Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flea Market Weekend

I know I am supposed to be posting pics of the new and improved backyard BUT we had the Sumpter Community Flea Market this last weekend and it was full of fun little finds. Case in point, this cute little plastic table that my in-laws had out in their yard. Hurray for free!

Some pretty magenta spray paint......pair it with an old glass light shade...also free.

A sweet outdoor table!

May's Daring Baker Challenge: My Complete and Utter Failure

In the kitchen, I have found that there are two kinds of moments. The first is the calm feeling that happens when you hit your stride and everything comes together...your dough rises, condensing happens, a cheesecake emerges crack free. Then there are those other moments. The kind that make you feel like you have never cooked before...the dough that is supposed to double in size does not budge, the chocolate seizes, the texture of something just does not look right.

May's Challenge was the latter moment for me. An apple strudel is not complicated. I am not afraid of pastries and their fickleness and actually looked forward to ripping this recipe out.

Instead, this recipe ripped me.

I am blaming it on the fact that we have had some warm days and that dough loves tablecloths. There are no pictures on account of the fact that the more flour you use does not make the already sticking to the tablecloth situation any better but merely stops any documentation from happening. Believe me, there was a lot of flour used.

I will try this the winter time.

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyester;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

I know that I have not posted in a week or so BUT I have a wonderful excuse. It really is the fault of the three truck-loads of gravel, all the perennials I have been stealing from friends and families houses, and a very large amount of rocks brought in from the in-laws pasture. I have to say that the yard is starting to look like a little Garden of Eden.

So I will leave you with some gravel patio inspirations and the promise of some pictures of the redo next week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caution: Viewing This May Cause You To Want a Baby

...and people are worried that I am going to push him into playing basketball.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Just A Preview

We started here with one rotten deck...

...and we took it apart...

...then we dug and dug and dug......and maybe tried a little of the dirt too......and now it is all coming together! We still have another load of gravel to put down, a bar to build and our plants to grow in but I think it is coming along nicely. We won't be ready for the big reveal yet but here is a taste. What do you guys think?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our Big Backyard...

LJ and I have been telling all our friends that we were going to tear the two decks in our backyard out. We were met with mixed results of "are you crazy?" to "oh, uh, that will be nice."

We have a vision though...and we started on it today.

Dear God what were we thinking.

Here is our backyard before...this is upon moving in so please don't judge us by the random animal parts hanging around.Same deck sans the large amount of snow...

And here is the after...

Yep rotten to the core and a breeding ground for every bug in the neighborhood.
That is spiderwebs. Big nasty icky spiderwebs. And underneath it the original staircase!
So you want to know the big plan? Well here it is!
Stay tuned for more inspiration and ideas that I will be looking at this week.

Friday, May 1, 2009

April's Daring Baker Challenge Continued: Cheesecake!

Coffee caramel cheesecake. Desserts don't get much better than this! Let's start with the crust, I used chocolate cookie crumbs instead of graham crackers and put about a 1/2 tsp. instant coffee grinds into the crust. I also used Kahlua instead of vanilla but ended up putting 1 T. in instead of a tsp. due to my inability to concentrate while a 15 month old is tugging on my pants. The result? The crust came out more like a cookie and leaked butter everywhere but ended up setting nicely. Next time, I will try less Kahlua and a little more instant coffee grinds for a nice punch of coffee flavor.

Now to the filling! Though it came out delicious, I really wanted more coffee flavor here. For this recipe, I stirred in 2 tsp. instant coffee into the whole cup of cream just until the crystals were all dissolved. Next time, I will try upping the amount of instant coffee used.

Anyways, here is the recipe!
Cafe au lait Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce
2 cups / 180 g graham chocolate cookie crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. Kahlua
1 tsp. instant coffee grinds

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs 3 tsp. instant coffee grinds
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp Kahlua

caramel topping: 1 cup of sugar 6 Tbsp butter 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside. (I like mine just on the bottom.)

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. In a small saucepan, dissolve coffee grinds in the heavy cream over med low heat. Take off heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and Kahlua and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water. (I always wrap springform pans in tinfoil due to the fact that they are not airtight)

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve. (Fully chilled is about 6-8 hours...takes FOREVER! Letting the cheesecake come to room temperate before you put it in the fridge stops condensation from building up in the cake. Condensation = soggy cake)

I found this recipe from Simply Recipes that gave a pretty good tutorial on caramel sauce. Follow the caramel sauce recipe and top when caramel has cooled but is still pliable.