Today is a wintry day worthy of a hearty soup, so I decided to use some of the beautiful tri-colored lentils I had in the pantry to make myself a bowl of soup. It hit the spot!
I do hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and got goodies for the kitchen! I know I did. My brother gave me an amazing dessert cookbook by Pierre Herme. My uncle gave my husband and me a fantastic picnic basket, which will be perfect for sunset dinners on the beach near our house. But the most special and surprising kitchen gift I received came from my grandmother, who gave me her 54-year-old silverware set. It was given to her all those years ago as a wedding present, and now we have it to commemorate our first Christmas as a married couple.
I am putting real plums into an imaginary cake. -Mary McCarthy
So good it's gone
So despite being awake half the night with a wicked headache, I got up early today to get my baking done. I promised my mom I'd bring a treat for Christmas morning, so I made a banana bread with cocoa and chocolate chunks. I also promised my aunt I'd bring a treat for Christmas dinner, so I made Coconut Lace Brownies from Alice Merdich's "Bittersweet" book; I'd have made something fancier, like one of her gorgeous cakes, but the dessert has a very long and rocky ride ahead of it. The brownies are actually quite pretty all dressed up with their toasty coconut topping. I took a picture to share, but then my camera's battery died. Guess I'll have to make them again!
So why all the chocolate? Well, of course, I love it, but I especially wanted to make some recipes with cocoa because I finally found a box of Droste this weekend. Now, after two huge loaves of bread and a big batch of brownies, it's nearly gone. Oh well - I never did believe in hanging on to things because they're too good to use! Then they never get enjoyed, right?
Mmmm, nothing says Christmas like gingerbread for breakfast. I made this very rich chocolate gingerbread last night to send to the ladies my husband works with, but since there are only three of them I kept a little for myself. When I tasted it yesterday I was mildly disappointed because I felt the molasses overpowered the spices and chocolate, but today I was pleased to find that the flavors had blended nicely. The recipe is from Beth Hensberger's "The Best Quickbreads", which I just took out of the library. I'll be trying another recipe soon, as I promised I'd bring baked goods to my mom's house for Christmas.
Here's the focaccia. I think I stretched it out too far, as it came out much flatter than I wanted it to. My friend Brian said his came out big and puffy. Still, the dough was nice and bready and had good flavor, and I'm pleased with the golden color I got. I'll definitely use this recipe again (it came from Marcella Hazan's book) and just shape it differently.
Baking Round 2: Bundt Cake
So this is my latest bundt cake. I've been making a lot of them because I love my new bundt pan, and because they're so easy to transport. I can just wrap my cake in foil and garnish it with whipped cream or confectioners' sugar or whatnot when we get to our destination.
This recipe is from Lisa Yockelson's Baking By Flavor. It's the Buttermilk Butter Pound Cake on page 198. Her directions were fantastic. As a relatively inexperienced cake baker, it was reassuring to have such clear steps to follow. Of course, I can't taste it until tomorrow, but I must say I'm pleased with the way it looks!
Sharp Cookie's First Finished Project
As promised, here's the soda bread! It came out very well, and overall the recipe was a snap. The bread is very dense and not too dry -- a bit like a scone. We ate some with stew for dinner, but I'm most excited about having it for breakfast tomorrow.
Off to the Races
So my friend Brian and I were talking about learning to bake bread today, and we decided to begin baking together a bit. He's quite a bit more experienced in the kitchen than I am, and he lives four-hundred miles away, but it's nice to know I'll have his expert ear if I find myself fumbling!
Our first recipe is for a simple Irish soda bread. It seemed like a good, non-threatening place to start. What's better than warm, raisiny soda bread smothered in butter on a winter's day? Here is a link to the recipe we're using.
I'll be back to report our results on Friday, and perhaps to post a picture if I'm feeling adventurous.