing Shortbread got no reason.....shortbread got no reason...... (in my head of course)  Kudos to me!  I'm really growing as a person. (and not just because of this yummy shortbread)  Baaahaahaa.  I'm here all week...try the shortbread.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Came Early......

Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream

I think I'm ready for a cake.  I feel like it has been a while since we've done a cake from Baked.  Oh, I guess the last cake was the Almond Cake.  (I don't want to think about that cake...still having flashbacks of that almond butter....shiver)  Too bad, because the cake itself was good.

This spice cake sounds awesome.  I bet it would be a good pick at the Baked bakeshop.  (who's up for a trip to Baked??!!)  Of course if we did go, which dessert would you get?  That is a tough one.  I'm thinking it would be a cake slice of some sort.  Isn't that cute how I made it sound like I'd just get one thing.  <snicker>

I'm pretty sure I have all the ingredients to begin baking.  Another recipe I'm prepared for...huh.  I want to believe this just means I'm doing a better job at keeping my pantry filled with all the essentials.  Of course I see that as being both a good thing and a bad thing.  Good because I can bake at the spur of the moment.  Bad because I can bake at the spur of the moment.  (I know you all understand this)

An early Christmas present from hubbie.....the staybowlizer.  How cool is that?!!?

So the batter went together really easily.  Folding the egg whites into the batter certainly makes the cake feel all light and airy.  I think it is going to make for a very light cake.  Not what I expected at all in a spice cake. 

It is so hard waiting for things to bake.  But at least I have this uber cute little kitchen timer.  :o)
It is adorable!!!  I just love it.  (an early Christmas present from a friend) 

That's okay, it might be easier to wait while I sip my coffee out of my new coffee mugs!  (another early Christmas present from another friend) 
Love how the cups change with the heat of the coffee. :o)

Okay, okay back to the cake.  I know it's not all about the early Christmas prezzies.  Okay, that was clearly a is all about the prezzies. (sorry for the lie, Santa.....I hope this in no way affects the outcome of Christmas)

Soooo the cake.....that's what I'm doing here....yes.   I decided rather than a three layer cake, I'd do a two layer cake and the rest of the batter would be cupcakes.

The buttercream gods smiled on me today.  I realize the key is to cool down the mixture before I add the butter.   
I understand I need to have patience to wait for the mixture to cool down....and an ice pack under the bowl.....and.....

 a little comedic relief to pass the time away.

I'm cool...

I loved the addition of rum and nutmeg to the buttercream.  The nutmeg gave the buttercream a lovely flecked look. 

And the coloured sprinkles gave it a Christmas feel.

I tried a cupcake and it was good, really good.  Loved the flavour of the spiced cake with the addition of the eggnog buttercream.  My plan is to freeze the cake and have it later in the week. 
This recipe is definitely a keeper.

And my gingerbread man has given me the thumbs up. (yes, another early Christmas present)  :o)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Baking with Julia-Finnish Pulla

Nom, Nom, Nom Cardamom

I started off the last Baking with Julia post being all excited about baking the gingerbread baby cakes.  I was sooo looking forward to making those.  And then I ended up not enjoying them at all.
I felt I needed to preface this post with the above statement, as I again want to say that I'm totally looking forward to making this pulla.  It looks so appealing.  (but I don't want to jinx it like I did with the gingerbread baby cakes)  The baking gods might hear me. (Shh)
I don't make a lot of bread (at least yeasted bread), so this should be interesting.  It looks so pretty in the cookbook.

I almost replaced the cardamom with a cinnamon and nutmeg mix.  But I went out again and was able to find cardamom pods.  (whew)  And I'm so glad I did.  The smell of the cardamom as I was crushing it in the mortar was wonderful.

The addition of the cardamom to the dough gives it a flecked look.  I hope the taste of the cardamom comes through in the baking.  It looks wonderful in the dough.

Before the First Rising

Now I just have to be patient and wait for the first rising of the dough.  (45-60 minutes)    Might just cross my fingers to ensure this dough rises! 

After the First Rising
 Looks good after the first rising.  Can definitely see how much it has risen. 

Now to divide it into three parts and roll those out into long strands.

I have to say, I'm a little rusty with braiding.  It seems so foreign when the strands are not facing me straight on.  But I will muddle my way through.                                                   
Okay, okay, not a masterpiece but it doesn't look too bad.  Definitely need a little practice with braiding though!  I blame all the years of never having to braid my own hair as a child.  (I knew those Princess tendencies would come back to haunt me!)

One more rising and it should be ready for baking. 

Blast my excitement for finding cardamom pods!  I totally forgot to get pearl sugar after that excitement.  And it was even on my list!  D'oh!  Oh well....guess I'll just have to use some raw sugar on top of the glazed wreath.  And I think I will forgo the almonds on top too.

Just took it out of the oven.  And I have to say, it looks pretty darn nice.  My braid wasn't spectacular, but other than that it looks lovely.  Now I wonder how it tastes?

I almost don't want to taste it, as I've been pretty freakin' happy with this whole process thus far....and I'm afraid if it isn't good I'll be disappointed.
Who am I kidding??  Of course I'm going to try the Pulla!

Nom, nom, nom, it's good!  I love the flavour of the cardamom.  It is a difficult flavour for me to describe.  But it works wonderfully in this bread and imparts a sweet taste.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

For the Love of Caramel

I was hoping we would never speak of caramel again.  I guess our last foray into caramel was the Caramel Coconut Cluster bars....and my caramel turned out okay.  But scares me.

Do not go stirring gently into that good caramel.
Caramel should bubble and sputter at close of day.
Rage, rage against the making of the caramel.
(see Dylan Thomas wasn't keen on caramel either)  I think he might just haunt me tonight along with the caramel for that tomfoolery.  But perhaps using the word tomfoolery will appease his ghost.

Okay, okay I'll just make sure I have all the ingredients.  It would be awful to not have everything and then not be able to make these caramels. (fingers crossed)

Darn it Yay, I have all the ingredients required to start this recipe right now!  Isn't that great.....just freakin' happy......

Well it looks like I'm about ready to begin then.  All ingredients are at hand and waiting for their time in a hot pot on the stove.  (not being stirred of course....we all know how caramel is about that)

Caramel is a simple thing to make.  Few ingredients with few instructions.  Yet it is one of the most daunting things for me to make.  I think it is because there are no specific times associated with caramel.  It is all about the temperature.  (though I also believe Karma comes into play as well)

This time I found the process of caramel making to be less daunting.  (shhh, don't tell the caramel I said'll get angry)

 But it's true.  At least this time I knew that it would take a while to get the caramel back up to temperature.  So I didn`t stress when it wasn`t happening right away and I knew that I`d probably need to turn the temperature up a bit on the stove.

This is the caramel NOT being stirred.  I didn't stir it at all!!  Go me!

And this is caramel having a hard time getting it up...
temperature wise.  Yeah I went there caramel!

But it did get up to temperature....after a while....a long while.  I`m not even sure how long it took.  I just walked away from it and did other things.  Yep, that`s how cool I am now about caramel.  Gone are the days of staring at the pot, worrying, more staring, and yes even swearing.

And here is the caramel before it goes into the fridge to cool overnight.  Sleep tight my friend...for tomorrow you go under the knife.

I was a little concerned about getting the block of caramel out of the pan, but it did finally release.  And the cutting of it really wasn't that hard to do. (yes, I was a little surprised)
I found some lovely foil wrappers and also used wax paper for some of the caramels.  The photos coming up are all courtesy of my hubbie.  (he's so much better at taking pictures than me...thank goodness I've kept him around)  And he didn't just take the pictures, he also set up the displays!  Love it!

Can I just say, I loved these caramels.  Absolutely loved them.  (I don't hold up my boombox to just anyone or anything)

 Let me just be clear....I did NOT want to make these.  I really didn't.  (still have caramel issues)  But I'm so glad I forged on and made them.  These would be lovely to make for gifts.  The foils I used are super cute. 

Oh dear, I think I have just been suckered into loving caramel.  And you know what that means?  Yep, I'll not be so hesitant to make them again....and we all know what that means....yep, it will end in failure and there may be tears and definitely swearing.  But I think that's okay because like me caramel can be moody.  And hey, people still love me. (love/ all means the same, right?)