Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread & Monkey Bubble Bread

Catching up...Got the Monkey Bread Baked...DELISH!

I might make this one again in the morning!!!    Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread
This week my kitchen took me to heaven.  I needed, badly needed, chocolate.  Rich, luscious, dark, moist chocolate.  And I have been fixed.  It was one of “those” weeks at our house...too many stressers all at once, things out of my control.  Too many days with no sleep due to business requirements, employee issues, IRS requirements, a damaging office break-in and stolen property, and deadlines.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread...It was Perfect!
Chocolate is my out.  The darker the better.  It is my quick relief.  Within only a moment it soothes my tired mind, revives my body and banishes all my woes.  Chocolate is way up high on my gratitude list.  Baking with chocolate transmits a lingering aroma, offers more than one bite, renders enough to share, and gives deep satisfaction.  It is quite literally, the best ingredient on earth.  It is one of God’s gifts and I need my daily dose.  I suppose I am addicted, but I have come to know that for me, chocolate is a “health food.”

This Photo does not do this Loaf Justice!  It is a double length and it actually looked quite nice!  This Loaf has just come out of the oven.
When life presented just too much, I escaped to my kitchen where I baked the Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread.  I have been revived!  I baked a large double size loaf for my family and friends, and a regular loaf to hide away for my own medication.  There are 3 or 4 pieces remaining and they continue to bring joy even three days later.  The loaf is moist and wonderful even as it ages a bit.

This Loaf, Just out of the Oven is too Warm to Cut...but...We Could Not Wait!
 I'm not usually in love with chocolate in combination with peanut butter...I give away all my Reeses Pieces and Peanut Butter Cups, but for some reason, the peanut butter spread in this recipe was very appealing with this chocolate loaf.  It was creamy, not overpowering, and added a pleasing topping that was not necessary, but that was an extra special touch.

I have a 4" X 14" loaf pan that I chose to use as I mixed 1.5 the recipe.  It fit perfectly into my pan and baked beautifully until at the end as I kept checking and opening the oven to test for doneness, on the last test the loaf fell down in the middle and no longer held its perfect shape.  (Or it could have been when I went a little crazy and added an additional cup of chunked chocolate?)  Oh well, it was the chocolate today that counted, and not the looks.  And then, we could not wait for it to cool...we just started slicing and tasting...and the poor loaf tried hard to keep some shape, but we could not leave it alone.  Yes, we were in heaven.  Some of my kids popped in just as the baking was finishing, and they couldn’t wait either.

After eating our fill, the remaining loaf portion cooled properly and was then sliced into lovely pieces, showing its chocolate chunks, and was enjoyed at the office, by some neighbors, and by everyone who entered our house.  And the verdict: DELICIOUS!  RICH!  MOIST!  WANT-THE-RECIPE!  LOVE THE SPREAD!  WHAT IS IN THE SPREAD THAT MAKES IT SO GOOOOOOD?  WANT MORE!  WHEN ARE YOU BAKING THIS AGAIN? LUSCIOUS!

All good reports for every tasting person.  This is a great recipe.  This is a recipe I guarantee will be made over and over, was quick and easy, not too sweet, wonderful at any time of the day, and would make a perfect gift for a friend who might also need to find a little stress reducing heaven too.
The Dough has Risen and is Ready for the Oven

Also Ready for the Oven...But this is Definitely NOT the Right Pan!
I also caught up on one recipe while I was in Idaho cooking for my new-mother-daughter...Monkey Bubble Bread.  We 4X this recipe, enjoyed it with hot chocolate, shared with my kids college friends, and kept it out on the table for nibbling where it was good to the very last bite.  The caramely goodness covering each section was fabulous.  It was pretty, and we’ll be making this one again soon also.  Our only mistake: For one batch we used the Bundt pan which worked great, but while looking for another pan we found an angel food cake pan, thinking that this would also work well.  We put foil around the bottom to catch any leakage...but...somehow the oven bottom was oozing with melted butter, brown sugar and spices that leaked despite our efforts from that I advise, don’t use a removable bottom pan for this recipe!!!   It was a big time mess clean-up project for the next day.  But it was all worth it.  The Monkey Bread was terrific!  We could not leave it alone.

Just A Nibble---YUM

Kinda Like A Big Gooey Cinnamon Roll in a Big Pretty Shape

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicken B'Stilla and Michel Rostang's Double Chocolate Mousse Cake

Mousse Cake

Chicken B'Stilla
Such great flavors and joyful cooking projects...great for all the senses:  These dishes are visually beautiful, aromatic, have great texture, are flavor sensations, and the spoken enjoyment rang out loud and clear.  They give real meaning to the term "culinary arts" as they are truly works of art and are the kinds of foods that enrich life.

Bottom Layer (baked without the pan bottom) has been Baked...Making a Great Texture that is Different from The Top  (and no leaks!)
I apologize for not being current on my posts, but I’ll catch up today.   I was in Frigid Northeastern Idaho where I  loved helping my daughter with her new baby.  I had packed the recipes that were assigned for January FfwD and I baked the Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake, but did not report on this baking project.  Before getting into today’s post assignment, I will let you know about the cake...  It was DELICIOUS!!!   My new-mother-Emily, who is a cookie monster but not a cake person, announced that this is her favorite cake and she would, for sure, bake this cake and wants the recipe.  That is quite a complement! 

Top Layer Added and Ready for Baking...Due to Refrigeration, it is Not Smooth, but Will Even Out as it Warms in the Oven
My cake most likely earns the ugly cake award for this baking project, but this time, I will boldly say that looks do not count.  Baking in my college daughter’s apartment reminds me of camping out must just make due with what is available.  The weather was horrible...I did not want to venture out too often to get needed supplies, and shopping is, well, not what “Spoiled me” is used to...not much selection or availability of items I am used to with in my convenient home kitchen and with my variety of very close by shopping choices.

When it came time to get the cake out of the oven, it looked great and smelled delish.  But then there was not a platter to place it on, and for baking we had to use foil instead of parchment paper under the baking the poor little cake got crammed into a pie plate that was a bit smaller that the cake which cracked it up...and the foil just got left on as we moved the cake from oven to pie plate....well, you get the picture...oh well, it was wonderful anyway.  So moist and chocolatty and wonderful enough to make me want to bake it again for Valentine’s Day...for my Arizona crowd (and, of course, for my sweetheart!”)

Instead of coffee, I used watered down raspberry Italian soda flavoring which gave the cake just a delicious hint of raspberry.  When I bake this recipe again I plan to garnish the cake with some chocolate dipped fresh raspberries...see, I already have plans for my next baking of this cake.  I would also like to try it with hazelnut flavoring, and I’m dreaming about other toppings and presentations for this wonderful dessert.

I could not enter a timely post for this recipe  as I was on the road...almost 3000 miles round trip.  Just think, I could have driven to somewhere like New York City or Boston with all these miles.  But instead, I followed my heart and spent precious time with my new baby grandson and family. Totally worth every long mile on the road!

Upon returning home I had lots of catching up to do...quarterly business taxes, W-2 forms and 1099's, etc...all that required office work that must be done before the end of this month.  I stayed up all night and felt really great that I could then relax and do some fun things, like cooking projects, before payday on the 31st.  But, time to relax never happens in my life.  We had a break-in at our office building last night, so I was up all night again cleaning up broken glass, making police reports, taking inventory of stolen property and property damage...and now my brain is totally fried.  I am worthless when it comes to real life stuff today...and I’m sure this post sounds quite tired too, so...I decided to cook.  Baking and cooking are stress relievers for me, they bring joy, and bring family, and all this puts life back into perspective and energizes me.   I got busy on the Chicken b’stilla.

All Ingredients Added Together...Ready to Fill the Pie
I had chicken breasts in the freezer...thighs would have been more flavorful, but I don’t trust myself to be a good driver today due to lack of I allowed myself no shopping.  I had all the other ingredients, some of which seemed quite odd to me as I added them to this dish...they were spices and ingredients that I had used just last month baking Christmas cookies...and now they are in the chicken.  Interesting!

Sprinkled With Cinnamon and Sugar this Pie is Ready for the Oven
Cinnamon, ginger, honey, etc are unusual additions to my chicken  (well, I do add fresh ginger to my Asian foods)  (and maybe I can find a few Mexican meat dishes with cinnamon).  But I told myself that we all like BBQ, we like sweet and salty, and we like to try new things.  This is what FfwD is all about.  New experiences.

See all the Layers...and This Pie Actually Holds its Shape Quite Well
 Hubby loved this chicken dish, a daughter suggested that it would be good folded in a flat bread with sour cream, diced tomatoes, etc...something very Middle Eastern.  And why not, since it is a “legendary dish of Morocco” that has been adapted by the French.  And, my 10 month old granddaughter,  Honey, who is just starting to try some bites of meats, just loved this chicken...kept wanting more and more.  She loved the Christmas cookie spices in her chicken!
Honey Wants More!

My Slice
My Frolicking Night Owl daughter came with her family and they brought along their freshly baked mousse cake which was doubled and made two ways...uncooked and cooked, so that we could judge the difference.  We all agreed that “cooked” is best.  The whipped up refrigerated version was just to raw eggy tasting.

I will get back to commenting on your posts...I have been reading them, but with holidays and a new baby and travel, I’ve not taken the time to enter my comments...but I’ve loved seeing your blogs and always enjoy your tips and experiences.  Thanks!  I will enjoy getting back to being more involved with all this FfwD...I’ll need lots of fun breaks as I work toward all my April 15th taxes, as I arrange office building repairs, and work hard on other gross assignments that are just part of life.  Makes me very grateful for fun projects such as FFwD and for all of you who make this cooking experience so enjoyable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Farm Stand Buttermilk Doughnuts

For the past couple of years I have reveled in reading and baking  from Matt Lewis and Renaldo Poliafito’s highly acclaimed books Baked and  Baked Explorations .  A couple of years ago I ordered the Baked cookbook after watching Matt bake his beautiful and complex creation,  Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake on one of Martha Stewart’s shows.  I was absolutely mesmerized and drooling over his beautiful cake and I was fascinated by his adding salt to the caramel; an ingredient I had never heard of using with this type of  confection, topping or cake, and now it is such a trendy thing to do.   Since that show I have tried salted chocolates, brownies, cupcakes and other items, and in large part, this popularity is due to creative bakers such as Matt and Renaldo who are not only great bakers but also great teachers.  They share freely and are personable and fun, so who wouldn’t want to bake just like they do?

I am  excited to join this baking group that will give me goals to push me along as I work my way  through Baked Explorations.  I plan to catch up on the recipes already assigned as this group is already in progress.  I am having fun as I begin working first on the Farm Stand Buttermilk Doughnuts.


 Sunday is a great day at our house.  After church lots of our grown up kids come home with their young families to enjoy Sunday dinner and some family time.  Last Sunday was no exception.  My Frolicking Night Owl daughter and her hubby and their 3 children arrived for dinner, to work on sewing new dresses for their cute little girls, to take pictures of my brand new grandson, and then for dessert, we decided to make the doughnuts together.  ALL THE BETTER!

We mixed the dough, fried the doughnuts outside on the was a wonderful Arizona evening and fun to be outside, decorated the doughnuts, and through it all, my Frolicking Night Owl daughter took all the photos.  She is a great photographer, has a very nice camera (much better than my little point-and-shoot) and so we are calling our experience a joint effort.  And then, the kiddies helped eat the yummy doughnuts which were enjoyed with hot chocolate proclaiming our efforts, “Really Good!”

Every Halloween I make about 800 doughnuts and 800 holes as part of our neighborhood fun.  These are yeast doughnuts and the process takes quite a long time.  The buttermilk doughnuts were fun, quick, had a great flavor, and will be enjoyed often as we can make them without planning ahead.

French Friday with Dorie: Gnocchi a la Parisienne

Our Back Yard In North-Eastern Idaho

My Gnocchi Taste--Loved the Bechamel!

GNOCCHI A LA PARISIENNE    Just Out of the Oven
This Arizona sun worshiping, heat loving, 44 oz drink guzzling girl today finds herself in frostbitten,  iceberg, snow bound, mountain man, 4 wheel drive only, refrigerator, Napoleon Dynamite, northern Idaho trying to keep up with French Friday with Dorie cooking in my college daughter’s apartment kitchen.  There are road signs leading to places like Yellowstone National Park, and wild animal parks with grizzly bears and wolves and other local attractions.

The Amazing Snow Mountain Made From Snow In Our Driveway

 Snow Up To My Bedroom Window
Our Walk to the Car

The Tears on my Car Have Frozen into Icicles
After spending the Christmas holidays with our family, another daughter, Stephy-Wephy, her 10 month old baby, and I drove my new-mother-daughter and her new baby to their way up north home.  It was so terrific to have a new baby in our house for Christmas and to have this wonderful young family back home during such a great family time of year.  

My Little Man's December 13th One Month Birthday

All Bundled up For Winter----Stephy-Wephy and Baby A's first Snow
As I write up this blog entry it continues to snow, keeping us all inside.  We are all sitting around the kitchen table playing games, everyone is tasting the gnocchi and giving their opinion, and....we are enjoying soda pop that has been sitting in our kitchen-sink-ice-bucket filled soft, white, fresh snow instead of our usual ice cubes.  

Kitchen Sink Ice Bucket
Everyone agrees that they love the cheese sauce and they all want to know what cheeses I have used...Comte and Parmesan, purchased on our way up at the most local Costco a couple hundred miles south of here.  But they all expected and would have liked a more mac & cheese texture rather than the very soft dumpling texture of the gnocchi.   My 10 month old granddaughter, however, totally loved the gnocchi!!!  Everything about it pleased her; she wants more!

Baby M Wishes He Could Taste--Baby A Wants More!
Actually we all liked the flavor of the gnocchi but would have liked a product that held up better or was more firm...I guess I could say, more “American style.”  (Later, after shoveling snow, my son-in-law came in and ate a large serving...he said that after some heavy work the gnocchi sounded really good!)

Hand Mixing the Gnocchi Dough

Spoon-size Gnocchi Resting While Making the Bechamel

Bechamel Sauce with Comte and Pamesan
Used Comte Cheese for the First Time

Boiling the Gnocchi

Draining the Gnocchi
I enjoyed trying, for the first time, Comte cheese, a new find for me and my family...we all love it and are thinking of ways to use it again.  And combining it with Parmesan created an amazing and very pleasing flavor.  I was also surprised at how far the small amount of cheese sauce went...I was amazed at how it covered the gnocchi and was so creamy and smooth.  I use lots more cheese sauce with mac and cheese as the mac absorbs so much more sauce than the gnocchi.
Half-Baked Gnocchi--Add Cheese and Butter to Top and Turn up the Heat
And many thanks to you, my cyber friends, for helping me with this cooking experience.  I copied only the first page of the recipe before leaving home...only the ingredients and not the I had to get on line to see your posts so that I could complete this experience...I also phoned my Frolicking Night Owl daughter who was making this recipe right when I phoned.  So...thanks to you all!  I love trying new things and I really enjoy all of you!

Gnocchi a la Parisienne

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Soup is a favorite food in our family.  It is the food of choice for my two daughters adopted from a Moldovan orphanage, and another daughter also prefers soup over all other foods.  Because this has been an exceptionally cold week here in Arizona, a new soup sounded especially inviting.  Soup is one of those foods that can be tweeked to satisfy personal preferences by adding extra veges, spices, or fillers.  But I was not my usual adventurous self as I stuck closely to Dorie’s recipe.  With all the soups made in our house, mushroom is not a usual homemade variety, making this assignment an unusual one for me.

I was quite surprised by the scrumptious flavor this smooth soup ladled over a mushroom salad and garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche.  I was expecting a flavor and texture something more like Campbell’s creamy mushroom soup, but it was nothing at all like this canned American standard that gets used by the zillions in traditional holiday casseroles and sauces.  Thank you Dorie for something so much better!  



When they discovered what I was cooking for dinner, several family members were either dreading the thoughts of mushroom soup (just thinking about that canned stuff) or they dislike mushrooms so much that they planned to say “no thanks” to this dish.  But..the aroma of this soup simmering on the stove was irresistible, and to their delight, it tasted nothing like they thought it would.  In fact, the flavor was not predominantly mushroomy.  They mostly tasted the herbs in the “salad” and everyone pronounced the meal to be “Good!”.   Personally, I do love mushrooms, and I was excited to make this soup, but I also agreed that it did not have a traditional mushroom flavor.  All the flavors melded together creating a richly flavored soup with contrasting textures created by the pureed soup and the raw vegetable salad. 

The soup was easy to prepare, cooking time was about 30 minutes total. (Yea!...I love having more time to enjoy my new grandbaby as well as other family... My Northern Idaho kids arrived with their 10 day old new baby on Christmas Eve and will be here for another week.  Christmas with a new baby in the house is such a precious gift...I could not have dreamed up a nicer one!)  While the soup cooked I divided the extra sliced mushrooms, scallions, chives, and minced parsley in the bottom of our soup bowls, and then  ladled the hot soup over this salad which rested for a minute allowing the salad vegetables and herbs time to soften, and then our bowls were topped with a little creme fraiche.

This liquidy soup would be a great meal starter or comforting as an accompaniment for a sandwich.  I have discovered another Dorie recipe for my permanent cooking file.  It is a pleasure to try new ideas and to enjoy new cooking experiences.  This mushroom soup is a winner!

So, you all want to see my new grandbaby.  Well, OK.  He is just 3 weeks old, is such a good baby, and is so loved by all our family!!!!!  (I''m holding Miles while I type all this up with one's worth every extra minute it takes!)