TWD: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

September 29, 2009

I love tarts.  My first Dorie recipe after joining the group was the French Pear Tart, which I adored and have made three or four times since then.   (Now that I think about it, I really want to make it AGAIN, SOON.)     Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose this tart recipe.

I decided I would vary this recipe slightly because I don’t like peanuts.   I don’t hate them, I just prefer other nuts.  (huhuh, I said “nuts”)   I decided to use pecans (hazelnuts were too expensive) and toasted them in my toaster oven.   Burnt the first batch.  Burnt the second batch.   Darn.   I decided to change my method and toasted them in the skillet I would later use to make the caramel.   I also sprinkled the pecans with a little sea salt.

I used part of the pecans in the tart crust, which I made Saturday night while my daughter was at her homecoming dance.    Reagan and Ryan

Gratuitous homecoming picture.

Sunday I made the caramel and the ganache.   The caramel was easy, melted sugar, a bit of corn syrup, butter and heavy cream.   The ganache was even easier, just chopped chocolate, heavy cream and butter.  Assembly was also a breeze.   I made the tart to take to my book club and it was refrigerated longer than the thirty minute max specified in the recipe, yet it was still delicious and not soggy.   I also sent the leftovers to work with my husband the next day and they were still fine.

I must say I preferred this tart served with whipped cream.  It really speaks to the richness of the ganache that whipped heavy cream actually seems to lighten it up!  I could easily see making this for dessert after a holiday meal.   Or for a pms-y random Tuesday night when I’m craving CHOCOLATE and the little four aisle grocery store down the block doesn’t carry “New York Super Fudge Chunk.”    

Don’t forget, the recipe can be found at Chocolate Moosey, or in the book, “Baking From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan.      

CCT4 (3)  


Homecoming 2009

September 28, 2009

Reagan and Ryan

I’ve decided that homecoming is a lot like Christmas.  Lots of money, tons of prep and then it’s over way too fast!   This was my first homecoming experience as a mother (rather than as a teenager) because my son didn’t attend last year (or this year.) 

Reagan, however, was determined to go.   She was asked by a boy from her school, a junior (she’s only a freshman), who, in an effort to impress her, told her an anecdote about throwing a flaming gopher at a passing car.    Fearing he would make a vest out of her skin, she said “No, thanks,” and asked a boy, Ryan, that is her “facebook friend” and attends a different school.

We shopped for a dress, shoes, jewelry.  She got her nails done and her hair curled.   Being concerned about skin cancer “mean,” I wouldn’t let her tan.    

Finally it was the day of homecoming.   That morning I met friends for breakfast.  Karma and Jim were in town for their twenty year high school reunion. 

Me, Karma and Jim 2009It was great to see them.  Plus, Karma solved a mystery for me.





But, back to homecoming.  While I visited with Karma and Jim, Rea got her hair done.  Then we headed home, she did her make-up, put on her dress and heels and we ran over to our neighbor’s house to take photos.

Reagan HC 1

(Meanwhile her brother was still in his pajamas, playing video games.)

Then we headed to the riverfront to meet her date, Ryan, and his mother.   He put on Reagan’s corsage: Corsage    And then she attempted to pin on his boutenniere:  What the hell

Rea looked at the pin, looked at the flower, looked at the pin, looked at the flower,  then turned to me and said,
“What the hell?”   So ladylike.  I was so proud.    



They seemed a little awkward posing for pictures.   Ryan’s mom said “put your arm around her!”  But this was as close as they got:   Reagan HC laughing

Then we headed back to Princeville and took MORE photos at Rea’s friend’s Ethan’s house.  

Pretty girls, HC Pretty Girls!

After many, many photos, they headed out to dinner at a local Japanese steakhouse.  (The kind where they cook at your table.)   Taylor and I also went out to eat enchiladas at his favorite restaurant.   Glum Taylor     Honestly, he’s not that glum!  He just doesn’t like being photographed.

It was too dark to get any good pictures at the dance.  But the kids had fun.  Most of the girls took off their heels and they did all kinds of crazy theme dances, like the cha cha slide and the macarena.     Once the dance was done, Rea and her date went to a bonfire til around 1:00, then we had to drive Ryan home.   A 45 minute drive in extremely foggy conditions.

What not to say to your daughter and her date on the ride home:  “Are you guys getting hot back there?”            

During the late-night drive Reagan fell asleep with her head on Ryan’s shoulder.    When he arrived home, he said goodbye but she didn’t walk him to the door.  No good night kiss!  (The whole “teenage boys want to have sex with teenage girls, and vice-versa, it’s a natural thing, but not something you are at all ready for at fourteen” discussion may have been unwarranted.)   I’m not sure if she was relieved or disappointed about the lack of kissing.  Nevertheless, she had a great time and it was a lovely first date.

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

September 22, 2009

Or, as they are called in my house of cottage-cheese-haters “jam-filled non-puffies.”

I’ve wanted to make this recipe for a long time and actually bought cottage cheese to make it once, got busy, and threw away the cottage cheese a month or so later when it had expired, I hadn’t made the recipe, and no one had eaten it.  I’m thankful that Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes picked it as her TWD recipe and brought it back to my attention.  I love recipes that picque curiosity, that make me wonder “What would the texture, taste, etc.. be like?”  

I made the dough on Saturday, and I must say, I love dough that can be prepared in the food processor.   It’s amazing how smooth and silky the whirred up cottage cheese (with a good dose of butter) became;  I added the dry ingredients, pulsed briefly, then wrapped the mixture in plastic wrap and refrigerated it until last night.  

After grocery shopping, dinner and taking my daughter for a haircut and eyebrow waxing (I’m too wimpy have mine done!), I pulled the dough out of the fridge.  It rolled out easily on a silpat mat coated in flour.  

Unfortunately, it didn’t come off so easily!  After cutting the shapes, I really should have re-chilled the dough, but I was in a hurry, it was after 9:00 and I still had studying to do.  So I scraped them up with a flat spatula, filled them with strawberry preserves and popped them in the oven.   Not pretty.   And they didn’t puff. 

But they did taste good and the texture, despite not puffing, was soft and silky.  I’m having a weird food memory, deja vu-esque feeling about these but I can’t quite put my finger on it.  They just seem “familiar.”    Any ideas of a (likely midwestern) baked good that would be similar?   It’s really driving me crazy.

I still have half the dough in the fridge and, if I have time tonight, I plan on experimenting with some different fillings; a mixture of cinnamon and toasted pecans would likely be really good.  I also plan on reading TWD posts and seeing what worked well for others.    

(Oh, and I do have  photos of these, but left my camera at home.  I’ll upload those later, assuming any turned out. )

Two Truths and a Lie

September 14, 2009

1.  I’ve been making the TWD recipes but not posting (most of them, anyway!) due to being extremely busy.  Like busy enough that I’m already sacrificing sleep.

2.  I stole a “Lost Dog” sign from my local post office bulletin board.

3.  I’ve never seen ‘Top Gun.”

Okay, I lied.  Those are ALL truths.   

(I’ll be back soon, with a more substantive post.   I’m travelling today and tomorrow for work, so won’t be making this week’s TWD recipe, at least not on time.)

TWD #33: Applesauce Spice Bars

August 18, 2009

I made some variations to this recipe, chosen by Something Sweet by Karen, partly due to necessity, mostly due to an urge to experiment.  

I like to try new things and figured this was an ideal recipe to play around with, since the ingredients aren’t expensive and I wasn’t making it for an event.   Plus, I’m always telling my kids, “don’t knock it, til you try it,” whether “trying it” means eating sushi, or joining the golf team.  (Rea is one of two girls!)   I did start to second guess this wisdom the other day when Rea told me the following:

R:  “Oh, I know why L. and J. broke up.”  (L and J are 15 years old) 

J:  “Why?”       

R:  “I can’t say, you’ll give me a look.”  

J:  “Oh, you have to tell me now.  I won’t give you a look!”

R:  “Well, L. gave D. head, so J. broke up with her.”  (D. is another 15 year old) 

J:   (mouth a-gape)

R:  “You are giving me a look!   I told you so!”

J:  (still gaping)

R:   “I know what you are thinking!   No, I haven’t  And NO, I WON’T!   GROSSSSSSSSSSS!”

(Funny enough, that wasn’t what I was thinking, I was still in shock about the sexual activities of two kids slightly older than Rea,  I hadn’t even gotten to the point of worrying about her.)       

So am I a hyprocrite to be thankful that my fourteen-year-old daughter isn’t so willing to try new things, afterall?    I’m also thankful that she feels close enough to me to discuss something so potentially embarrassing.  (Warning to any parents of younger ones,  the “birds and bees” discussion is a piece of, uhh, cake compared to discussing fellatio, pornography, etc…)

Enough of the anecdotes and back to the real reason we are all here.  Cake.   I made this cake last night, subbing in a cup of granulated sugar with two tablespoons of molasses due to a lack of brown sugar in my cupboard.

I also decided to follow Holly’s excellent suggestion on the Dorie P&Q forum.   She browned the butter.  I love the nutty, rich taste of browned butter and thought it would be great in this recipe.  It definitely was.   (Of course, now I want to make the recipe as written to compare the two.)  

Furthermore, I had a partial bag of Hershey’s cinnamon chips wallowing in my cupboard, so I decided to add about a 1/2 cup of those to the batter and to top the glaze with more pecans (there were already toasted pecans in the batter)  that I toasted in a little browned butter and sprinkled with sea salt.

While I loved my variations, I’m also sure that the recipe as written is wonderful, perfect for the upcoming apple season.   If you are interested in this quick and easy recipe, please buy the book, or visit Karen’s site.

Applesauce Spice Cake

Okay, it doesn’t look so appealing. I slightly under-baked mine AND covered it before it was completely cool (I was tired after an evening of back-to-school clothes shopping) so it got a little mushy from the condensation.   Next time I would bake it the longer time (28 minutes, rather than 23) and let it cool completely before covering.

TWD #32: Brownie Buttons

August 11, 2009

Brownie Buttons 2

I’ve made today’s TWD recipe, chosen by Jayma of “Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen,” three times in the last week or so.     My kids have benefited from my disorganized photography lack of skills.    

The first batch I made strictly following the recipe.  I didn’t include the optional zest and did have a slight issue with them sticking to the mini-muffin pan.  This batch was eaten before it managed to get photographed. 

The second batch I added the orange zest (yum), and doubled the recipe but made the buttons a bit bigger, filling 24 mini-muffin cups (the doubled recipe should have yielded 32).  This time I sprayed the pan with cooking spray and floured it.  No sticking and the orange zest addition was delicious.   They weren’t super orange-y; it just added an undertone that was great.  This batch I managed to photograph BUT the photos were “lost”  (ie:  accidentally deleted by my husband.)

Batch three, I baked at 9:30 last night.  In my stifling hot kitchen.  No air!   When I unwrapped the chocolate it was bendy and the white chocolate was the texture of softened butter.   I did the initial steps for this batch in the microwave.  (See above: super hot kitchen!)  I melted the chocolate with the butter and brown sugar on medium heat in 30 second increments; it was ready in about a minute and a half.   Lacking an orange, I left out the zest.  But, again, I doubled the recipe, greased and floured the pan, and made 24 mini-muffins.   I let this batch cool and then refrigerated them overnight.    I think they were “fudgier” than previous batches, possibly due to the chilling time.  

This morning, at 7 am,  while watching “*Reefer Madness,”  I dipped the brownie buttons in white chocolate and added sprinkles.   AND took photos:

 Brownie Buttons Dipping 1

 Brownie Buttons dipping 2


This batch Brownie Buttons 1 is headed to the grade school secretary’s office.  Nothing like buttering up the staff before the school year begins.

*I had to watch “Reefer Madness” after seeing the satellite guide description “Smoking marijuana leads to wild piano playing, hysteria and death.”

TWD #31: Banana Bundt Cake

August 4, 2009

F:  “I don’t want to go for a physical.”

C:  “Sorry, but they need to check your little butt out.”

F:  (horrified) “I thought they didn’t do THAT til you are forty!”

bundt cake pan

Speaking of holes; I love bundt cakes.  They are probably my favorite casual cake to make: they are portable, usually don’t require frosting (which I find I love a little TOO much to be healthy) and I love the moistness. 

(Did I really just say “I love the moistness?”  That sounds soooo wrong.)

The one thing I don’t like about bundt cakes?   Buttering the pan.  Even with a huge amount of buttering, mine always seems to stick.  This time I tried a new method; I buttered the pan, stuck it in the fridge (for the butter to “firm up” and become opaque) and re-buttered it.   The darn cake still stuck!  

Next time I’m going to cheat and use cooking spray and flour.  (I have a theory that the water content in butter evaporates, leaving minute unbuttered parts that allow the cake to stick.)

Anyway, I followed the recipe as written, with one addition.  Mini chocolate chips.  About a cups worth.  My daughter loves a marbled banana bundt cake that I make, so I figured she would welcome the addition of chocolate.  (The linked recipe is really good, very similar to Dorie’s, but with slightly less butter and one more egg, if I’m remembering right.) 

Plus, I made the cake right before her ten day canoe trip (no bathrooms!), so I wanted it to be a special treat for her.

I told the kids the cake was in the oven and my nephew said “What kind of cake did you say?”   “Banana Bundt Cake.”  “Banana BUTT Cake?”   

Thirteen year olds are a laugh riot.

The cake was great with chocolate chips and my daughter did love it.  Now that she’s gone on her trip (pooping in the woods!  Oh, did I say that out-loud?)  I decided to make the cake again, sans chocolate chips but with the “playing around” lemon glaze.  

I had never tried banana with lemon but it was very, very good. 

This cake is a definite winner.  A great way to use up overly ripe bananas and a simple recipe that doesn’t require any special ingredients.  (The first time I used the sour cream, the second time vanilla yogurt and both were equally delicious.)    Its tastiness surpasses the sum of its parts.  

Please take the time to visit Mary, The Food Librarian, to read her blog post and view the recipe.  You won’t be disappointed.

This is where my photo should be.  But I just received an email from my husband:

” disappeared.  I uploaded them and then went to send them and the file vanished.”

So no photos, again, sorry!

TWD #30: Vanilla Ice Cream

July 28, 2009

My fifteen year old boy is simultaneously dreading the return to school while counting down the days until he can get his driver’s license. (In November.)

My fourteen year old girl bemoans her boredom and doesn’t appreciate my suggestions.  “If you don’t have anything to do, you can scrub the kitchen floor” is my helpful version of “If you’re going to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

My thirteen year old nephew, a newcomer to the household, will say, on the phone, “Hold on,”  <rustle, rustle,> “Did you hear that? I just farted in the phone!”  He also “caught” one in an empty jar.  (BTW, never say “yes” to “smell this,” even especially if it’s an innocuous looking empty pickle jar.)  Yesterday he taught the dog to sit (with microwave popcorn as the bribe.)   And made “bombs” out of flour and Kleenexes.  Which I must say smelled worse (when lit) than the “fart in a jar.”

He also ate the rest of my tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Before I managed to get a photo!

Nevertheless, I’m thankful for his non-picky-eating ways.  Neither Tay nor Rea would even taste the mint chocolate chip ice cream.    To them, mint is for toothpaste, and toothpaste only.  They don’t delight in York Peppermint Patties, or my favorite, Andes Mints. 

Either of which would have been a great addition to this ice cream.   I followed the “playing around” directions for this variation of Dorie’s Vanilla Ice Cream.   The next day I made the actual vanilla ice cream recipe as written, but, at the last moment, decided to make it butter pecan.   I lined a cookie sheet with foil, dropped on 2-3 tablespoons of butter and put it in the oven to melt.  I added 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans to the melted butter, stirring to coat, sprinkled them with sea salt and popped them back in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.   Once cool I added the nuts to the churned ice cream.  

Only, apparently the nuts weren’t as cool as I had thought, because the ice cream started to melt.   I put it in the freezer, and, while I anxiously waited for the butter pecan milk shake to turn into scoop-able ice cream, I decided to make a pecan topping.   I looked in my favorite ice cream cookbook, “The Perfect Scoop,” for inspiration and made a variation of one of the sauces.  (Only I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called!).    I toasted pecans in the toaster oven while melting butter mixed with sugar and corn syrup on the stove top.   Once the butter mixture turned a nutty brown color I removed it from the heat, added water, put it back on the heat, whisking to make the mixture smooth, then I added heavy cream, 1 tbs of cognac and 2 tsp of vanilla.    When the pecans were done toasting I dumped them in.   

It turned into a delicious buttery-caramel-y-super-pecan-y type sauce which was great on the butter pecan ice cream.

Which, again, I did not get a picture of, as I ATE IT ALL.   YES, one small bowl at a time over the course of a couple of days.  I ATE IT ALL.  It was that good.   If you like ice cream, *you really should make this;  the recipe is at Lynn’s blog,  CafeLynnlu,  or buy the book.  (And if you are an ice cream lover, you really must check out “The Perfect Scoop,” too.)

*And, yes, to some making ice cream might sound a bit crazy.  But it’s really not difficult and sooooo, soooo good.

TWD #29: Raspberry Blanc Manger

July 22, 2009

I told the WordPress tech guy, “I’m late!  I’m late!  For a very important date!”

I’m not sure he got the “Alice in Wonderland” reference.  Or understood the importance of  “I must post my ‘Tuesdays with Dorie’ recipe TODAY!  On TUESDAY!

Yes, I got a little snippity.

You see, yesterday I logged into my WordPress blog, (the bad blogger that I am, I hadn’t checked it since, oh, LAST Tuesday) and was unable to post.  Due to “a concern about the content of my blog.”


My PG-13 food/”mommy” blog has “content” that someone found objectionable?  

Okay, maybe that’s not such a stretch.  I can be a bit “out there.”  But it still made me wonder.  I contacted WordPress, asking about the situation.  Wrote my post.  Clicked on “Submit for Review”  (which had replaced the normal “Publish” button.)

And waited.

And worried.  Would I be able to post my TWD recipe?   

Honestly, I was pretty bummed about it, frequently bemoaning the situation via IM to my dear friend SS.    (Luckily she’s very patient.)

Finally, a response from WordPress.   A man had left a comment on a long ago post.   A racist comment in which he used someone else’s name, work email, and a link to a well known chain of stores.        


Honestly, I had wondered what kind of dumbass would leave comments of such a nature WITH HIS WORK EMAIL.   Seemed less-than-wise to me, but naive chick that I am, it honestly never struck me that it was fraudulent.

I’m feeling pretty stupid.  

I deleted the comment.   Actually made the whole post (it was about racism) password protected, as I really was getting tired of the aryan youth leaving me enlightened comments (such as “your (sic) a stupid bitch”).  

While I’m glad it’s resolved (I have my “Publish” button back!), somehow my post (the one I submitted for review) got lost in the ethernet, so now I’m trying to resurrect it.  

My best recollection is this astute piece of advice:


Yes, I really am shouting that.

I caught a whiff of it while making my first of two blanc mangers, a strawberry one.   Wet dog hair?  Wild boar?   The reptile area of the zoo?  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a very animalian smell (is that a word?)

My family ate that blanc manger before I managed to snap a photo, so I did a redo for my book club on Sunday, making a strawberry-blueberry one on top of Dorie’s sweet tart dough with nuts.

Blanc Manger

Making it I thought, “the gelatin didn’t really smell that bad, did it?”  


See, I really am that, uh, gullible?  Naive?  Stupid?   (Maybe the aryan youth are right about ONE thing… )

It was just as bad the second time.   

Nevertheless,  the blanc mangers were delicious.  

And not at all smelly (or stupid.)

So, sorry for the late post and if you are interested in the recipe, make sure you visit Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy.  (Even if you aren’t interested in the recipe, you should take a look at her blog; it’s really lovely.

TWD #28: Brioche Plum Tart

July 14, 2009


This delectable recipe was chosen by Denise.  You can find her write-up and the recipe at  Chez Us.  

I ran into a few problems implementing this week’s recipe:

1.   The plums at Cub Foods were pretty darn expensive.  And I’m cheap.  (I went with nectarines.) 

2.   Plum jam must not be popular in my area.  I once spied it at Big Lots, so I stopped there, no luck.  (But they did have peach jam, which seemed to go well with nectarines.  They also had several different jars of jam labeled “Fruits of the Forest;”  the ingredients were in German and made me picture German men and women, dressed Bavarian-style, singing folk songs while picking fruit off of prickly bushes.   Despite the bucolic setting, I’m somehow certain they’ll come to a classic Grimm’s ending, possibly involving a prick of a poisonous thorn, a buxom maiden disguised as an old lady, a wolf, several bags of gold, and a lecherous frog.)       

3.   I didn’t realize that I was out of aluminum foil until I needed to put it on the tart to prevent overbrowning.   (Luckily we live down the street from a small grocery store.  I grabbed my credit card and literally ran there, arriving sweaty and out of breath, I grabbed a roll of foil and headed to the check out lane.  No one in line.  Hurray!   The cashier rang up the foil, I babbled on about my brioche-getting-too-brown!   And the credit card machine was down.  

My purse was at home.   No cash in my running shorts.


The owner told the clerk, “Write out an ROA.”  

I had no idea that any stores still did that, even small town grocery stores.   It was literally a receipt with my name and $3.18 written on it, stowed in the bottom of the register.)

I ran back home.  The tart had ten minutes left and was pretty brown already.   I covered it with a piece of foil, let it finish baking, took a shower, threw on some clothes, took a photo and headed to work with the tart on a cooling rack.

Now I’m eating it for breakfast and it’s good.   The bottom part is a little, um, bready?   It came out slightly thick and I think it’s a tad overdone.   Not for lack of aluminum foil retrieval efforts, though!

Next time I would use a larger pan (I used a 9″ tart pan) and more fruit (I only used one nectarine, despite purchasing four.  I really should have made the slices bigger).   Despite the obvious danger from trolls,  wicked witches, and stepmothers, I might actually attempt to make this using “Fruits of the Forest.” 

If, that is, I am able to figure out what they are!