Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cheesecake, Squared (Falls Flat)

So, I wanted to make a cheesecake.  Only, I couldn't find my springform pans.  Not to be dissuaded, I opted for cheesecake bars instead. 

Only, I was almost out of graham crackers.  Not to be dissuaded, I opted for half graham crackers, half ginger snaps for the crust. 

When a baking endeavor begins this way, sometimes it's a sign.  Only, I don't usually pay attention to such signs.  And then I dropped a giant blob of cheesecake batter on my favorite pink slippers.  Sigh.  I should have known.

The resulting bars were... meh.  Not bad, by any means.  Better than some I've had.  They even looked nice. Yet, there was something, well, flat about them.  The crust wasn't spicy enough to be a true gingersnap crust, but spicy enough to smother the sweet, buttery goodness of a good graham cracker crust.  The chopped chocolate wasn't enough to make them really chocolaty, but just enough to distract from the rich, cream cheese flavor you want in a good cheesecake. 

Edible, but not inspiring.  Half the pan ended up in the trash and I will not be repeating this experiment.  Perhaps the cake gods were trying to tell me something.  Perhaps, it was just a bad baking day. 

Not the most inspiring post, but you should know it happens to all of us now and again.  Fear not, I shall cheesecake another day, always aspiring to...

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The Pie Less Traveled

And I, I baked the pie less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

I hope this post finds everyone recovering nicely from the indulgences of Thanksgiving.  I'm sure many of you have been waiting with baited breath (yes, the Literate Baker loves hyperbole) to find out which of the pies from the Not Your Mama's Pecan Pie post I decided to make.  I'm happy to report that my friend Annie's recipe was the one of choice and the results were delectable.

First, to give proper credit, the story of the recipe is as follows:

The recipe is from when I worked on "In Food Today," my first food television show hosted by David Rosengarten and Donna Hanover. The guest chef I want to say was from Cowgirl Cafe or something like that. This was her recipe. She was blonde and pretty, but this pie is really what I remember from her segment. It was just too damn delicious!

Annie is a production goddess who worked on a number of Food Network shows before heading west and starting the super awesome Actual Industries with her husband Brad.  I have vague memories of "In Food Today" from the early days of my Food Network addiction, er, appreciation.

Second, I'll show you how it came together:

The mix.

The bake.

The slice.

The pie was super rich and sweet, but not cloyingly so.  The chocolate chips sank to the bottom as the pecans floated to the top to create an almost layered effect.  So.  Good.  Oh, and I went with an all-butter scratch pie crust.  Again, so good.

That said, I remain intrigued by the Tyler Florence recipe, in which chocolate is melted into the "custard" of the pie.  I think I might have to make it as well, and I promise to let you know whose cuisine reigns supreme.  (I wonder if that phrase if copyrighted?  Or is it trademarked?  I can never remember which is which.  Well, if I get a cease and desist letter, I'll tell you about that as well.)  Until then...

Keep it sweet.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Baker

Whether Black Friday or Cyber Monday, word on the street is that we should be gearing up to spend lots and lots of money on lots and lots of stuff.  Although queuing up at department stores opening at midnight is not my idea of a good time, finding cool gifts for the special people in my life is always fun.  Shopping for myself isn't too shabby, either.

In that spirit, I present to you...

The Literate Baker's Top Ten Gift Ideas for the Baker in Your Life

10.  Silicone baking mat.  Since I first became aware of these things, I've wanted one.  The fact that I've managed just fine without one has not dissuaded me in the least.


9.  Top-view measuring cups.  Both Oxo and Pampered Chef make them; there are probably others.  I love mine and use them for all things liquid, whether baking or bar tending.

8.  Absurd vintage kitchen stuff.  I could spend days on Etsy.  I am at times delighted, at times dumbfounded by what people make and sell, but I'm always entertained.

7.  Absurd baking-themed other stuff.  See also #8.

My favoritist charm necklace.

6.  Kick-ass rolling pin.  Rolling pins don't need explanation.  They just are.

5. Fancy-pants ingredients.  We all know how I feel about my fleur de sel.  Artisanal chocolate?  Awesome.  And if someone gave me a big boxful of almond paste?  They'd be on my sweet list the whole year.

4. Awesome apron.  Being of a femme persuasion, I'm partial to frilly, but there are endless options.  I love the one I got for Christmas last year from Flirty Aprons; they make all kinds.


3.  Atypical cookie cutters.  Seriously, you can find just about every shape, size, and iteration these days.  I mean, who would have ever thought that Williams-Sonoma would hook up with Star Wars?

I have these.
And clearly need these.

2.  Silicone scoopy-scrapey-stirry things.  Whether you call it a spatula or a spoonula, it's ridiculously useful for many a kitchen task.  And since they're silicone, they don't get all wonky if you happen to leave them in a hot pot.

1.  Mixer to die for.  I know.  It's such a cliche.  Yet, there is no tool or toy in my kitchen that is more loved or more used than my stand mixer.  It isn't even the uber-fanciest of the stand mixers and I heart it.  It will change the way you make baked goods.  Really.  I mean, I'm looking to upgrade to the 20-quart Hobart, but that's just me.

Prettier than the apron.

Hope this helps you find the perfect something for the baker in your life.  Remember, gifts are about making a person feel special, so whether you spend $2 or $2000, keep it personal and always...

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