Archive for January, 2011

30
Jan
11

Blueberry crumb bars

Somewhere in the world, it’s not winter and the streets aren’t piled high with dirty snow spotted with dog pee (grumble grumble). Those warmer places must be enjoying a bountiful crop of blueberries, because they’ve been on sale lately, inspiring me to try this Smitten Kitchen recipe.

The “bar” part of the recipe is butter and egg integrated into flour, baking power, lemon zest, and sugar. You break the (very cold) butter into bits with butter knives, a fork, or a pastry cutter. I consider this process cardio, because you have to go at it for about 10 minutes before the mixture gets to a sand-like consistency. To avoid the manual labor, you can probably also cut the butter into tiny cubes, then pulse them in a blender with the other ingredients.

Next time I’d add at least another cup of blueberries and more sugar to the filling. You’re not supposed to mess with baking recipes, but this is too much bun around too little burger. And based on my limited experience with Smitten Kitchen recipes, they’re conservative with the sugar.

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27
Jan
11

This sushi cake is fish-free, thankfully

Our friends-of-friends at Eat Me. Drink Me. created this birthday cake using rice krispy treats posing as rice, licorice as seaweed, marshmallows as shrimp, etc. Even the cake part is in technicolor. Everything except the chopsticks was edible. Amazing!

24
Jan
11

A summery lemon souffle counters the winter doldrums

A lemon souffle at Kinkead’s that tasted more like an omelette left me with a hankering. Thankfully I came across this recipe for lemon “spound” cake (similar to a souffle) and had a bag of Meyer lemons that needed a home. Try it with regular lemons if you can’t find Meyer, but maybe compensate with a touch more sugar.

Although delicious, these had me yearning for more tartness, which is why I added the blueberry sauce. (Note: I tried the recipe a second time with 2 extra tablespoons of lemon juice, using 1 Meyer lemon and 1 regular one, but alas, still not mouth-puckering enough for me. Additional note: Don’t follow my lead by modifying baking recipes–they often don’t turn out when you mess with the science.)

Luckily blueberry sauce is very quick and easy: toss a handful of blueberries with at least 1/4 cup water into a saucepan on high heat. Turn the heat to low after you bring it to a boil. Add sugar and fresh lemon juice to taste. Keep it simmering until it’s the consistency you want, bearing in mind that it will be slightly thicker when cool. Don’t forget to taste constantly so you can fine-tune the sweet & sour balance. For those who prefer not to wing it, try this recipe from the Contessa.

21
Jan
11

Le Pain Quotidien calls this a madeleine. What would Proust think?

Yes, this almond-apricot “madeleine” is made of the same buttery, spongy cake you know and love. But that looks like a muffin to me. I thought that madeleines were supposed to be shaped more like shells, not mushrooms.

That niggly detail aside, this was delicious–a lot more moist and flavorful than any other madeleines I’ve come across, which are typically vanilla or lemon-flavored. If you want to try making them, they’re pretty straightforward. Here’s a good recipe. The thing is you need the proper pans, and unless you’re French or a die-hard madeleine eater, it seems like a waste of cupboard space.

18
Jan
11

Kinkead’s lemon dessert sampler: a feast for the eyes

Our trip to Kinkead’s was inspired by Groupon. In fact, too many overpriced, underwhelming meals as of late have been Groupon-driven, making me reconsider the “bargain” aspect of these deals.

Anyway, Kinkead’s is a DC institution, so I figured it was time we tried it. I remember a friend raving about their profiteroles eons ago. That wasn’t on the dessert menu, but the lemon sampler and creme brulee trio jumped out. We ended up splitting the former.

It was hard not to marvel at the artistry of this dessert–even the table next to us stopped mid-conversation to ooh and aah.

The lemon pudding cake was essentially a souffle that we found overly eggy. We were equally unenthused about the lemon meringue tart. (Does anyone actually crave lemon tarts? No, because they all taste about the same.) Our fave? The vanillla chiboust with lemon and mandarine granitas, a shot glass of vanilla cream topped with tart ice shavings. I’ll take a bowl of that, please.

16
Jan
11

Trader Joe’s Peppermint Hot Chocolate

I bought this as a hostess gift one year and it got rave reviews, so I tossed it into my cart on a December trip to Trader Joe’s. It was an impulse buy, one I’d wished I’d left in the candy aisle right before the registers, aka the graveyard of reconsidered purchases.

Trader Joe’s products are usually a decent value, but this is $4.99 for 8 oz, and we only got 4 servings out of it. By comparison, a 12 oz bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips is less than $3 at Target, and goes a lot farther when making hot chocolate. You don’t get the nicely designed tin or peppermint zing, but you do get a richer chocolate flavor (and you can always stick a Starlight mint in it, to similar effect). Or if you’re a food hoarder like me and stockpiled TJ’s Minty Mallows, that does the trick too.

Lactose-intolerant folks, be warned: this TJ’s product contains nonfat milk powder.

13
Jan
11

Super Tacos & Bakery: Taqueria meets patisserie

Just the name Super Tacos & Bakery alone begs the question: how can you be good at tacos and cake? And do you have a lot of customers who follow up their tacos with a slice?

The natural thing to try would’ve been the tres leches or flan, but the ol’ lactose intolerance had me going for a safer choice: chocolate cake. Unfortunately, they were out, so I got this bread pudding.

You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s huge and weighs almost a pound. Call me a size queen, but for $2.75 that’s a bargain. When it comes to bread pudding I don’t like to be reminded that I’m eating bread. This ate more like cake. Actually it could’ve been sweeter–a brandy sauce or custard would pair well. Still, it’s a pound of bread pudding. I’m intrigued enough that I’d try their other cakes.