Tuesdays with Dorie: French Strawberry Cake and Imperfect Genoise

No photos this time.  It just wasn’t pretty here in the Ragland kitchen.  Since we had just driven in from D.C. on Sunday, I opted for a Father’s Day do-over on Monday and planned a menu of herbed pork tenderloin, rice pilaf, and tarragon roasted asparagus, and of course, a French Strawberry Cake.

With my trusty helper, Olivia, in the kitchen to assist.  We attempted the Perfect Genoise – the foundation of our dessert.  Dorie Greenspan writes that genoise is the first cake batter mastered by a French patissier.  Clearly, I would have been stuck in genoise school for some time.  Just the directions for the Genoise amounted to two pages (Baking with Julia is a BIG book!)

This unleavened cake (no baking soda or powder) is just eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter.  You beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture triples in size – a light, airy froth.  I spent a good 7-8 minutes using the whisk attachment in my KA mixer.  I think I didn’t use a high enough speed at first, so I increased it to “6” and it started to fill with air.

I wish I had seen my compadres posts about sifting the flour into the mixing bowl.  As I I tipped my waxed paper cone of twice-sifted flour, I asked my assistant for help.  Unwittingly, she dumped the contents in their entirety into my light airy mixture. The flour was supposed to be added in three additions.   I could feel the air being sucked out of my batter, though I attempted to fold – but as I folded I kept finding more and more pockets of flour, as well as a nice pile at the bottom of my mixing bowl.

All I could do was move forward, so I did, pouring the batter into my prepared pan and hoping for the best. Ollie and I watched through the oven window as our cake refused to rise – deflating our hopes and our dessert.

I only made 2/3 of the strawberries and whipped cream frosting – it wouldn’t take much to frost our one layer – standing at barely 1/2″ (I don’t think I am exaggerating…)  Dense and eggy, I went ahead and added some of the strawberry liquid to what would be more aptly named, strawberry shortcake.

We ate it all, but it wasn’t the light dessert I had hoped for.

If this is something you would like to try, see http://sophiasbaking.blogspot.com/ or http://thinklovesleepdine.blogspot.com/ for the recipe.


TWD: Oasis Naan

Intimidated by the calories and the time-consuming nature of the Sticky Pecan Buns last month, I sat out the last Tuesday with Dorie.  I am happy to say that this afternoon I was back in full force and eager to make Oasis Naan.  I planned an Indian meal for tonight so that I could serve the naan in lieu of rice – a chicken, onion, and potato curry with Trader Joe’s curry simmer sauce and a can of light coconut milk.

The recipe called for stirring the flour and water (with yeast)  in one direction.  When trying to blend flour and water, that’s trickier than it sounds.  I had hoped to break out my new food processor or take my KA out of the corral for this recipe, but what it called for was brute strength.  I managed to get the 3 cups of flour and water blended, only to have it become a sticky mess as I added the rest of the flour cup by cup.  I turned it out onto my flour-y  countertop and spent the next 10 minutes as instructed (kneading vigorously)!!!

The dough became smooth and elastic as I worked it, and finally I placed the ball in a well-oiled bowl.  Covered with plastic wrap, the dough doubled in size over the next two hours.   Possessing neither a pizza stone nor quarry tiles, I opted to invert a baking sheet as the recipe suggests,  placing it on the oven rack.  While waiting for the oven to reach 500 degrees, I prepared the dough for baking.  Dividing the dough evenly into eight balls, and with rolling pin in hand, I rolled out 4 dough circles with the help of my daughter Olivia.  She particularly enjoyed pricking the naan allover with the fork.  I chopped some scallions for adornment and put some cumin in a shaker with a top of wire mesh.  Using this, we could just “dust” the naan with cumin and not blacken it!

a ball of dough in an oiled bowl

Our first batch the dough seemed too dense – the circles weren’t thin enough and I had forgotten to wet the center of the circle before pricking it with the fork.  We spent a bit more time rolling out our second batch, and the water seemed to thin the dough a bit and made the pricking easier.  We skipped the scallions on this batch and just dusted them with salt and cumin.  They definitely looked more authentic!

Golden Naan

I was surprised by how much the kids liked it – they are both taking it to school for snack tomorrow.  I am hoping that our second attempt was better than our first – I will try the second batch tomorrow and see if it was “airier” than the first.  I could see snacking with this bread and some hummus.  While it is delicious, I don’t know if I’ll make it again.  I will be interested to hear about the texture of other bakers’ breads…

If you want to try to make Oasis Naan yourself, visit one of our hosts for the recipe:




Looking forward to Fresh Strawberry Cake in a couple of weeks!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Hungarian Shortbread

Tuesdays with Dorie?  More like Wednesday!  I was surprised late Monday night to receive the LYL post – I had written down Hungarian Shortbread for May 8 and Sticky Pecan Rolls for May 22.  I had glanced over both upcoming recipes, so I knew shortbread was the “easy” one for the month.  However, I proceeded to jam it into a day where I’d already run four miles, taken a yoga class, and finished knitting a pair of barrista mitts I’d been working on since January.
Somehow nothing about this baking project was easy – maybe because it was sandwiched between getting back from Charlotte Yarn and school pickup.  I had just enough butter, but not enough sugar – a novice mistake to start baking without checking to be sure I had all the ingredients.  So, with a bowl of room temp butter already fluffed in my Kitchen Aid, I ran to my friend Jean’s for a cup of sugar.

I always find it tricky to add ingredients to the mixer – even if I stop to raise the paddle, it’s so covered with goo that I can barely add the egg yolks or my dry ingredients.  In my rush, I forgot to lock the stand and a cloud of flour fell down upon me as I clicked the mixer on low.  Dusting the flour off my shoes, I continued until all the ingredients were blended seamlessly.  My ball of mostly butter, sugar, and flour turned out easily onto the counter. I split it in half and rolled each into a ball and wrapped it in plastic  for the freezer.

The next part you won’t see coming.  After half an hour in the freezer to harden, you grate the ball of dough into a 9 x 13 baking pan.  It seemed easy at first, until the dough started to warm in my hand and my nice little grated flakes became flying dough balls.  I pressed the dough gently into the pan and its corners, then spread a cup of raspberry jam over top.  The recipe calls for you to make your own rhubarb jam, but as I am not a fan or rhubarb, I opted for a store-bought shortcut.   I could only hope the second ball would be easy to grate – but it really wasn’t.  How is this the “easy” recipe of the month?  I guess because to make the sticky pecan rolls you have to make brioche dough (which is it’s own multi-page recipe!!!!) and then add a bunch of steps (and butter) to that – we’re talking pages of instructions!  But back to the shortbread…

Without a second to spare, I put the shortbread in the oven, and took it out about 40 minutes later and ran out the door to pick up my kiddos.  It was golden brown and smelled wonderful.  By the time we got home, it was just cool enough to cut.  On a lark, I calculated the points plus values (Weight Watchers) and determined it to be 7 points per mini square.   I cut it into 32 squares – the recipe suggested cutting it into 12 or 24.  While delicious, I will take my calories elsewhere.  Something chocolate-y or maybe those sticky buns…

Granted, when most people think shortbread, they think the hard as a rock Walker’s biscuits from the store.  This Hungarian version is much softer, lighter in texture, if shortbread can be light.  If you love shortbread, I would recommend it, but you’ll need some muscle to make these.   I’d prefer chaturangas to grating dough.

Stay tuned for the pecan rolls – they are one of my favorites, so I may just have to give over an entire day to try to make them.  If you want to try this shortbread recipe, visit one of our hosts http://crazyworldofcher.blogspot.com/2012/04/on-shoulders-of-those-before-us-twd.html#more to see it posted.  Check out my barrista mitts!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Lemon Loaf Cake

This cake was super simple – though I must have read only the part about it taking 5 minutes to throw together, and skipped the part about bringing the eggs, heavy cream, and melted butter to room temperature.  I took the chill off the eggs by putting them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, melted the butter on a lower microwave setting, and the heavy cream – I was expecting company and just threw it in still chilled.  It took about 8 minutes fewer than the shortest bake time (50 minutes).

The texture of the cake is like a pound cake, but so smooth.  It slices up beautifully too.  A friend was over while it was baking and thought it smelled delicious.  Even if it is a pound type cake, the lemon adds a lightness to it.  I know some of my fellow bakers found it bland or dry, but I didn’t find that at all.  My husband, who is not a sweet eater, raved about it.

I would definitely make it again!


Here’s the link to one of the hosts who posted the recipe: http://www.ladystiles.blogspot.com/


TWD: Pizza Rustica

I was excited to make something savory, that could actually pass as dinner, but not as jazzed about the “pizza” aspect.  Throw pizza out the window because it has nothing to do with this recipe!!!  Pizza rustica is more savory tart or pie (think quiche, not so eggy, very cheesy) with a sweet crust.  It does not resemble pizza except for the meat and cheese aspect – no tomato saucy thing here.

As I read through the recipe, it called for the dough, a pasta frolla, to be made in a food processor.  My food processor died weeks ago, and I hadn’t replaced it.  I walked into Bed, Bath, & Beyond thinking I’d make a quick purchase of another one, but the variety and the price tag put me off.  I chose to make it in my Kitchen Aid mixer and it worked beautifully.  Using the whisk attachment I blended the dry ingredients, and added the eggs while it was still mixing.  After the dough came together, I used my bread hook to knead for a minute.  The dough was not sticky in the least and I was able to roll it into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and set it aside while I made the filling.

The filling of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, pecorino romano (I used parm), prosciutto, eggs, and parsley came together quickly, though looked a bit puny for filling a 9″ pie dish.  I rolled out the dough easily, and pressed the bottom into a buttered dish.  Then I made my lattice top crust (I will be investing in a pastry wheel for the pretty edges).  My filling only filled the pie dish 3/4 of the way, seemed like it would have fit better in an 8″ pie dish.

The edges of my pie browned quickly, while the lattice crust barely browned at all.  I put foil over the edges of my crust and added to a few minutes to see if I could brown up the lattice, but I didn’t want to overbake, so I ended up taking it out.

I served the pizza with an arugula-pear-blue cheese salad.  The filling was bland, but yummy.  While I thought I used quite a bit of prosciutto, it seemed to be lost in cheese. I kept waiting for the salty contrast with the sweet crust. Next time, I would use more prosciutto and maybe some sauteed shallots or very mild mushrooms to liven up the filling.  The crust, however, could have been eaten on its own.  It tasted like shortbread!  I am not really a pie crust eater, but this was truly delicious.

I wish I could say the pizza rustica was a hit with ma familia, but it wasn’t.  I didn’t even understand why – it was very beige, Imageno dominant flavors.  I wondered if that was the problem, so the next night I served the pizza with a side of marinara, thinking that might make it more palatable for them.  It didn’t work.

While this recipe may not work as a family dinner, I would definitely serve it at a luncheon with a salad. Who wants to come over?

One thing I am noticing as we bake is that my confidence with dough is soaring.  I don’t even bat an eye at a pastry crust anymore – that is progress.

Tuesdays with Dorie – Irish Soda Bread

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  And John wanted to buy a loaf at Harris Teeter…

St. Patty’s Day found me in a rush – to the parade in the morning, a soccer game, an Irish dance performance at a nursing home, and a casual dinner (cooked by moi) for friends.  Not sure why I thought it would be a laid-back Saturday!

Thank goodness I had watched the actual Julia Child video for making the bread that someone posted on the P & Q for this recipe.  I knew that if I could watch a chef do it in under three minutes, it was something I could handle.  In between a sauce and beating egg whites for chocolate souffles, I made my Irish soda bread.

While a plain loaf is more traditionally Irish, I added a cup’o raisins and a tablespoon of caraway seeds for oomph.  After I added the buttermilk, the dough still seemed flour-y.  Until of course I turned it out for a quick knead, then it became a sticky mess.  “John, get the flour!”, I screamed like a doctor in an ER asking for paddles.  A sprinkling on my hands did the trick – the dough came together and I slashed a cross in the goo.

A subtle aroma wafted through the house, perfect when you’re expecting guests.  I served the bread with some real Irish butter – a treat!  And everyone, kids alike, seemed to enjoy it.  It was the perfect opening to a menu of molasses coffee marinated pork chops, colcannon, and plenty of Guinness.

The Irish soda bread was so easy and forgiving – unlike my souffles which rose and fell before they were served!

Rugelach – Tuesdays with Dorrie

I had heard of this pastry, but as I am not an apricot lover, it wasn’t high on my list to try.  In the interest of learning to be a better baker, I decided to give it a whirl.  Traditional rugelach is apricot or prune – I went with the prune.  I am also not a dried fruit lover, which is also traditional, so I simplified the recipe a bit.

One of my fellow bakers suggested making only a third of the recipe, as it produced quite a lot of cookies.  After a weekend of beignets and bread pudding in New Orleans, I thought I should go easy on the pastry.  The first step was the cream cheese dough – created in my Kitchen Aid mixer which has seen more action recently than in the nine years I’ve owned it.  Cream cheese, butter, sugar and flour.  As my dough showed no signs of coming together, I added an extra tablespoon or two of flour and voila – it turned out into a nice patty, ready to be chilled for a few hours.

Rather than make my own lekvar (a highly concentrated fruit butter), and because I was making a small batch, I opted for a prune plum butter I found at the grocery store.  When my dough was sufficiently chilled, I took it out, let it soften a few moments and then began to roll it into a rectangle.  I have a well-founded fear of rolling dough – it never seems to be uniformly even.  But the dough seemed forgiving and I persevered.

Caroline and Olivia sort of watched while I spread the dough with the prune butter.  Ollie used an old-school jar chopper to pulverize walnuts.  As I let them taste the fruit butter, they abandoned their posts as sous-bakers, and took a time out for toast with their new favorite bread spread.

After applying a thick layer of the prune butter, I sprinkled it with cinnamon, brown sugar, and white sugar and then added a layer of nuts.  I rolled the filled dough into a tubular shape lengthwise, covered it with plastic and stuck it in the fridge.  I promised the girls I would bake off the cookies before I picked them up from school, so they could try them as soon as possible.

The next morning, I chopped a few more nuts and added some sugar and cinnamon.  I also made an egg wash which we were instructed to push through a sieve.  I wouldn’t have thought of it, but it did eliminate some of those stringy eggy pieces.  I took out my long roll of dough, brushed it with the egg wash, then sawed off pinwheels, dipping each in the nuts and sugar before putting it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Another useful tip from the recipe – double the baking sheet so the sugar on the bottom of each cookie would carmelize, but not burn.  It worked beautifully.  Though I only had one pan of cookies in the oven, I rotated the pan halfway through baking (another tip) as I have learned that my oven does not heat evenly.

When they were a caramel brown color, I popped them out of the oven.  They looked and tasted like they were from a bakery.  I walked around so proud of myself all day…my house smelled like cinnamon and pastry, and I made these nut-sugar encrusted little gems. I may be a rugelach convert.

After reading a lot of TWD’s Rugelach “chatter”, I thought about some variations.  I like the idea of raspberry jam; another blogger suggested lemon curd with plain sugar on the outside.  This dough is really great – definitely something to keep in mind for a simple, but fancy-tasting dessert.