Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tiramisu Treats

The February 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This was a multi-step challenge which included making our own marscapone, pastry cream, zabaglione, and ladyfingers. The marscapone was easy to make and so rich and smooth - I loved it just by itself! The pastry cream, zabaglione, marscapone and sweetened whipped cream were combined for the filling for the tiramisu. So, several different processes, all of which required rich ingredients and time for chilling. The ladyfingers required piping and we know piping is not my forte. Fortunately, the cooked ladyfingers weren't quite as lumpy and uneven looking as the raw version. No pictures - too embarrassing.

The ladyfingers are dipped quickly in sweetened coffee. I did this really fast because I didn't want them to be soggy and I also didn't want a really strong coffee flavor. I've had tiramisu in which the predominant flavor was coffee and I didn't find it too appealing. The ladyfingers were laid in the dish, covered with some of the tiramisu mixture, then more ladyfingers and more creamy yumminess and then a final layer of each. The whole creation then went back into the refrigerator to chill.

When I served it, the creamy part was much softer than I expected. I decided freezing it would have produced a better product, at least as far as presentation goes. The tiramisu was dusted with cocoa powder and served with tart cherries. It disappeared quickly into Bob's tummy! The coffee flavor was not pronounced and the tart cherries were a nice counterpoint to the rest of the dish.

I froze the remaining tiramisu overnight and tried again. This time, the result was much more satisfactory! The layers are obvious, the custardy filling is firm and there is a shape. I put mini-chocolate chips on top, instead of cocoa powder, and used pomegranate seeds for a little extra tartness and crunch. I think this was a much better approach than letting it firm up (or not) in the refrigerator.

Probably not a dessert I would make often - so many steps and so much time in-between steps - but I did love the marscapone and would definitely make my own in the future. I cannot buy marscapone at my closest grocery store on any reliable basis, so it is good to know there is an alternative to driving 20-25 miles round trip to Metropolitan Market.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Superfood Sunday

We had a little impromptu gathering for Superbowl Sunday. While I didn't consciously plan it, I was struck by the ethnic diversity of the menu as well as the variety of foods which would meet specific diets. First - the ethnic part:

NY Strip Steak Sandwiches with Blue Cheese Sauce - OK, more traditional American than specific ethnic, but probably also the most Superbowl-appropriate food.

Vietnamese Sticky Chicken with Daikon and Carrot Pickle - A little southeastern Asian flavor - fish sauce, lime, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil - all flavors associated with Asia.

Duck Fried Rice - Another Asian recipe, only with a French twist. I used duck confit with the otherwise traditional fried rice. The confit is easy, since it is already cooked, and moist and tasty - a nice change from a porkier portein.

Pita and hummus, with olives and tomatoes - And a contribution from the Mideast. Yummy, garlicky hummus and pita - better than chips and salsa!

Dessert - Back to America - Baby Ruth cookies (a recipe from the olden days) and Fudge Foggies, a fudge-brownie hybrid I've been making for decades. A pound of bittersweet chocolate makes anything taste good.

And now the dietary choices:

Steak sandwich - omnivores
Sticky chicken - gluten-free
Daikon and carrot pickle - gluten-free and vegan
Duck fried rice - gluten-free
Hummus - gluten-free, vegan
Pita - vegan
Cookies - High fat, full of gluten, chocolate, nuts, butter - sorry - fits no diet known to man other than total self-indulgence

And there were leftovers, so the feast went on for a couple more days. And I shared - sent fudge foggies and Baby Ruth cookies to Nick in Boston and to a friend in Seattle. I even have a couple foggies left for us.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Puffy Pita and Yummy Hummus

Superbowl Sunday! The perfect occasion for some dip and dippers - somewhat non-traditional, perhaps, but very tasty.

The 2010 February Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The mandatory recipes were the pita and hummus, which is what I did. Since these two items were part of my Superbowl menu, there were other items on the table, too.

I used some whole wheat flour in the pita, to make it more appealing to my husband, who is a whole grain devotee. The recipe was very easy, although I think I may have added too little flour in the basic recipe. I remedied that by kneading in a lot more as I prepared the dough for baking.

Here they are in the oven in all their puffy glory. Using a pizza stone ensured the temps were hot and constant. The actual baking took only minutes and was quite rewarding as they often not only puffed, but kept that puff even after leaving their hot incubator.

It was a generous recipe and I had plenty for the Superbowl, sent some to Nick in Boston and froze even more. Maybe not a lifetime supply, but surely enough for several little noshes.

The hummus was even simpler - chick peas, garlic, lemon, salt, tahini thrown into the food processor and whizzed up. I roasted the garlic before using because I wanted a smoother garlic flavor. The texture and consistency was perfect, with very little tweaking - just some of the chickpea liquid added to smooth things out. I did not add any additional flavors. While Bob, my husband, frequently buys flavored hummus (olive, roasted tomato, roasted pepper), I'm a purist and really enjoy the basic recipe the most. Really, this hummus is so appealing, it's all I could do to keep from just dipping my finger into it and eating it right out of the dish.

The final setting - fresh tomatoes, olives, hummus and pita - along with other Superbowl treats. But frankly, this is one special occasion dish which should be part of the menu for virtually any meal. Loved it!