Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall is here!

It's an enigma to me how to reconcile my love for the autumn season with my extreme loathing of being cold. There's nothing wrong with cold weather, but that invariably means that I personally am cold. However, I am putting aside thoughts of lower temperatures in favor of thoughts of oranges, reds, yellows, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, apple cider, pumpkin pie, sweaters, and Halloween candy. So, in honor of the first day of Fall, Gingerbread Cookies! I made lots of batches last year, and I think I've finally perfected a recipe I'm excited to call my own. They are spicy, but not overwhelming. Soft, not crispy. Cute, but not time consuming. All five of you who actually read this blog, I hope you're excited to decorate gingerbread cookies in a couple weeks!

Rolling out cookies is one of my favorite tactile experiences ;)Some "creative" cookie decorating

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some winners ... and some losers ;)

Despite a lack of posts, there has not been a lack in baking. Not all the "adventures" from the last month or so were successful. But failure's are part of the fun. As per the scientific method, any result tells you more than you knew before, especially when it's not what you expected! So, in chronological order...

Saffron Cookies:
A friend sent me a recipe for Saffron Cookies. If you've never had saffron, you might have seen it before as a color. Saffron is the stigma from the saffron crocus, painstakingly picked by hand mostly in Iran, India and the Middle East. It is the most expensive spice on the market - the best price I found was $6/gram! But you only need a little to flavor a dish or for dye. The strands are a beautiful dark orange, and when steeped the liquid turns a lovely yellow to orange color depending on how long it is steeped. So, I'd never actually used saffron before, and though it is usually used in savory dishes, cookies are way more exciting! I deviated from the recipe my friend sent, and made a traditional shortbread cookie flavored with the saffron and crushed almonds. I wanted to used cardamom, or coconut, or orange, unfortunately none of those items were around, so I used the almonds. The end result was pretty disappointing, though. I figured it would be bitter, but, whew! The cookies were unpalatabley bitter! Laurel, if you read this, I'm going to try again with the recipe you actually gave me and maybe that will make all the difference!

Panna Cotta Torte:
Another failure! Panna cotta is a dessert from the Piemonte region of Italy, which means "cooked cream". And that's all it is! You cook cream, add sugar and geletin, and then refrigerate it like jello. Fabulous with a fudge or fruit sauce. The panna cotta itself was not the failure. And actually I was fairly pleased with it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. My church group had a cookoff for an activity, and I figured I could make chocolate chip cookies (boring!) or something off beat, but cool! So I decided to steep a tea bag (Mighty Leaf's "African Autumn") in the panna cotta, layer it with a vanilla cake, and drizzle lavender white chocolate on the top. It wasn't perfect (and silly me, I forgot to take a picture), but I was pleased with the outcome more or less. The failure came at the cookoff. People are so boring! Everyone thought it was "cool", ie, wierd. Anyways, guess what won: chocolate chip cookies! And I'm pretty sure they were from a tube!!!! Negative ten points for Salt Lake City. (I think that puts SLC at negative one bazillion points.)

Lemon Cream Tarts:
I went for a simple, yet elegant approach with this one. Really I just wanted this Lemon Cream (a previously tried recipe) and everyone else wanted pie. A sort of compromise. The lemon cream is just whipped cream mixed with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Mmmmm.... I used an egg based pie dough recipe, which is nice because it's more sturdy, but the crust is more like a butter cookie than a pie crust. Still a good crust, though. So, put cream in the crust, add some berries, and tada! An easy, pretty dessert.Plum Upsidedown Spice Cake:
An amazing dessert a la Martha Stewart: This is the perfect dessert for August/September. The spice cake feels like Autumn, and the plum feels like summer, so the mixture of both is wonderful. It's a lovely looking dessert, too. Add some whipped cream, and a cool afternoon, and it's one of my favorite desserts so far this year.

Ta da, Lena! This one was for you! :)