TWD: Fresh Mango Bread

I baked this two weeks early and STILL didn’t get it posted on time…AARGH!!

Regardless, I really enjoyed this selection by Kelly, of Baking with the Boys. Thanks for picking the recipe and posting it on your blog.  I don’t think I would have tried this on my own, but I’m glad we all did it together!

Mango Bread

I trusted the title of this recipe and served this “bread” alongside a Caribbean chicken (cooked in orange and lime juices in the crock pot for several hours) and some carrot pudding.  HA!  While we all certainly enjoyed the sweet bread at the main meal, it was far more breakfast cake then bread.  I’ve been eating it every time I walk through the kitchen (before work in the morning, after I get in from the train in the evening, on my way to bed….).

I should have known when I pulled the ingredients for this cake that I was too sweet for a main course Sunday Supper, but by then I was too close to dinner time to scrap it and shop for some other starch – and I made so many substitutions I thought maybe it would be more savory that Dorie had intended. So I continued on: white sugar, brown sugar, golden raisins, frozen mangos, lime zest, ginger and cinnamon.  YUM to all of it, and especially when it’s baked with oil and butter.

Keep in mind, though, that I was short on vegetable oil so I used some olive oil.  I diluted the white flour with whole wheat flour. I used frozen fruit rather than fresh.  AND, mangoes are a good source on antioxidants A, C and E, and potassium – so there are health benefits to this sweet treat.

The bread browned quickly on top, so I wrestled with the aluminum foil as I tried to tent it while wearing oven mitts. It stayed in the oven longer than the  90 minutes the book recommended, too, and each time I took it out of the oven to test it with a knife I had to readjust with the foil tent WITH THE OVEN MITTS.  I must have been quite the sight, but I soldiered on and it was worth it.

The browned crusty top was wonderfully crunchy in contrast to the moist cake and sweet fruit. The Other Eater and I gobbled it donw for breakfast every day that week.

Next week: chipster-topped brownies.  I am SOOO looking forward to these!

man vs. ape

The New York Times recently previewed a book, due out later this month, in which an anthropologist proposes that cooking is what separates man from ape. Tool-making and meat-eating are all well and good, this Harvard professor suggests, but it’s cooking foods over a fire that enabled higher development.

“Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” explains that cooking made foods richer and healthier as long ago as 1.8 million years. Foods became softer, safer and more nutritious. Though no evidence of fire dates that far back, Dr. Ricahrd Wrangham says biology suggests cooking is just that old – that’s when man’s body type changed from apelike proportions with a big gut to upright bodies topped by larger brains. Teeth got smaller, too, suggesting that they weren’t as needed for chewing because foods were softer – because they were cooked.

I’m not sure how I feel about his theory (keep in mind that the doctor has also lived like a chimp, eating only what he found, while he studied the animals – this included eating raw monkey that the other chimps had cast off – eewww), but I like the idea of cooking as an social tradition that has always shaped our development; it continues to shape families and dictate traditions today. I think about this when I consider the Tuesdays with Dorie experiment, and how 200+ young cooks in various corners of the world are all learning to bake because one woman wrote one book.  Dorie’s labor of love will no doubt become the center of family traditions. It’s exciting to think that this little blog is part of that grand idea.

My friend Ken Patchen recently wrote a guest column for the Illinois Agri-News, recalling the various vegetable gardens that have shaped his life: A gradeschool friend’s mom’s where the boys picked grapes and made jelly, his mother-in-law’s carrot patch where fruit stayed in the ground well into December, Ken’s garden that enabled them to continuation her family’s canning tradition, the plot his daughter used to explore her taste for obscure vegetables (and to test her father’s patience, no doubt),  and now the container garden that Ken’s daughter is sharing with his granddaughter in an urban setting.

“Growing a garden is an inter-generational act of faith, reflects a sense of hope, offers exercise, creates memories and puts food and great taste on the table in hard times,” Ken explained as he commended the White House for planting its table garden this spring.  The First Garden likely won’t make a dent in the national deficit, but it will undoubtedly remind parents and grandparents of how they spent their summer days and prompt them to reconsider what their children will remember about this summer.

I guess in a way that’s how I think about cooking, and I thank Ken for helping me to understand that.  I’m still planning my summer garden; I’ve yet to really identify what I’ll have and what kind of containers I’ll use. But my house on McCraren Road always had a garden when I was young (actually, it still does), and I wouldn’t know what else to do with the space now that I have a home of my own.

TWD: Tiramisu cake parfaits

Like many of my TWD colleagues, the idea of having a whole cake in my house is not appealing. I’m not really the kind of person who makes a whole cake just for fun, and so rather than gobble the whole thing down it tends to dry out and tie up valuable real estate in my refrigerator. This is especially gross when the cake has a lot of dairy it in that gets crusty and makes the whole fridge smell.

Tiramisu cake

A parfait, on the other hand, lasts mere hours before my will power caves in an I am licking the glass clean (no wonder the dessert’s name translates to “perfect”). Many thanks to Megan of My Baking Adventures for picking this week’s Tiramisu Cake recipe recipe, and posting it on her blog. Tiramisu literally means “pick-me-up” and even though I left out all of the espresso powder the pure pleasure of indulging in this treat on a sunny Sunday evening lifted my spirits.

I spread Dorie’s fabulous vanilla cake batter into a 13×9 baking pan and made a really shallow sheet cake that I cubed and tossed into parfait glasses (which I had previously purchased at the local church-run consignment store for 25 cents each). I scrapped the espresso syrup and extract in favor of Starbucks liqueur I had in the house, and layered the cake with the filling and the mini chocolate chips, as Dorie recommended.  It was a hit at Sunday dinner with The Other Eater in my household and his mom! Light and fluffy, just the right portions and not too rich to stomach after a nice dinner and a walk through the neighborhood on one of the first really great spring days of the year.

(Earlier in the meal we tore into the [frozen] fresh mango bread that my TWD colleagues will be making later this month – what a treat! More about that later….)

TWD: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

The weather here has been hit and miss lately: we’ll have one beautiful day of strong, warm sunshine and then five days of persistent light rain and general dumpiness.  “Good days for chicken Parm(esan)” one friend remarked the other day, and it seemed to sum it up just perfectly.

But Lauren of the Upper East Side Chronicle left me with chocolate bread pudding instead of chicken parm, and as long as I remember to microwave the dessert before applying whipped cream, I’m quite happy with her decision.  She’s posted the recipe for you, too, here.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

I love bread pudding, but it’s usually filled with vanilla and maybe bourbon or bourbon cream, so I was a little freaked out by the idea of bittersweet chocolate.  I decided I’d think about that at the grocery store – one of many things to think about, it turned out.

Sadly, the dairy producers do not consult with cookbook writers when they size their products (sort of like Steve Martin’s Father of the Bride rant about hot dogs vs. hot dog buns), so I did some creative recipe re-jiggering to make it all work without a plethora of dairy products in my refrigerator.

*three cups of whole milk and one cup of cream became two cups of each

*three eggs became the rest of the egg beaters I had leftover from something else

*6 oz. bittersweet chocolate became lots of bittersweet chocolate with a handfull of leftover milk chocolate and a few peanut butter chips sprinkled on top.

The end result was a delight! Dense, not too chocolate-y or overly sweet, and even kinda pretty to look at with those browned peanut butter chips on top. Whipped cream – even the fake kind from the can – makes everything better.  I’m a fan and I’ll be making it again next winter, I’m sure.  I just don’t see it as part of this weekend’s BBQ.

TWD Fast Forward: All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

The pending move is making things a little tense around my house – and when the going gets tough, the tough crave sugar.  Thus, I scraped the last of the flour out of my pantry, comparing my current inventory with the list of ingredients in several of Dorie’s recipes and decided on a seasonally inappropriate All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake.  The cake is DARN good, and I wiped out 1) a can of pumpkin, 2) the last of the golden raisins, 3) the last fraction of a bag of pecan halves that now I won’t have to move at the end of the month.  Woo-hoo!

holiday cake

The cake is dense without being heavy, moist and delicately spiced with dried ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. And the canned pumpkin makes the cake just as orange as the photo suggests (even though I know the photo is not great – I tried using my far-more-convenient cell phone camera instead of my actual camera for the first time, and I won’t do it again. Promise.).  But the combination of golden raisins and dried cranberries and pecans is really nice – not too fruitcake-y, but definitely not the traditional birthday cake that I get used to at this time of year. It could absolutely be an acceptable breakfast food. I like this a lot.

The icing made me nervous – it’s maple syrup and powdered sugar – but it goes well with the otherwise not-too-sweet cake.  I’ll look forward to making this in my new kitchen next winter!

(I apologize to the Dorie bakers who haven’t made this yet, but I’ll make it again with all of your when it comes up in the rotation!)

TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

These, I must say, have been a mixed bag.

Caramel Crunch Bars

Initially, I was disappointed with them. The instant coffee in the batter was too strong.  The thin cookie was too crisp. The toffee pieces got stuck in my teeth.

But this being the second day they have been in my cake dome, sliced (some broken) and ready for snacking at a moment’s notice, I feel much better about them. As in, I can’t stop eating them. But that may be because I doubled the chocolate on top.

Let me explain.

As you can see from the recipe (Thanks to Whitney, who chose the cookies we all baked this week and will post the recipe), the thin and buttery pan cookie is baked, topped with chocolate ( I used milk chocolate bars rather than the bittersweet chocolate Dorie recommended) to melt, and then sprinkled with toffee. However, I got sidetracked in the kitchen and I forgot the toffee!  When I discovered my mistake 24 hours later, I topped the cookies with another candy bar, returned them to the oven to melt the chocolate, and then sprinkled them with the toffee.

It was fine.  I sliced most of them and broke several along the way, and now am enjoyed them each and every time I walk into the kitchen….got to pass the cake dome to get to the fridge, the laundry room, the kitchen sink…. They’re not my favorite, but they’ll do.

In the meantime, my TWD posts will be few and far between for a while, as I will be moving!  Cross your fingers for good weather at the end of March.

TWD: Devil’s Food White Out Cake

The idea of making the cake that is on the cover of Dorie’s cookbook was totally overwhelming.  I knew that mine would never look like that glossy covermodel in my dining room and that I would make myself crazy trying, so I went in a new direction:

Devil’s Food White Out Whoopie Pies!

Whoopie Pie

I made Dorie’s batter (substituting milk chocolate for bittersweet) and poured it into a 13×9 cookie sheet. I baked for 15 minutes, cooled for the rest of the afternoon, and then attacked the sheetcake with my heart shaped cookie cutter.

Each heart was slathered with Marshmallow Fluff and then stuck together like a Whoopie Pie.  It looked darling, especially next to the tulips I received from the Other Eater this weekend.

When we cut into them the next day, we found two problems: one, the cake had sort of dried out and wasn’t quite as perfect as the odds and ends I picked  out of the cookie sheets the night before, and two, the Fluff had run all over the little dishes, even though I had stored them covered in the fridge overnight.  Hmmmmm.

Granted, there are worse ways to spend a Monday night than licking fluff off my fork while Jack Bauer saves the free world, but still….you get the idea.

You can find the recipe here, where  Stephanie shows off two different cakes made from the same batter.

TWD: World Peace Cookies

When I think of foods that can save the world, I think of rice (Play this game! Feed the hungry!), cow (give the gift of a farm) and peanut M&Ms (they just take the edge off of everything). I do not think of double chocolate salted cookies.


World Peace?

These were nice, and the Other Eater in my Household and I were more than happy to polish a few off over the weekend, but they aren’t something I’m going to run home and bake again the next time we have a bad week at work and need a little culinary comfort. Nobody is sneaking any of these from under the dome after we officially cut ourselves off for the night. They remain safe in the cake dome nearly a week after baking.

Nevertheless, the World Peace cookies offered a nice flavor palate (they say that on the Food Network competitions all the time), what with the sweet and salty combination.  And I detected a bit of a graininess when I chewed them, which I always appreciate. But I actually preferred these cookies the day after I stored them beside a loaf of coffee cake in my cake dome; the cake made the cookies a little softer, and I preferred that to the straight-from-the-oven crispiness they had at first bite.

I’m looking forward to the next Dorie recipe. While these weren’t my favorites, they certainly were good and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring them to a party. You can find the recipe at cookbookhabit (her’s are a lot neater than mine looked from the top).

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

Before we get to the food, a word about the weather:

It’s crap. Complete and utter crap.

Saturday it snowed wildly, trapping me in the house with my untouched list of errands to run, wistfully looking toward the widow and thinking “I’ll give it another half hour to slow down before I hit the road,” or “maybe in another half hour I’ll just to the stuff in town.”

“HA!” Mother Nature replied as either the snowflakes got bigger or the wind blew harder, pushing me farther back toward the kitchen.  I left the house only once on Saturday, and that was by force at dusk when a realtor wanted to walk through my place with potential home buyers (yes, my place is still for sale).

Monday, it snowed again. Tuesday will bring arctic winds. Wednesday and Thursday promise more of the same.

corn and pepper muffin

The only response on days like these is to make soup (or oatmeal, if it’s breakfast time), and Dorie’s muffins went perfectly with the boxed red pepper and tomato soup I dressed up over the weekend.  Thanks to the blogger from Ezra Pound Cake for the foresight to know that I would need these corn muffins this weekend.  She’ll post the muffin recipe on her blog this week, while I describe how wonderful they are.

To start off, the muffins are pretty. Yellow cornmeal flecked with deep red chili powder makes for a very rich looking muffin, but the bits of finely chopped fresh red pepper and jalapeño pepper and the bright yellow corm make the muffin almost festive – confetti-like. I was really proud to put them on my table (even if I was wearing a stained t-shirt and hadn’t bothered with makeup for 24 hours before coming to the table).

Biting into the muffin puts flavor behind the appearance, as the buttermilk batter and good quality chili powder really do make for a happy mouth.  These are the perfect tomato soup muffins.  Many of my TWD colleagues served them with chili, but I think the flavors would compete.  These are a good companion for a creamy soup.

NOTE: Two days later they have dried out a bit, but I think toasting the leftovers and buttering them will perk things right up tonight. I usually need a snack while I cook dinner after work.

CEiMB: Triple Chocolate Cookies

Maybe my Tuesdays with Dorie experience has spoiled me, but I’m just not that into Ellie’s Triple Chocolate Cookies.

TRiple Chocolate

The cookies came out kinda flat and the crackled a little around the edges (even on my silpat), so they weren’t especially cute by themselves.  But they added a lot of color to the cookie basket I brought to my uncle’s home on Christmas day, and that can’t be undervalued. The basket also had blondies for the kids, eggnog bread, and some of Dorie‘s buttery jam cookies made with cherry jam and pumpkin pie spices. A separate box had mock turtles (pretzels topped with a melted Rollo candy and half a pecan) so that the nut oils couldn’t contaminate anything else that might otherwise be enjoyed by one allergic guest.

It’s not secret that I’m not a huge fan of overly chocolate stuff, but I thought the cookies had potential.  I wasn’t thrilled with them, but the kids were!  They were gone before we all got up from the table!  Points to Ellie for getting the kids to eat whole wheat flour after a H-U-G-E Italian dinner of stuffed shells, meatballs and sausage.

You can find the cookie recipe at The Feast Within, including the blogger’s improvements to make less flat cookies. Her photos highlight her beautiful cookies and successful modifications.