Archive for June, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts with Dorie #26: Perfect Party Cake

June 30, 2009


Is it possible that bananas now taste less banana-y?   The last three times I’ve made banana bread (with three different recipes) I’ve used overly ripe bananas, yet my banana bread has lacked a strong banana flavor.  

Is it weird that I don’t really like bananas but I like bananas in baked goods?   I think it’s a textural thing.  Raw bananas make me gag.

I have been watching “True Blood” on DVD.   I think my favorite part is the song at the beginning.   Same with the “Sopranos.”  I love the opening as much as the show.

Did you know “rhubarb” is not just a disgusting stalk that pollutes one’s strawberry pie?  It also means “a heated dispute; brawl.”   I’m dying to use it in a sentence.

Because I’m a big dork. 

Congrats to my friends C. and J.   They announced their engagement at a party Saturday night.   I’m so excited for both of them and wish them a joyful union.  (Hmm.. that sounds kind of dirty.)  RR is thrilled because after their first date she called “guest book!” for their wedding.  I wish I had called dibs on some cool nuptial duty.  (Hmmm… nuptial duty also sounds dirty.) 

And, finally, this week’s TWD recipe,  the Perfect Party Cake was chosen by Carol of mix, mix… stir, stir.   I made the cake last night.   It went well, other than a fundamental error in which the baker (me) did not fully read the recipe, got to the part where it said “add the extract,” glanced to see the amount, and realized, OOOOPPPS, lemon extract, NOT vanilla.   Unfortunately, I didn’t have any lemon extract on hand.    So my cake will be less lemon-y than desired.  I wish I would have been a little less flustered by this and thought to quickly zest another lemon.  

Oh, well, I’m sure it’ll still be delicious.  But I won’t know until next weekend.   I made the executive decision to freeze the cake layers after they cooled and I will defrost them on Friday to decorate for our Fourth of July dessert.  My plan is to coat the layers in some type of red preserves (strawberry or raspberry, most likely), then fill with sweetened whipped cream and frost the outside with the recipe’s buttercream frosting and cover the top with red and blue berries for a patriotic theme.  Sort of an upscale version of the Kraft recipe that’s featured in magazines this time of year:



 The additional benefit of waiting to assemble and frost this cake is that I can read all the other TWD posts and get great tips/ideas to make my Perfect Party Cake even more perfect!  (Yes, I know, “perfect” is an absolute, much like “unique” that really shouldn’t have a qualifier, but I couldn’t help it.)



TWD #25: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

June 23, 2009

No, I’ve not given up on blogging.  Or on baking. I’ve just been extremely busy. My daughter graduated from eighth grade; I hosted Father’s Day and my work has been hectic, a big report, a state-wide conference and a couple of training sessions for employees at other sites.  

Speaking of the conference, one night we had a social event, the “Migrant Luau.”  I’m not sure why, but that just sounds wrong.  (And, yes, we did limbo!) 

We also went to the fabulous Lincoln Museum and Library in Springfield, IL.  It was wonderful, but there was one disturbing moment;  a nearby wall contained a photo of a gentleman with a severely scarred back; he was covered in hideous welts caused by being whipped while he was a slave.  It was heartbreaking.   The little boy in front of me asked his grandma “What happened to that man?”   The grandmother’s response:

“When those people were bad, they were spanked with a whip.”

Those people?”  in reference to slaves or to any minority is an “us vs. them” wording that makes me cringe.

And the “were bad” part made me throw up a little in my mouth.   

Yes, she was talking to a small child; approximately five years old.   But there had to be a better way to answer the boy’s question.  Addressing a child his age, I would have explained that at one very sad point in history, people thought it was okay to own other people and they often mistreated the people, including hurting them.                      

Okay, enough of my diatribe, on to the recipe.  

This delicious, difficult-to-pronounce dessert (da-kwaz) was chosen by Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen.

Reading it over, the recipe is similar to a pavlova recipe I made one Christmas.  The pavlova had chocolate meringue layered with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and drizzled with melted dark chocolate.    This recipe has a more tropical bent, combining almonds (I subbed in pecans), coconut, white chocolate ganache, and, best of all, roasted pineapple.

I love roasted fruit. Especially peaches or pineapple, brushed with a bit of honey, and grilled.   BTW, pineapple is excellent with a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper added to the honey and a sprinkling of cilantro when it comes off the grill.  Odd combination, I know, but incredibly tasty.  (Unless you are one of those unlucky souls who think cilantro tastes soapy.)    

Sunday night, after our Father’s Day celebration, I made the meringue.   I pulsed pecans with cornstarch, powdered sugar and coconut, then whipped the egg whites til they were holding soft peaks and added the sugar, continuing beating til they held stiff peaks.  Next I folded in the pecan mixture and spread the meringue onto three 6 x 12 inch pieces of parchment paper.   I baked the sheets for three hours at 225 degrees. 

While the meringue was in the oven Chris and the kids and I watched “Arthur.”  Not the cartoon with the aardvark from the childrens’ books, but the classic movie with Dudley Moore.   The first scene involves Arthur picking up a prostitute.   Nice family movie, huh?  (Honestly, it’s only rated PG and it won two Oscars!)

Gloria: (the prostitute)  “My mother died when I was six.”
Arthur: “Jesus! Don’t they know what they do to kids?”
Gloria: “My father raped me when I was twelve.”
Arthur: “So, you would say you had six relatively good years?”

I’m not sure if I’m glad or sad that my kids were old enough to get the humor.

Once the movie was over and the meringue sheets were done, I took them out of the oven to cool, then wrapped them in several layers of plastic wrap to sit overnight until I could make the filling.  My dear friend SS had already made the ganache and said it was overwhelmingly sweet, so  I decided to sub in lightly sweetened whipped cream.   I toasted the pineapple in the broiler, let it cool and then assembled the layers.  Meringue, whipped cream, coconut, pineapple x 3.  

The recipe says to allow it to sit, refrigerated, for six hours or longer.  I decided this was a mere recommendation, not a must.  Kind of like when the doctor says “take the medicine until it’s all gone,” or the dentist says “come back in six months” or when my parents would say “no one is allowed in the house while we are on vacation.”   Sorry for my contributions to disease resistant bacteria, gingivitis and distrust of teenagers.

I put it in the fridge, mopped the laundry room and thought… hmmm…. I’m too tired from cleaning to cook; how about coconut-roasted pineapple dacquoise for dinner?   Obviously, my other contribution to society is poor parenting.   Reagan opted to make easy mac instead and for many minutes resisted my proffered fork full of delicious dacquoise.

“I don’t like coconut!”

“Oh, just taste it.  It’s goooooood.”

“I don’t like coconut!”

“You can barely taste it.  And it’s so good!”

“Crap, I messed up the easy mac!”  (I know, it begs the question, how does one “‘mess up’ easy mac?”   She misread the fill line and added too much water.) 

“Here, have some tasty dacquoise, you won’t regret it!”

She tasted it.

“Well, I guess I’ll eat some if you put it in a bowl for me.”  

Thank goodness my daughter is so kind, allowing me to dish out some dessert for her for dinner.  

We all (other than Taylor who wouldn’t taste it) loved this recipe.   The neighbors loved it.  Taylor’s friend J. loved it.   Thank goodness.  Or I’d be having dacquoise for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and dessert) today.  This is definitely in my top two of TWD recipes.  (Along with the pear tart.  I still heart that almond cream.)

Pineapple Dacquoise

Sorry about the poor quality photo.  I really, really need a new camera!

TWD #24: Honey-Peach Ice Cream

June 19, 2009

Yes, I’m a very bad blogger!  I actually made this recipe last week and started the blog post, only to be derailed by work travel, inadequate hotel WiFi and exhaustion.   

Back to business:  

This flavorful ice cream recipe was chosen by Tommi of Brown Interior.  I love ice cream and had a goal last summer to make all the recipes in “The Perfect Scoop” by Dave Lebovitz.  It has tons of great recipes and is a wonderful resource for ice cream making tips.   One if which is to add alcohol to the mix to keep it from freezing into a hard block.   I decided to add a tablespoon of vodka into the blender with the peach mixture.   

Why vodka?   Well, it was the only alcohol I had on hand.   I think peach schnapps or amaretto would be good too.

The only other change I made was in blending all of the peach mixture, rather than leaving part of it as chunks and then I added the custard to the blender, too.    After a quick whirl,  I stuck the whole blender pitcher in the refrigerator to cool.  At this point I should have made sure my ice cream mixing bowl was in the freezer, instead of assuming it was.

You know what they say about assuming? 

You end up eating your ice cream a day late!

Luckily the ice cream mix was fine, despite its longer storage period.  

I thought this was superb.   The honey went well with the peaches and it wasn’t too sweet.    Not to gild the lily, but I did make a topping out of diced peaches, diced strawberries and a bit of honey.  

And it was wayyyy better than the zucchini ice cream my great uncle made for a family reunion one summer day in the 70’s.

TWD #23: Parisian Apple Tartlet

June 9, 2009

Rea graduation 3My daughter Reagan is 14 and lovely.   She has brown hair, hazel eyes, pale skin, freckles and an hour glass figure.

Unfortunately she HATES her hair color, eye color, lack of ability to tan, freckles and non-stick skinny shape.  

I’ve always stressed to her how lovely she is and how she’s the “perfect Reagan-sized Reagan.” 

Her response is usually a roll of the eyes, a shrug of the shoulders and a big sigh.

(Yes, the attitude could use some work!)

Recently we were at a sandwich shop and she ordered a pair of small sandwiches, annoyingly called “sammies;”  I rued how tiny there were but Reagan said “See, everything SMALLER is just cuter.”

“Yeah, well if you went to have surgery and the doctor walked in and he/she was only six inches tall would you think ‘cute’ or ‘oh, crap?'”

“Mom, no one is six inches tall!”

“How do you know; have you seen every person on Earth?”

(Yes, I’m uber-mature.)

“No, but I could if you gave me money to travel for three years.”

“What about runaways?   And aliens?”

“They don’t count.  We don’t know where runaways are or if aliens exist.”

“Well, let’s say you were getting married and you paid $5,000 for your wedding cake.  What if Duff brought it out and it was only one inch by one inch?  Would you think ‘little’ was cuter then?”

“No, I would say ‘Hey, dude, where’s the rest of my cake?’   My wedding is going to be perfect.  I’m going to be a bridezilla, because if it’s not perfect it wouldn’t be my day, it would be some other person’s day.”

(Geesh, let’s hope she settles on a life of celibacy.)

“That sounds stressful.  I’d rather get married in a pair of sweats by a really hot transvestite and have everyone enjoy drinking their Boone’s Farm ‘wine’ and dancing to my car stereo than try to make everything perfect.”


(Oy, vey.)

“Okay, back to the ‘little is cuter’ thing.  After your perfect wedding, you head out on your honeymoon.   If you think  ‘little’ is so much better, then why do you think there are those ‘Extenz’ commercials on TV all the time?”

(For once my child was speechless.)

What does this anecdote have to do with Dorie’s Parisian Apple Tartlet?  Well, tartlets are small and they definitely are cute.  Plus, who doesn’t love a delicious recipe with only four ingredients?  Simple, unless, like me, you decide to make your own puff pastry.

I adapted this recipe, which contains 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup sour cream.  I used the exact ingredients but changed up the method, mixing the flour with the butter in my food processor, then adding the sour cream and pulsing minimally.   I rolled it out into a rectangle on waxed paper, put it in the fridge to chill and daily for three days in a row, I removed it, folded it in thirds and then basically mashed the layers together by beating it with my rolling pin.   On the final day I rolled out the dough to about an 1/8 of an inch thick and used cookie cutters cut the tartlets.

I topped the puff pastry with apple and peach slices, dots of butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar and  a dash of cinnamon sugar and baked them for about 25 minutes.  

My pastry didn’t puff up as much as I had hoped <Insert witty “Extenz” joke here>, however, the texture was flaky and it tasted delicious.   And in my book, “Reagan-sized Reagan’s” and tinysized tartlets are just about perfect.

For the recipe and a great blog post that likely contains no phallic references, please visit Jessica at My Baking Heart.

SMS # 3: Bear’s Peach Cobbler

June 7, 2009

SMS Gingerbread and TWD Chipster Brownies 018Due to my love of peaches I was forced to go into my small local grocery store wearing black yoga pants (with a smattering of white dog hair), my unwashed hair in a pony tail, face free of make-up, with mismatched flip flops on my feet. 

You see, I had purchased several pounds of peaches on Wednesday for today’s recipe,  allowing them time to ripen.  And plenty of time for me my family to consume most of them.  

Thus, I was forced to run to the little local store to supplement my four tiny remaining peaches.  


Banana peach cobbler?  No.

Grape peach cobble?  No.

Waxy turnip peach cobbler?  Maybe.  Interesting.  But, too, too weird.

Luckily the nectarines were pretty ripe.  

And, luckily, my Bear’s Peach Nectarine Cobbler turned out very good.  If you are interested in the recipe, which is quite simple, please visit Andrea at Nummy Kitchen.

TWD #22: Cinnamon Squares

June 2, 2009


Teenage boy responsible for the theft of chocolate frosting from one pan of Cinnamon Squares.  The purloined mixture of butter and chocolate sat atop a delightful cinnamony snack cake made extra delicious by its chocolate and espresso filling.  The rich chocolaty icing was last seen intact at 7:55 am Monday morning.   The thief has been described as: “my stupid brother’s friend.”    

If you have seen the perpetrator of this crime, please do not approach him.  He’s likely on a sugar high and dangerously hyper.   He may also be “packing heat” in the form of several missing  Fiber One bars.

The victim of this crime is quite distraught as she had not yet taken a picture of her delicious treats for, in her words, “my lame blog post.”  

Any information leading to the apprehension of this scoundrel will be greatly rewarded with half a pan of day-old, naked cinnamon squares.  (Yes, they are still tasty a day later, even without their chocolate topping.)   For further information, including the recipe and photos of unmolested cinnamon squares please contact Tracy at Tracy’s Culinary Adventures.

I have more paintings in my DUNGEON.

June 1, 2009

Thursday was an odd day.   First, I was cleaning the hallway bathroom and, once done, I immediately hopped in the shower.  WITHOUT first grabbing a towel from the linen closet, which is down the hall. Since I had just cleaned the bathroom there were no stray towels.  With teenage boys in the house I couldn’t exactly complete a drippy walk of forgetfulness from the bathroom to the closet.   Luckily,  I could clearly hear Taylor and his friend in his bedroom, playing X-Box, so I called for him:





Finally he came to the door.

“GEEZ Mom, you don’t have to yell.”

Um, yes, apparently I do.

(How is it possible, acoustically, that I could hear every word they were saying and they couldn’t hear me until I bellowed repeatedly?) 

He begrudgingly got me a towel.  I finished getting ready and met my friend Katrina for lunch.  Luckily that part wasn’t strange and we had a nice time chatting.

Next I joined my friend SS for a walk.   Now,  SS is a strange-happenings-magnet.   I would say she attracts the weirdos, she would likely say the same thing about me.   (Of course, I would hazard a guess that my sister M. wins that prize, as one time she actually had a guy hop in her car at a shopping plaza,  whip “IT” out and just started chatting with her like nothing odd was going on.)

We walked about a block, then saw an older gentleman, also walking.  I said “Hi!” as I am wont to do anytime I make eye contact with a stranger.   The man said “Hello?” 

SS replied “Oh! Hello? I’m ‘SS,’ from xxxx Bar.”

(SS bartends and has worked at two bars, one is a strip club, one is not.   She, following rigorous SCIPAA privacy guidelines, mentioned the non-strip-club one. )  

(Of course, the guy was wearing a “world’s famous” strip club t-shirt, so he may not have cared much about hiding his desire to watch naked ladies dance.)

Asides aside, she recognized him, he recognized her, so he invited us in to see his paintings.

We conducted the requisite small talk as he led us into the house.   “Nice weather.”  “Good day for a walk.”   “Haven’t seen you in a long time.”   “I’ve been ill.”  “Hope you are feeling better.”

“I have colon cancer.”

That’s a quite a conversation stopper.   

“There are more paintings in here.  And here.  And there.”

We followed him through the house, making awkward comments about his artwork.  (For example, after seeing his name on a a plaque,  SS exclaimed, “Wow, STEVE, I really like this painting, STEVE.” ) 

Finally, we bid adieu with best wishes about hopefully not dying from colon cancer and headed back on our walk.

Trekking up a giant hill SS turned to me and said “Why did you go into his house?!!”

“Um, because you knew him.”

“Well, not really.  He came into my work about a year ago and I waited on him.  I think he came in a year before that, too,  but I don’t really know him.”

But really, how well does anyone know anyone else?  Yes, Steve could have been a serial killer, lurking about outside, hoping to lure gullible hill walkers into his house.  But, more likely, he’s a socially handicapped lonely guy that just wanted to show someone his artwork.  

(Or he could be all/none of the above.)

We discussed this as SS walked and I huffed and puffed.  (Hill walking is hard!)   Reaching the summit, we walked by lovely homes and gazed at the pretty Peoria skyline.   Overhead was a bird, which SS identified as a turkey vulture.  turkey vulture      

I hate birds, so I was a bit worried.  Especially when the first was joined by four or five more.   And they seemed to be following us.   I believe they could sense my exhaustion from the hill walking and were just waiting for my imminent collapse so they could consume my carcass.

Moreover, I worried that Steve may have had the same plan and suggested an alternate route back to our car, one that wouldn’t take us right by his house.