Archive Page 2

25
Feb
13

Blackberry-mango cobbler, barely salvaged from flatness

Last weekend, I made a rookie baking mistake.

Pioneer Women's blackberry cobbler. I added a mango, too.

On a recent episode of Pioneer Woman, Ree made this blackberry cobbler. There are only 5 basic ingredients, all of which I had in the house (or so I thought)—how could I screw it up?

  1. butter
  2. milk
  3. sugar
  4. flour
  5. fruit (blackberries, plus I added 1 chopped mango)

Here’s how: The recipe calls for self-rising flour, which I don’t normally use. Not that I noticed while I was mixing the ingredients.

The blackberry-mango cobbler, right before it went into the oven.

It was pretty before it went into the oven. Too bad I forgot the leavening agent.

After the cobbler had been baking for 10 minutes, I realized I’d added no leavening agent (no yeast, eggs, baking powder, or baking soda: the ingredient you need to make the cake-y part of the cobbler). *starts tearing hair out at potential wastage of fruit*

Luckily, at this point it was early enough to take the cobbler from the oven and mix in 1 teaspoon of baking powder plus a pinch of salt. This made the cobbler a whole lot less presentable, but saved it from turning into shortbread.

The result wasn't as pretty as it could've been, given the last-minute first aid. But it was devoured in 2 days anyway.

The result wasn’t as pretty as it could’ve been, given the last-minute first aid. That, and the fact that we attacked it.

A few other notes:

  • Add 1 stick of butter, not 1/2 stick. Reviewing a few of the user comments made me realize the Food Network recipe was off.
  • A 3-quart dish is a little large for this recipe, unless you’re ok with your slices being brownie-height. Otherwise, use a smaller dish and keep an eye on the baking time.

The final cobbler was still pretty awesome because the sugar topping creates a crunchy, chewy crust. (Try using a larger-grain sugar, like sugar in the raw). Plus, you can really add almost any fruit you want—don’t limit yourself to berries. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s healthy, given how much sugar and butter goes into this.

18
Feb
13

Meet the world’s most dangerous cake

Your diet is doomed: the world's most dangeous cake.

The dry ingredients, left to right: flour, cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt.

According to Mr. x-sXe, it’s right around this time every year that gym attendance starts tapering off. So if you’ve already wavered on your diet-and-exercise resolutions, this cake’s for you.

It’s called dangerous for good reason: you probably have all the ingredients in the pantry, and it takes less than 10 minutes to prep/bake. Plus, cleanup just requires washing a whisk, spoon, and mug. Recipe here.

The cake texture reminds me of Ethiopian bread.

But how does it taste? The cake’s very moist, light, and spongy. The texture isn’t for everyone—it reminded me remotely of Ethiopian bread (it tastes nothing like that, of course). But it’s a good go-to for a chocolate fix when you don’t want to bake an entire cake. I recommend a heartier sprinkling of chocolate chips than the recipe calls for. Maybe a dollop of cream whipped with vanilla, amaretto, or Grand Marnier. Hey, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

10
Feb
13

Donutz hit the District

Zeke’s Donutz had its soft opening recently in the old Dupont Circle Tangysweet space (spoils from my weekend visit pictured below). Meanwhile, Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken is due to open any day now in Metro Center, after a few pop-up events at Chinatown Coffee where their goods sold out quickly. Apparently I’m not the only sucker willing to pony up $2.50+ for a donut.

The haul from Zeke's Donutz

Clockwise, from top left: Mexican chocolate, creme brulee, passionfruit, salted caramel, and lemon curd.

It seems that DC’s finally gotten on the gourmet donut bandwagon, and not a minute too soon for us sugar addicts looking for (cup)cake and pie alternatives. I’ve been dying for a good donut place ever since visiting the fried-dough mecca that is Doughnut Plant in NY. So it’s reassuring to know that more places are popping up where one can get a gourmet donut to take out (besides Palena Market).

We try 5 flavors from Zeke's Donutz.

We taste-tested the donuts by splitting them into fourths. The winner was the lemon curd (the one with the powdered sugar).

When I stopped by Zeke’s, they mentioned their official opening might be delayed because there was still work to be done on converting the space (I figured, since the Tangysweet sign is still in the window). So check their Facebook page for daily opening times. The guys at Zeke’s were super helpful in helping me choose from the 10+ flavors. In the end, I got 3 filled (creme brulee, Mexican chocolate, lemon curd) and 2 glazed (salted caramel, passionfruit).

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Another gourmet donut place, Astro Doughnuts, is coming to DC in February 2013 (hopefully).

If you can only try one donut at Zeke’s–your willpower is admirable–I’d go with a filled option. The lemon curd was the favorite among my friends, the curd nicely balancing tartness with a custard-y texture. The creme brulee was a close second. The glazed flavors needed more glaze or filling to help balance out the doughiness. It was like eating a cupcake with too little icing on top. Don’t get me wrong–the glazes were very good, down to the flakes of salt on the caramel, and the authentic tang of the passionfruit. I just needed more of it given the overall size of the donut.

Update, February 18: Another donut-and-chicken place is open in Dupont, with donuts brought to you by Birch & Barley pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. Check out GBD here.

01
Feb
13

When life gives you Meyer lemons, make pound cake. Maybe.

Tis the season for Meyer lemons galore

Meyer lemons. The name alone sounds delicious. I say this at the risk of being stoned by pastry chefs, but methinks they’re a bit overrated. The zest is surprisingly bitter, and the sweet flavor, while nice, isn’t as bright as a typical lemon. But these were on sale at Whole Foods (8 for $3), and I’m a sucker for a bargain. You can also find them cheap at Trader Joe’s right now.

After some initial waffling on what to do with an entire bag of lemons, pound cake began calling my name. But I was conflicted about which recipe to try. The Martha Stewart one had mixed reviews (confirmation that Martha isn’t perfect). The other recipes I came across, no critical mass of user reviews. In the end, I took my chances on this recipe from Tide and Thyme because it uses sour cream, which I’ve found helps make for a moister cake.

  Meyer lemon pound cake

The result was a very sweet, slightly bitter pound cake that was borderline too buttery. (I found 2 sticks of butter to almost be overkill for one 9″ x 5″ loaf—despite the origins of the name “pound cake” stemming from “a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, etc.”). The cake does turn out moist, especially with the lemon syrup saturating it. I screwed up the frosting, which is why this looks bald compared with the Tide and Thyme photo.

PS: I ended up using 6 lemons for this recipe, although you could get away with using fewer than that.

25
Jan
13

A respectable shortcut for apple dumplings

This is my first time out trying a recipe from Trisha Yearwood’s Food Network show. The country music star focuses on rib-stickin’ Southern home cooking. In the opening credits she says that everything’s home-cooked, but her recipes actually tend toward semi-homemade. Example: these apple dumplings, which use store-bought buttermilk biscuit dough for the pastry. Although I’m not opposed to store-bought shortcuts, I felt a little misled.

One reason I tend to stay away from using Pillsbury-type doughs (with the exception of the pie crusts) is that they’re best eaten straight from the oven. Wait an hour or so and they’ve usually already hardened, amplifying their fake buttery taste. That, and I wince when the can pops.

Trisha Yearwood's apple dumplings

Before these semi-homemade apple dumplings went into the oven, they were languishing in a buttery bath.

I decided to try this recipe anyway, swayed by the overwhelmingly positive reader reviews. But a few questions plagued me. Would the pastry soaking in the butter fluids actually cook, or remain factory-made pastry mush? Would the fake-butter taste from the pastry overwhelm the finished product?

I’m relieved to report that these turned out quite tasty, despite the slightly repulsive butter bath they baked in (I just about halved the recipe for 8 dumplings). The Granny Smith apple softens inside, a nice contrast to the crunchy cinnamon-dusted tops. The leftovers even held up the next day (stored without the butter sauce).

Trisha Yearwood's apple dumplings, from the oven.

After baking. The bottoms do bake through, thankfully.

PS: Turns out Tricia’s in good company when it comes to semi-homemade apple dumplings. Pioneer Woman makes a variation on these using Crescent Roll dough and Mountain Dew (recipe here), if you like your apple dumplings with a caffeine kick.

12
Jan
13

Pioneer Woman’s strawberry oatmeal bars, a decidely unhealthy treat

Sifting through the user ratings on this strawberry oatmeal bar recipe, you might be misled into thinking that these are good for you. But take a closer look at the ingredients. Nearly 2 sticks of butter and a cup of sugar—that doesn’t even include the sugar in the preserves. While I clearly embrace sugar in my diet (a lot more than I should), these bars turned out too sweet even for me.

Pioneer Woman's strawberry-oatmeal bars

Tasty but not likely to be good for you, apart from the oats.

While it’s not a healthy recipe as-is, there are easy modifications that could make it more like a granola bar and less like a dessert: swapping out the white flour for whole-wheat pastry flour, maybe. Adding flaxseeds or nuts could also up the health ante. But this was my first time making them so I tried none of the above. I did, however, add a handful of toasted coconut flakes. I also substituted raspberry-apricot preserves, since I didn’t have any strawberry in the house.

Pioneer Woman’s show is compulsive viewing: partly because of her laid-back sense of humor, and partly because her family’s ranching lifestyle gives us a glimpse into a completely different world. But bear in mind that her recipes tend to be rich (and portioned for a small army) because (1) she’s got 4 kids, and (2) her family can afford to eat like that. They’re doing hard labor on a regular basis around the ranch. Meanwhile, many of us sit at a desk for at least 40 hours a week, and the likelihood we’re going to burn down a barn or round up cattle anytime soon is low. So I’ve made a mental note to bear that in mind when attempting her recipes, and adjust accordingly.

08
Jan
13

The automat is due for a comeback. Cakes and pies on demand, people!

"Automat" by Berenice Abbbott, 1936.

Utterly fascinated by this photo titled “Automat” by Berenice Abbott, 1936 via Wikipedia.