Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge is the Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread by King Arthur Flour.
A great time for cinnamon apple bread!

A really silky dough!

Lots to set up!

Dough went into fridge overnight. 

Some of my handy gadgets--My coveted (but no longer made) Daisy electric peeler, mandolin (with grater) and box grater.  I liked the box grater better than the mandolin.

Weighing the dough before dividing for loaves

Letting the dough relax before rolling it out more.

Adding Vietnamese cinnamon and sugar mixture!

They rose nicely


If you would like to make this bread, the recipe can be found here:
King Arthur Flour's recipe for Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread

If you would like to join the Avid Baker's Challenge in our monthly challenge, click on this link:
 Avid Bakers Challenge   You will  be trying new recipes and techniques monthly.  Fun discussing them with the others in the group!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chocolate Tarts with Almond Crust

Chocolate Tarts with Almond Crust

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge of King had me singing an old nursery rhyme while making them.:
The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer's day;          
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
    And took them clean away. 
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
    And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
    And vowed he'd steal no more.
picture of a queen of hearts playing card; the queen has a chef's hat in her crown and is carrying a tray of tarts
(my version was "the king at the knave full swore", nothing about a beating, LOL)

The month's Challenge was to make the King Arthur Flour Almond Tarts, which has an almond filling.  I thought that an almond filling and an almond crust were too much alike.  I'd rather have some variety.

I didn't want to eat all of the tarts on my own, so I wanted to make sure my hubby would enjoy them with me.  So I asked my husband if he would rather have cherry pie filling or chocolate pastry cream.  It took him a very long time to choose--these are both his favorite fillings!  He finally decided on chocolate pastry cream.

Perfect, I thought!  I had the 4 egg yolks that I needed for the pastry cream in the freezer.  They were left over from the angel food cake I made awhile back.  Good chance to see how they would fare when they defrosted.

First, I made the pastry cream.  I think Mark Bittman's recipe is the easiest.  It was posted in the NY Times.

Pastry Cream


  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs, or 4 yolks (just what I had!)
  • 2 cups cream, half-and-half or whole milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream. Over medium heat, whisk the egg mixture into the sugar mixture; whisk occasionally at first to get rid of lumps, then pretty much constantly until the mixture starts to boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.
Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. The mixture is ready when it coats the back of a spoon and a line you draw with your finger through this coating holds its shape. Stir in the butter and vanilla, and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Let cool to room temperature before using.

2 1/2 cups


Chocolate pastry cream: Add 2 ounces chopped chocolate to the mixture as it cooks.
Coffee pastry cream: Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso or 2 shots freshly brewed espresso to the mixture as it cooks.
Boozy pastry cream: Skip the vanilla. Add 2 tablespoons Scotch, bourbon, rum or port to the finished mixture while it’s still hot.
I made the chocolate pastry cream version, hubby's favorite.  Hanaa, of Hanaa's Kitchen, recently said she makes pastry cream with 1% milk.  Thank you, Hanaa!!!  I saves calories and having to buy another milk variety.
I was going to strain the pastry cream (I think the defrosted egg yolks clumped a bit), but my hubby didn't want to lose a drop of  chocolate goodness!  I used 2 ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips.

Next, I made the crust:

Adding the flour and almonds makes a crumbly mixture.

I put the mix together and then put the mix in the refrigerator overnight.  I like to bake in parts.

The next morning, I decided to bake the tart crusts.  Now, there's two times I should never bake--first thing in the morning (I'm not awake enough) or when I am on the phone.  I did both of these, and there was a comedy of errors.

Five tart pans???

First error.  I couldn't find the 6th tart pan!  Do you see 6 tarts in the picture above?  Well, I only saw 5.  Wake up, Judy!!!  That's why there's leftover crust mixture saved in the container above--for the 6th crust.

Here are the crusts in the freezer, for the 15 minutes necessary after shaping them into the tart pans.  (And after I rescued them quickly after putting them into the oven to bake).

Defrosting the whipped topping

While the tarts finally baked, I defrosted the whipped topping.  I have a favorite brand that's not available here, so I keep it frozen.  I didn't want to waterlog the container, so I it in a ziplock bag and defrosted it in cool water.  It worked fine.  I do this with packages of frozen meats all the time to defrost them quickly.

The whipped topping whips up really nicely.  As Julia Child says, "Whip to a frenzy!"  LOL

Assembly of the tarts was pretty quick.  We really enjoyed them for dessert that night!

If you want to see the awesome versions of this recipe by the other members of the Avid Baker's Challenge, please check out Avid Baker's Challenge

If you want to see the full recipe for the Almond Tarts (with almond filling) check out King Arthur Flour Almond Tarts

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Followup:  I froze 2 crusts, and made lemon curd.  I used one crust with some of the lemon curd and whipped topping.  It was wonderful!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

"The Godfather" Spaghetti Sauce for 20 Guys

Two things happened, almost at the same time.  We watched "The Godfather."  Being a foodie, my mouth dropped when there was an Italian spaghetti sauce recipe!  I made hubby review the DVD to get the recipe for the spaghetti sauce that was taught to Michael Corleone.

Coincidentally, the tomatoes of a really nice man in my pool class got ripe.  He only gives them out when they are ripe.  I missed class, and he kindly brought me all but 2 of the tomatoes below!

So... I think I need to make a batch of the "The Godfather" Spaghetti Sauce for 20 Guys."

A Tomato Bonanza!

Clemenza makes spaghetti and meatballs in "The Godfather."     video

First, I watched a video on how to peel tomatoes.  Otherwise, the skin would come off in cooking and make a messy sauce.  Yaay for YouTube!  How to Peel a Tomato

Before putting the tomatoes, cut an "X" in the top and bottom of the tomato, to make peeling easier.  Put the tomatoes in ice water after cooking to stop the cooking of the tomato

I chopped up the peeled tomatoes with a potato masher.  Then I chopped up some garlic.

Clemenza's recipe calls for adding sausage and meatballs.  I made a change, and added vegan sausage.  Really tasty.

The sausage was sliced and sauteed in olive oil.

After the garlic and sausage were sauteed, I added the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and tomato paste.

We enjoyed two wonderful dinners.  I listened to some Italian music on YouTube, while we ate dinner.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Clear out the Fridge" Roasted Vegetable Focaccica

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge is the Roasted Vegetable Focaccia recipe by King Arthur Flour.  The recipe calls for a dough that uses a starter.

I call this focaccia "Clear out the Fridge"  because it uses up a lot of things I had in the fridge.  I made this recipe on a Monday, the day before we go grocery shopping so we would have room for fresh foods. 

Tuesday is senior discount day at Kroger.  They give seniors 60+ (hubby is over 60, LOL) a 5% discount on groceries.  Needless to say, there isn't a handicapped parking space available, and the store is packed!  I know a lot of people who avoid the store on Tuesdays, but we love the discount.  Since there is tax on food here, it helps to pay the sales tax.  It's actually a party atmosphere, with people running into each other.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Roasted Vegetable Focaccia

Hands-on time:
Baking time:

Yield:two quarter sheets or one large sheet of focaccia, about 8 to 10 servings


  • 1/2 cup cool water
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


  • all of the starter (above)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm lowfat milk; amount depends on humidity
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • 1-2 zucchini
  • 1/2 yellow squash
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomato, softened in 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 Japanese eggplant (from farmers market)
  •  olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 seeded jalapeno
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt
  • garlic

Recent purchase from farmer's market.  The leftover was used as foccaccia toppings.

Japanese eggplant is much milder than regular eggplant.  Also, it is much easier to slice!  You slice it just like you would zucchini.  In fact, I was quoted in the Charlotte WFAE blog on how easy it is to use it. .

Quarter sheet pans--half the size of my baking sheet!

I got 2 quarter sheet pans over a year ago.  I had planned to use them for making holiday fudge.  Unfortunately, I broke my ankle and didn't do any holiday baking.

I thought focaccia would be a great way to use the pans.  Instead of making one big one, I could make two smaller ones and freeze one!  My hubby is on soft foods due to dental surgery, so I would freeze one for when he could enjoy it.

I made the focaccia over 2 days, because the starter needed 14 hours before adding it to the dough.  It would have been a lot easier if I had done it over 3 days.
Making the starter, late afternoon

Nice rise.  I think this was the starter

The focaccia, shaped and ready to rise.  It's getting late for dinner, though.  I put them in the oven, with the light on, to hasten the rise.

Out of the oven!  Time for dinner!!!

I put vegetable oil on the pans, instead of spray, because I didn't want them to stain!

I enjoyed the first pan, although I baked it a little long.  It was crispy.  Still, it was delicous!

Be sure to check out the full recipe, and directions, on the King Arthur Flour Site:

and enjoy the other focaccia postings from the Avid Baker's Challenge at

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Angel Food Cake Test

Our Avid Bakers Group baked Strawberry-Filled Angel Food Cake for this month's challenge.

The recipe is found on the King Arthur Flour site, King Arthur Flour's Strawberry Filled Angelfood Cake .

I decided that I didn't want to separate twelve (!) eggs and eat that much cake.  It sounded like a good time to go into test kitchen mode.  I had wanted to experiment with making layer cakes from a batter such as this one.


The funny thing is that I forgot to write out the half batch recipe.  I figured I would remember that I was doing a half batch.  Did I remember? Noooooo!  So I have all the dry ingredients in a ziplock labeled for baking a whole angelfood cake.  Just need to get 12 egg whites together.

With fresh refrigerator jam, chocolate pudding, and whippped cream 

I wanted to do a half batch, and test it in a cake pan

I decided to use my heating core in this direction; the heating core will mimic the angelfood cake pan

Egg whites are almost whipped

How the batter looks in the pan;
A half recipe is just enough!

What will I do with 6 yolks?
When I turned the cake over, the middle core fell out.  Good.

Fully baked.  Except that I forgot that I need to grease the bottom of this kind of pan
You can remove the cake from an angelfood cake pan and slide a knife under!
Doodling with cupcakes while it cooled, LOL

Problems getting the cake out
Next time, I grease the bottom of the pan, put parchment paper on top, then grease and flour the parchment.
I learned my lesson!

It doesn't look so bad upside down!
It was really tasty!

If you want to know more about the monthly Avid Baker's Challenge, click on this link:  Avid Baker's Challenge

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cheddar and Onion Bread

The Bread of the Month for the Facebook Artisan Bread Group is Cheddar Bread.  It's from Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Breads Every Day" book.  It's a sourdough bread, full of onion and cheese.
It's one of the first breads I've made since I switched to a firm mother starter.

I made half a batch, because we don't want to eat 2 of the two-pound loaves.  I'm glad another group member suggested that.  I used sharp cheddar cheese and chopped up half an onion.
This dough is great because there's a 4 day window from when you make the dough or starter to when you have to bake it.

Rolling out the dough, putting sharp cheddar and onion on top.

I rolled it up and cut it into two loaves.
The loaves might be more evenly shaped if I had rolled out 2 rectangles separately, but I wanted to do other things today.

Loaves were sprayed with oil spray and covered with plastic for about 2 hours

Scoring the loaves

I baked for the minimum time and went to the computer room. 

I think the loaves baked really brown because of my long preheat.  I was thinking of baking a cake first.  I was preheating for that and saw the breads really needed to get into the oven soon.  The oven bakes much hotter for an hour preheat than a half hour.

The house smells wonderful--a great onion aroma.  The only problem is, I had planned to bake that cake today for my cake decorating class.  I don't want the cake to smell like onion!!!

One loaf is for me, because my hubby needs to eat soft foods after dental surgery.  I didn't want to miss out baking this bread with the group.  The other bread will go in the freezer for both of us to enjoy in a few weeks.