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Oct 16, 2011 07:28 AM

What are you baking these days? October 2011, part deux [old]

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I made the walnut and prune cake from "150 Best American Recipes" for dessert for a very nice family dinner last night and served it with whipped cream, lightly sweetened and flavored with Cognac. VERY tasty indeed, recommend highly. What's sayin' lovin' from YOUR oven lately?

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  1. I just made the brown butter cookies from America's 150 Best Recipes. These are absolutely delicious -- sandy, almost caramel tasting, and plain. I think these would be excellent with finely chopped pecans, making the definitive pecan sandy, The recipe is super simple -- brown two sticks of butter, let them cool and add in a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1/4 tsp of salt. I used a small cookie scoop to make small rounds, and baked about 14 minutes at 350 till lightly browned. Supposedly they improve in taste over the next 5 days or so. Simple, easy to make, easy cleanup, using pantry ingredients. What's not to love?

    7 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      This sounds like the spoon cookies from epicurious which I love.

      And which is on the agenda for later this week. To send along with someone who is moving and to send with SO for a weekend up north with the guys.

      1. re: roxlet

        I made these yesterday morning, and I would swear I measured out the ingredients correctly, but I'm beginning to wonder. My "dough" was so crumbly and sandy that it was very difficult to make balls. (I wonder if my flour was particularly lacking in moisture?) I needed about 2 T, which I squeezed between my palm, to make a ball; any smaller amount and the balls would disintegrate. As a result, I had to bake them longer than the recipe directs, and they came out somewhat hard. They also didn't spread at all. (Are they supposed to?) They're still edible--in fact, I agree completely that the flavor is delicious.

        My photography skills are non-existent (the cookies were a nice light tan, colorwise), but can you or anyone who has made these tell me if these look anything like what the finished cookie should look like? What was your dough like?

        1. re: nomadchowwoman

          It is crumbly dough, but I have a small (11/2 teaspoon) scoop, and that worked perfectly to form the balls. I will try to take a photo of the cookies for you. The scoop made it easy.

          1. re: roxlet

            TY, roxlet. For some reason I could not get my photo to upload, but the finished cookies looked exactly as the unbaked, except for a little color. I will try these again--but would love to know how these should look.

              1. re: roxlet

                Mine didn't spread much at all, sort of like oldfashioned covered ladies' coat buttons. They're cute!

                1. re: roxlet

                  Now I feel better about mine, which were very tasty (what I really liked about them was that caramelly flavor you decribe) though a little hard, but I'm sure they'd have been more ideal if I could have made them smaller and not had to bake them so long.

                  Now the photo thing is working, I guess. Mine are not as good looking as yours--but not so far off that I have to hang my head in shame.

                  I wonder how these would fare w/an egg added to the dough?

        2. I was visiting friends this weekend and made them Caitlin's scones. They did not have a scale, so I painstakingly lightly spooned flour into a measuring cup. I discovered why the recipe states that you may need more cream; this batter was very dry compared to the sticky batter I'm used to when I make them at home. Weight/volume difference.

          I baked them at 400 instead of 425, and after about 12 minutes the smoke detector went off. Then it hit me.....buttertart does not use a timer, but instead relies on her infamous smoke detector to tell her when the stuff is done !!!

          The oven was way too hot, and the parchment lining the cookie sheet got scorched; also, the bottom of the scones got burnt while the top did not get browned enough and the scones did not get cooked through enough to my liking. Hazards of using an unknown oven.

          4 Replies
            1. re: souschef

              I can't remember if you've ever tried making my recipe? It never fails me.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                No, I have not. Caitlin's is my current favourite, as they work really great, for minimal effort. Would you mind posting a link to yours, please. Thanks.

                1. re: souschef


                  I see you don't care for triangles and I've never tried them round... but here it is my recipe if you want. This recipe was modeled after Starbucks Blueberry scones. I worked about 1 year on these to get it just the way my friend claims they were like Starbucks. She has renamed them to Better than Starbucks Scones. Here's a photo, these are a little browner another friend I was teaching how to make these, was teaching me how to make sushi at the same time and we forgot to set the timer. They're a little darker than I usually bake them, still good. If you were to make them into wedges (8) rolled at the thickness I suggest, then 17 mins is all they need. If you do make these and make the rounds you prefer, will you post your findings regarding baking time and thickness etc. so we can share that information as well. Thanks Susan!

            2. due to some extenuating work circumstances, i had an extra pound of browned butter in the fridge to play with this weekend. from that, i've made (so far):

              -Browned Butter Pie - very interesting... browned butter pastry crust, pressed into pie tin, brushed with melted browned butter and sprinkled with salt, bake til golden; filled with a browned butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla type filling... purposely didn't overbake, and it's oozy in a cool way when cut into...

              -Browned Butter Custard "Pie" - i riffed off of the Momofuku version in Food and Wine... definitely wouldn't make it again

              -Triple Chocolate Layered Torte/Cake - based off of something in a blog I read a while back, but did a flourless browned butter chocolate cake at the bottom, semi-sweet chocolate mousse in the middle, and a white chocolate topping, somewhere between mousse and ganache.. well received

              -for my eight year old neighbor's birthday, i made him homemade chocolate syrup (for chocolate milk, or whatever else he might like) -- i taste tested it in almond milk... gooood.
              -also made the same kid homemade peanut butter cups. he was thrilled. [planning to make a variation tomorrow subbing pumpkin butter and ground pumpkin seeds for the PB, and white chocolate for the coating]

              -for the dog, PB&Oats Grain Free, Dairy Free Biscuits. he approves.

              i was supposed to work on a Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake thing for work, but am still mulling in the old noggin...

              btw, i love the fall... when REAL pumpkins appear for purchase and culinary pursuits.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Emme

                I do so love browned butter.
                Made a considerably less sophisticated dessert for a meeting at work:
                Pumpkin bars with white chocolate and cinnamon chips, from the always reliable "two peas in a pod" blog. Considered the chocolate chip variation, but had some cinnamon chips to use up.

              2. Nancy Silvertons' Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake from her "Pastries from La Brea Bakery". Not usually a fan of coffee cake (often tastes too greasy + too dry to me), thought I would try this one after reading some good reviews and seeing that it contained 2 cups of creme fraiche! Really, really delicious. Very tender. Highly recommend. I didn't have any pastry flour, so I used 1 cup of cake flour + 2 cups regular unbleached flour. Also, as a reviewer on Saveur's site mentioned, the second layer of streusel is placed on top the cake before it goes in the oven and most of it ends up falling off when you cut the cake; recommend covering both layers of streusel with cake batter.


                1 Reply
                1. I've put together an orange and almond cake I'm very happy with, as it has just the flavor and texture I was looking for. It has orange marmalade, orange juice and zest, and almond meal, for nice depth of flavor and a good, moist crumb. I'm not a great fan of marmalade on its own (e.g., on toast), but it works well here, disappearing into the cake and adding a layer of complexity. Tasters have been enthusiastic.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Yum! care to share the recipe? sounds terrific.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      Of course, it is my pleasure! I'm thinking this would also be good to serve at a dinner party sans glaze (probably with a dusting of powdered sugar), with a warm chocolate sauce. Hmm, that may happen this holiday season. This is a cake that will keep well for several days on the counter.

                      Caitlin's Orange Marmalade Almond Cake


                      1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) all-purpose flour
                      3/4 cup (2.5 oz) almond meal
                      2 teaspoons baking powder
                      1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                      1/4 teaspoon salt
                      1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
                      2/3 cup sugar
                      1/3 cup orange marmalade
                      1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
                      1/4 teaspoon almond extract
                      2 large eggs
                      1/2 cup orange juice


                      1 cup powdered sugar
                      2 tablespoons orange juice
                      1/2 teaspoon orange flower water

                      Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9-inch springform pan or 9 x 2-inch round cake pan with parchment and grease the parchment and the sides of the pan. Stir together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, followed by the marmalade, orange zest, and almond extract. Beat in half the dry ingredients, followed by all of the orange juice, and finally the remaining dry ingredients. Smooth the batter in the pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool the pan on a rack 10 minutes or so, then invert the cake and peel off the parchment. Turn the cake right side up and allow it to cool completely.

                      When the cake has cooled, make the glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and whisk in the orange juice and orange flower water. Put the cake on a plate, spoon the glaze on, and spread it over the top. Let stand until glaze sets. Store well covered at room temperature.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          Caitlin--is almond meal the same as ground almonds--i.e., would grinding whole almonds w/skins result in almond meal?

                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            Essentially, yes. Almond meal is ground almonds, as is almond flour. It's just that the flour is ground more finely and is usually made from blanched almonds whereas almond meal is more often made from almonds with the skins on.

                            Good instructions, and info, here:

                            As they say, the one thing you need to be careful about is not to go past the ground meal stage or you'll end up with almond butter.

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              The almond meal I used here (and most often use) is made from blanched almonds, and quite finely ground, so perhaps some would call it almond flour (not the store I buy it from). I've also used unblanched almond meal.

                              If you're making it at home, you want to grind it as fine as you can; I think a good strategy, if you're making it to use in a baking recipe, is to add a little of the sugar, which seems to help prevent turning it to butter.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Thank you so much. I think I'm going to give this a whirl this afternoon; looks really good.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Caitlin: I figure you get your almond meal at the same place I do. I found it in the cooler section near the flour and sugar, etc. at Berkeley Bowl. It comes in a plastic bag and doesn't seem to have any skins in it - being whitish yellow.

                                  I use it all the time since I have been addicted to recipes using it since I made that orange or clementine/tangerine cake with an almond meal base for a few years now....can't remember where I found it, but it starts with simmering tangerines/clementines until they are completely soft.

                                  Nigel Slater (I think it's Kitchen Diaries) has a terrific chocolate almond cake which uses almond meal and regular flour. I made it for a dinner party last week and it was a huge success.

                                  His plum cake also uses almond meal and regular flower. Slater asks us to grind the almonds ourselves, but I'm too lazy, and with such a good source available...who needs to? Trader Joe's even has almond meal now!

                              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                I made your cake, Caitlin, yesterday, and it was lovely on all fronts--baking aroma, looks, taste. We had it after a large meal out last night for my mom's ("70-somethingth," as she likes to say) birthday. (For that reason, my niece insisted on the heart-shaped pan.)

                                It really is a great cake, and so far has held up well on the counter though I don't expect it to last much longer; Sweet-tooth Sister, who is also maddeningly rail thin (grrrrrr), is in town, and she loves it as much as does maddeningly thin DH.

                                This was very easy to put together. Lacking almond extract, I subbed vanilla. And I only used 1/4 tsp rose blossom water in the glaze as I find the particular brand I have very strong (they seem to differ a good bit) and was afraid of laying on the perfume too strong(as I did last time I used it). And while I just knew I had sliced almonds in the fridge, I discovered I did not. They looked so pretty scattered over the top on your cake.

                                If one likes orange--and I most definitely do--this is a wonderful recipe. (My photo does not do it justice.) Thanks, Caitlin.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                  I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it, NCW, and happy seventy-somethingth birthday to your mom! I love the heart-shaped cake.

                              3. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who is not a great fan of marmalade on its own; you are the first I have come across apart from myself.