Archive for March, 2009


Is it just me?  Or is it normal to become veeeeeery particular about the look of your Tuesdays with Dorie desserts.  Maybe even a teeny bit compulsive.  I’ve been part of this group since the beginning of 2009 — just three months — and maybe I’ve become a little complacent about things like cooking technique and flavor.  The cookbook is just so darn user-friendly, Dorie walks you through each step so you’re bound to succeed.  I don’t feel any anxiety about whether things from this cookbook will taste great.  They always do.

These are no exception — they taste great.  They’re pleasantly chewy and buttery, with lovely lime zest and a little hit of salt in each bite.  (Find the recipe here.)

But the look.  It’s an issue.  Take this week, for instance.  A few of my fellow bakers mentioned the possibility of these cookies spreading.  Uh oh.  Not good.  My beautiful little squares, spreading to make imperfect and ungainly shapes?  An unattractive bulge here.  A spreading middle section there.  No!  Is this just a phenomenon for the middle-aged Dorie-ites?  Or is it the word “thins” in the cookie’s name that makes me crazy?

My grandma Theda, before she was photographed, used to turn her head to make sure the camera captured her best profile (she jokingly pronounced it “prah-full”).  I do the same each week with this blog.  My husband takes all the photos for me, but I’m the food stylist, covering flaws with a dollop of whipped cream here or a drizzle of sauce there.

But every so often the week’s dessert is such that I have to ask: can you fix this with photography?  When these coconut cookies came out of the oven, I looked at them, let out a little sigh, then picked up two very sharp knives.  I tried to nudge them back into perfect squares, nipping, tucking, performing a baker’s version of plastic surgery.

My husband took dozens of pictures, and I came along afterward like some oily casting director flipping through head shots, murmuring, “Too flabby.  Too tall.  Too blonde.”

I’m going to bring the cookies to a party tomorrow afternoon, but it’s a party for 3- and 4-year-old children, who will demolish the plate without giving a moment’s consideration to the slight imperfections.  It seems there’s a lesson in there somewhere.  Do I think these desserts are somehow an extension of  me, my slouching toward middle age, my own spreading middle?  Could be, but there’s no time to dwell on that now.  I’m already looking ahead to next week’s banana cream pie.  I’ll have to watch that the custard holds together — whipped cream can only go so far.

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My cousin Noel sent this recipe.  We’re all big pancake fans in my family, particularly served with real Maine, New York, or Vermont maple syrup.

This recipe is a big favorite in our family and many of our friends love it too.  It is a bit unusual, a healthy and (optionally) sweet breakfast.

It is a tradition passed down in our family, made by the men (and kids) on Sunday mornings.  I got permission from my dad to share it with you.

Made famous by the men and children of the Kropf family, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup flour
canola oil

Separate 6 eggs.  Whites go in a large mixing bowl, yolks in a medium bowl.
Beat egg whites until fluffy and will hold a peak, then set aside.  Beat egg yolks until they turn lemon yellow.  Add 1-2 Tbsp vanilla to egg yolks.  Add 12 ozs cottage cheese to egg yolks and mix. (Use large curd 4% fat cottage cheese for richest texture; nonfat works well too.)  Add approx 1/2 cup white flour.  The yolk batter must remain slightly moist not stiff.

Lightly fold the yolk batter into the egg whites in a large bowl.  Overmixing will cause the egg whites to collapse; the batter and whites don’t need to intermix much.

Heat a large frying pan to medium or medium-high with a generous layer of vegetable oil. Heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Scoop some batter together with a large spoon and drop onto the pan. Three 3″-4″ diameter pancakes may fit in the pan for each batch.

Fry until brown and slightly crisp on one side, turn over and repeat.  Add oil to the pan between batches, and also while frying a batch if the pan begins to smoke.

Serve immediately.

Optionally, top with granulated sugar, crystal or powdered sugar, jam, maple syrup, etc. to taste.

Makes approx 12 pancakes, serves 4-6.
Pancakes should be somewhat fluffy inside and slightly crispy outside.
Pancakes may not be completely cooked throughout unless you really fry them thoroughly.  I generally err on the side of undercooking.
OK to refrigerate for a few days (deflated but still yummy).

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This week produced another winner from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook.  The blueberry crumb cake really deserves a more complex name, befitting its multitude of strong flavors: Blueberry-cinnamon-lemon-almond (yes, I substituted almonds for walnuts) crumb cake.  Ok, so the new name won’t win any iambic pentameter awards, but the other flavors come through so well, they deserve star billing.

The lemon is so prominent because of Dorie’s very simple, lovely technique of rubbing together lemon zest and sugar before combining them with butter and other ingredients.  I suppose it releases all the fragrant and delicious lemon oil hiding out in the humble rind.  Whatever the culinary rationale may be, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.

The topping stole the show in my opinion.  If I were to tweak the recipe just a little, I’d make the cake a little shorter (use less batter) so there’d be a higher ratio of topping to cake.  Along those lines, do not let anyone else volunteer to clean up after serving this crumb cake.  Get yourself into the kitchen with the pan and mush together the little crumbs, then press that into the crumbly topping that fell off during the slicing process, and you’ll have the best bite of the day.  The recipe is up on Sihan’s  Befuddlement blog, or flip to pp. 192-193 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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For a fleeting second, just one, I wondered if I’d be able to make the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe this week.  We went out of town for the weekend, my work stacked up while I was away, and it wasn’t clear when I’d find time to shop, cook, photograph, and write about this week’s cake.  But the recipe started with those magic words, “Preheat oven to 350 degrees…” and I knew I was home free.

Dorie describes this cake as a cross between pound cake and sponge cake, and it’s just lovely: tender, soft, moist, with a golden crust on the outside and a tangy glaze on top.  I didn’t have marmalade on hand, so I went with apricot jam, which was fantastic.  Just about any good quality jam would work with this recipe, I think.  I also added a drop of almond extract, which added a nice dimension to the ground almonds in the batter.

This cake is supposed to improve overnight, so I guess it’s my responsibility, my duty, to try it again in the morning with some coffee.  Tough work, but somebody’s got to do it.  Thanks to Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction for choosing this quick, easy, tasty recipe.  You can find the recipe on her site.  Enjoy!

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Someone once said to me, “There are lemon people and there are chocolate people, and they’re not the same animal.”  It struck a chord, because I’m so deeply identified as a chocolate person, it’s always been unfathomable to me that someone would order anything else for dessert.

Lo, and behold, I married a bona fide, living, breathing, lemonophile.  He goes crazy for lemon bars, lemon souffles, lemon desserts of all kinds.  He likes chocolate, but citrus is his first love.  Maybe it’s from all those years growing up near orange groves in central Florida.

The man could write a dissertation on creamsicles.  To me, creamsicles always tasted like baby aspirin, but hey, no accounting for taste.  [Egads, I just did a quick search for creamsicles and came up with nada.  Is it possible they’ve died and gone to creamsicle heaven?]

I remember we went to Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC, and after studying Karen Barker’s world-class dessert menu, he announced that he was going to get the “pink grapefruit napoleon.”  I laughed out loud, snorting on the in breath, thinking he was such a card.  He wasn’t laughing.  He loved it.  (I, meanwhile, ordered the barcelona tart: chocolate, almond, and sea salt.  Delicious.)  Lemon person.  Chocolate person.

Anyway, these lemon cup custards are just the thing for my husband.  But what about the cook?  Moi?  I had a little bit of chocolate frosting left over from last week’s chocolate armagnac cake (I’m not a pack rat, far from it, but I don’t let chocolate ganache go to waste under any circumstances), and voila, a perfect marriage was born.  Creamy vanilla custard, dreamy chocolate drizzled on top.  Works for me!

These custards were ridiculously easy to make.  I pulled the sauce together while my kids ate veggie sticks in the kitchen, then popped it in the water bath for 40 minutes.  It’s a humble little dessert, just as custard is meant to be.  Check out the recipe at The Way the Cookie Crumbles.

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dsc_2355I made this chocolate armagnac cake on my own, before joining Tuesdays with Dorie, because the story behind it was so compelling. Dorie Greenspan worked at a restaurant that served the same chocolate cake night after night, so she improvised and created this unusual, but lovely concoction. She was fired for “creative insubordination.”

Because I’ve made this cake before, I decided to practice a tiny bit of creative insubordination myself.  The cake is beautiful and delicious and very dense.  But this time I decided to create individual chocolate cakes in 8-ounce ramekins and then bake them in a water bath. I was hoping the cakes would be a little less dense than the original, just a touch softer and lighter in body. Plus, as I’ve said before, I love things warm from the oven, and this allows me to coat each little cake in a warm glaze.

This was a mostly successful experiment.  The final result was soft and creamy and light, but all of that creaminess was studded with the bits of prune and almond, making for a bit too much attention to their chewy, crunchy texture.  In the more dense version, they offer a happy bite.  In my light version, they’re more of a distraction.  So this ramekin/water bath approach is probably best used on a straight chocolate batter, without the added texture.  Still, it was fun to play around.

Visit And Then I Do the Dishes for the recipe.  And don’t be deterred by the prunes.  They add depth and complexity to the chocolate.  (This is coming from someone who shudders at those chocolate cake recipes that include mystery ingredients like tomato soup and beets and such.)  So, trust me on this one.

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