Monday, September 28, 2009

No Sweet Melissa Sundays... again!

I apologize to the group for not posting again this week and I have fallen terribly behind in my comments to everyone. We went on vacation last week, which was absolutely wonderful. My husband and I took our two girls to Disney World for the first time and we had a blast! Its so fun to see everything through the eyes of little kids. The trip was utterly exhausting but worth every second and every dollar spent.

Unfortunately, our fun came to and end when we came home Friday night and found out our one dogs was hit by a car literally hours before we came home. Evidently the dog sitter dropped both our dogs off at our house a couple hours before we came back and somehow, they managed to pop a screen on our sun porch and squeeze under the gate in our back yard. The neighbors had seen her running around a few hours before, and we found her at the top of our street about an hour after we came home. Fortuntaly, my husband said it was quick and she didn't suffer. But it was agonizing having to tell my three year old because she absolutely loved our little Lola.

You go through so many things in your mind like why didn't we just leave her at the pet sitter for one more night since we were getting back late. Why didn't the neighbor grab her when he saw her. Why didn't we take an earlier flight back. But life is what it is and we can't change what has happened. We had her for seven wonderful years and I'll cherish every moment I had with her. She was such a sweet and loving dog and was always ready to for a good snuggle at the end of the day. She will truly be missed...

This has been a heartbreaking weekend, but I promise to have something yummy up by the end of the week because my daughter's first birthday is Thursday!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Orange Scented Scones

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was chosen by Robin of Lady Craddock's Bakery. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by her selection this week. You see, she is a personal trainer and this recipe has to be the most fattening one in the entire book. I am not kidding when I say this recipe has no redeeming qualities (unless you add some chopped up fruit to them). These scones are literally fat and flour mixed together to create something called breakfast, or tea depending on where you live.

I absolutely love scones. There used to be this little British tea shop near us that sold scones, and I absolutely loved them. Every couple months, I would stop by and pick up a half dozen of them and a package of fruit pastilles (my roommate in college was from South Africa and she turned me on to them). Delicious! Unfortunately, they have since closed. And talk about timing on their part- I went to buy scones the last weekend they were open only to find a burned out building when I turn into the parking lot. Evidently the restaurant next to them caught fire the night before and it literally burned down to the ground. So they only really lost one day of business and I'm sure there was not that much left in the shop at that point. Lucky for them, not so lucky for me!

Since the tea shop has closed, I have been on a quest to find scones that could match up. There is a little shop in our town called Talula's Table that has pretty decent ones, but they aren't quite as good. Maybe I'm just biased because scones seem to taste a little different when you buy them from someone with a British accent. Then I made this recipe... and I can report with great satisfaction that I think I have finally found something to fill the dark sconeless void I had been previously left with.

I first made the recipe a couple months back when I initially bought the book. I had a brunch after my brother-in-law's wedding and made all these different kinds of scones based on the recipe. I was so anxious the first time I made them, hoping they might possibly hold up to their British counterparts. Thankfully, they did. Everyone at the brunch loved them, including me. Though I felt a little guilty when my mother-in-law's best friend started raving over them as she was telling me how she had just been to the doctor and he told her her cholesterol was too high. But it was a little late at that point!

As for the recipe itself, it is super easy to throw together. I only have one of those mini prep food processors so I had to cut the butter in to half of the flour and then mix in the rest. This time around, I opted to use lemon zest in the first batch instead of orange since lemon scones are my absolute favorite. Some other flavor combinations I have made in the past are lemon-blueberry (my daughter's favorite), orange-cranberry-pistachio (one of my favorites), and apple cinnamon with a cinnamon glaze.

For the second batch, I tried experimenting a little. Remember how I said the recipe is fattening? If you make it as written, there is over a tablespoon of butter in each scone AND it uses cream instead of milk. When I was taking yoga before, someone had told me you can sub-in flax meal for butter at a one to one ratio so I decided to give it a try. I also subbed buttermilk, my wonder ingredient, for the cream. My "healthy" scones rose beautifully in the oven and smelled great, but I was a little dismayed when at first glance, they looked a little dry. I grabbed one off the tray and anxiously broke off a piece to try. I was really hoping they would taste incredibly good, but I am sad to report, I prefer the full fat version much better. However, the flax meal version still passes as a decent weekday breakfast. I had one this morning toasted with honey and enjoyed it. Next time, maybe I will do half butter and half flax meal to see if their turn out any better. I am determined to make them better for me!

Thank you so much Robin for picking this recipe! Hands down, it is one of my favorite recipes from the Sweet Melissa Baking book so far. If you would like to try the recipe for yourself, check our Robin's page or buy the book for yourself. It will not disappoint you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Graham Cracker Chewy Bars

Last weekend, my husband was getting together with a couple of his friends from college for a tailgate. I wasn't quite sure what to bring along because food was being supplied, but I felt guilty not bringing anything. So what better to bring than dessert? I was going through my reader when I came across a post from Eliana of A Chica Bakes. She was talking about how so many wonderful recipes come out of the newspaper and one of the papers she referenced was the LA Times. So I popped over to their site and came across what they call Culinary SOS where they publish recipes people request from area restaurants and bakeries. You should definitely check it out because it looks like they have some really great recipes.

As I was going through the site, I found this recipe for graham cracker chewy bars and they were described as being similar to a pecan pie. I thought these would be great for a tailgate and, more important, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to make them. The base of the bars is a graham cracker crust and you top the crust with a pecan graham cracker mixture and bake. As I was making the "batter" for the top layer, I was kind of surprised by the lack of nuts in it. Since the recipe is supposed to be reminiscent of a pecan pie, I thought it would be chock full of pecans. But I thought someone else knew something I didn't. Turns out, I should have trusted my instinct and added more pecans. The flavor of the bars was really great, but I definitely would have liked more nuts in them.

I will definitely make these again, but I think I will almost double the amount of nuts in them. I also forgot to mention that the original recipe calls for dusting the bars with powdered sugar when they have cooled. This seemed a little bland (and messy) to me, so I drizzled with melted chocolate instead. If you topped with mini marshmallows, it would be look a big nutty s'more. Be sure to check out the recipe on the LA Times site as well as the many other yummy recipes! I am eyeing up the Boudin Bakery's Brownies next... with 5 eggs and 3 cups of sugar, they HAVE to be good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No Sweet Melissa Sundays

My sincerest apologies to Michelle of Vegie Num Nums who chose this week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays, but there was no perfect pound cake in my house this weekend. We went to University of Maryland's first home football game yesterday, so I didn't have much time to bake this weekend. I considered giving it a shot this morning, but after reading a couple posts, it sounded like the cake turned out a little dry. Plus, it was the last day of the annual Mushroom Festival in town, and that ate up a big part of my day.
Mushroom Festival you say? You got it! Now, before you start jumping to conclusions, mushrooms (the legal kind) have a long standing history around here, and we celebrate them in all their glory every year the weekend after labor day. We proudly proclaim Kennett Square, PA to be the Mushroom Capital of the World. And rightfully so... According to the brochure from the festival this year, mushrooms are the highest ranking cash crop in the state of Pennsylvania and account for 61% of all mushrooms produced in the United States. Not too shabby... And they have grown them around here for years. My husband's father helps run one of the farms here and his grandfather owned a mushroom farm before that. I'll have to see if I can dig it up, but I have this really neat b&w picture of his grandfather loading mushrooms into the back of a truck. So as you can see, mushrooms play a pretty significant role in their family!
In any case, be sure to check out what the other Sweet Melissa bakers thought about the recipe this week!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

First, my apologies to JoVonn for not baking along last week. I did actually make the muffins but brought them to my sister-in-laws for dinner so I did not get a chance to photograph them. And so so sorry to everyone that I am posting late this week. If its not one thing, its another, right? We went to the beach for the holiday weekend and I did actually make the cake on Monday, but then I could not find my camera cord, and we are having work done on our house... well, you get the idea!

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker. Sarah has a wonderful blog filled with tasty sweets and creative alternatives for baking with refined sugar. I admire the fact that she does not give her children any refined sugar and would love to do the same with mine, but it would never work in my house. I know my husband would sneak my three year old a doughnut or my mother-in-law would buy her a candy necklace when they were out shopping. Sigh...

Now on to the recipe! I was curious about this week's recipe because I have never had a souffle before and did not know what to expect. I always get nervous baking things like this because you never know how they are going to turn out. The one advantage to this recipe is the souffle is supposed to fall. I had to laugh at myself because I always heard you are supposed to be careful not to stomp around the kitchen when making a souffle so it puffs nicely. I was gingerly walking around the oven with my eleven month old when I suddenly realized the cake was supposed to fall so it didn't really matter! Silly me...

The cake was pretty easy to put together aside from the number of bowls I had to wash after I was done. The cake itself is not labor intensive, but the clean-up certainly was! The only change I made to the recipe was to use raspberry liqueur instead of orange, and I omitted the orange zest. I am not a huge fan of orange and chocolate and I was planning on serving it with raspberries anyway. I popped it in the oven and kept watching it grow higher and higher. I was kind of afraid it may overflow, but luckily it did not. The only thing I found was the cooking time was way off. It said to bake for 65 minutes. I set the timer to 60 and took it out with 13 minutes left on the clock. To my dismay, the one side of the cake had a darkened edge to it and I was really afraid the cake was going to taste burnt. Despite the fact that it was only my family coming over for dinner, I decided to make a cherry pie as well just in case it was overcooked (did anyone read Joy's post this week?). Before you think I am totally crazy, I had leftover pie dough from chicken pot pie I made earlier in the week, so it was not too much extra work.

So what did everyone think? Well, I think the consensus of my family was it was good, but not their favorite recipe (again, did anyone read Joy's post!). Actually, I believe my mom said "the cake is ok, but it's not fair to make a judgement with cherry pie sitting next to it." Interestingly enough, I brought the cake to work the next day and received rave reviews. One woman I work with even went so far as to stop by my office to let me know she thought it was the best dessert I have ever brought in, and that was at ten in the morning! When I tried a smidgen later on, I did find the flavor and texture to be a little better the second day. I am not surprised by this, as in general, I tend to enjoy chocolate desserts more the second day.

While not on my favorites list, I would make the recipe again. And judging from what the other bakers have said, I will stick to the raspberry flavoring instead of orange and maybe even try a hazelnut liqueur. Be sure to check out what the other Sweet Melissa bakers thought, though you probably already have at this point! If you would like the recipe, you can find it on Sarah's blog.

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