French Fridays With Dorie: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

I’ve been part of the Tuesdays With Dorie group for two and a half years (!) now, and I’ve noticed something about Dorie’s recipes: They often call for rum. Every single time a recipe has called for rum, I’ve panicked, because I never have it — and because I’m always baking at the last minute and so can’t run out for any.

So you’d think that at some point over the last two and a half years I’d have bought rum. I live within walking distance of at least two liquor stores, and we’re not a teetotaling family. But for some reason, I never have rum. I always just leave it out, and I’m always sad.

So when today’s French Fridays With Dorie recipe called for rum, I had a script all ready. But this time I decided to improvise. Creme de cacao? No. Kahlua? No. Peppermint schnapps? Definitely no.

Maraschino? Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

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Coffee on the Run

I’m a Foodbuzz featured publisher (see the ad at right). As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a nice heavy box full of Illy Issimo coffee in cute little (and easily portable) cans, and they proved instantly popular with the menfolk in the house. (Said menfolk being my husband, Tim, and 13-year-old son, Ben.)

We all like coffee around here, although we like it differently. Tim drinks his with a little half-and-half and no sugar. Ben likes a lot of half-and-half and sugar and sometimes chocolate syrup. Lately I mix mine with chocolate Slim-Fast, but we won’t talk about that.

For a while now, just about all the coffee we consume has been cold-brewed, using the recipe published in the New York Times a while back. It makes fabulous coffee — to the point where I have trouble drinking any other kind now. But it also takes many hours, and sometimes we run out.

So the presence of 12 cans of beautiful caffeine in the refrigerator was a comfort to all of us.

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French Fridays With Dorie: Hachis Parmentier

Oh, this was good. This was really good.

We love shepherd’s pie around here, and I’ve made a lot of different versions. This was definitely up there with the best of them.

That probably had something to do with the whole milk and half-and-half and butter in the mashed potatoes, and the two kinds of cheese and more butter on top. But never mind.

This recipe was a ton of work, though: cooking the meat and vegetables, draining and chopping the meat (after separating it from the vegetables!), chopping and cooking the sausage, cooking the potatoes, mashing the potatoes, seasoning the potatoes, putting it all together …

Ben mashed the potatoes, and added all kinds of yummy things, including garlic and a super-secret assortment of other herbs and spices. He did good.

I put it together and put it in the refrigerator, because I had to take Ben to the other side of Philadelphia for play rehearsal. (At 4 p.m. every Friday. Who thought that was a good idea?)

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French Fridays With Dorie: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Or something like that.

I had a plan. The plan went something like this: I would take a day away from the freelance editing that has consumed the past week of my life and get something accomplished around the house. I would run errands — including grocery shopping, hunting and gathering what I needed to make the latest Dorie recipe and the next couple — and then cap off the day with yummy soup. What could go wrong?

Well, when I went to get into the car, I discovered that the battery was dead, so dead that I couldn’t even use the power door locks. That’s dead.

So, regroup. I found chicken breasts and stock in the freezer, and Tim helpfully stopped on his way home from work and picked up cilantro and limes and alfalfa sprouts (because he couldn’t find any bean sprouts) and egg spaghetti, which generously filled in for the Chinese egg noodles the recipe called for. I left out the ginger and chilies, but I’d have done that anyway.

We managed to eat by 7, which is pretty impressive any evening, let alone one so jury-rigged.

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Bacon Cheese Pork Roulades

We went away a couple of weeks ago (yay Tim!), and right before we left Ben and I were at the library. (Stay with me; there’s a point.) Ben grabbed a book called Planet Barbecue!: 309 Recipes, 60 Countries by Steven Raichlen.

I said, “Ben, we’re never going to use that.” And he said, “I will.” (Dialog re-created by an extremely unreliable memory.)

Fast-forward almost two weeks. Ben spends most of a Sunday afternoon paging through the book, waxing rhapsodic over recipe after recipe. (Including South African Springbok or Pork Kebabs with Monkey Gland Sauce, but we won’t go there.)

And then he hits on Bacon Cheese Pork Roulade, on page 255 of this more-than-600-page tome. That was the one.

By Tuesday evening we had acquired the necessary foodstuffs, and the boy could begin to work his magic.

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(My First!) French Fridays With Dorie: Gerard’s Mustard Tart

So this is my first French Fridays With Dorie post (we were away last week). I’m so excited — our recent carb reductions have limited my Tuesdays With Dorie posts this year, which has made me very sad. But now there’s real food! Food I don’t have to feel guilty about! Yay!!!

French Fridays With Dorie is a group of bloggers working their way through Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

This book is gorgeous — even more gorgeous than Baking: From My Home to Yours, which I’ve been working my way through with the Tuesdays with Dorie group for more than two years now. This should be fun.

Last week’s gougères look fantastic. I really want to make them, and soon. But I need a party to take them to, so someone out there should invite me to one. And soon.

I was more dubious about this week’s recipe. I don’t like mustard. I don’t particularly like eggs or vegetables. (I am a huge fan of tart crust, though. Cutting carbs has been so hard!)

But it was my first French Fridays With Dorie, and I really want to start writing here more often, so I made it. Unfortunately, I decided to make it while I was at the grocery store on Monday afternoon (at about the same time I decided to make Tuesday’s apple cake, actually).

So we got home around 3 and Ben helpfully put the groceries away while I read the recipe. Um, chill the tart dough for three hours, and then another hour? Not good.

But in the spirit of adventure, I made the dough — easy as, well, pie in the food processor — and put it in the freezer, on the top “quick freeze” shelf. An hour later, it was way too hard to roll out, so I actually had to leave it on the table for about 10 minutes.

And then I rolled it. I hate rolling dough. There must be an easier way. I have tried plastic wrap, and this time I tried waxed paper. But I hate rolling dough.

I got it to a 12-inch circle (which Dorie says is the bare minimum, so it was good enough for me, although it shrank and did not entirely fill the pan after baking) and put it in the tart pan. And then froze it again, in lieu of the hour-long rest in the refrigerator it was supposed to have. And then baked it.

So we’re up to 6:15 p.m. or so by now. Tim was almost home, and I was hungry. Luckily I had cut and steamed the carrots and leeks ahead of time, so at least that was done, but arranging them prettily atop the eggs in the crust took a while.

It went into the oven at 6:45ish. I was so hungry. Came out of the oven a bit after 7; one benefit of having the crust not entirely fill the pan is that some of the filling ran out, so what was left was thinner — and baked faster!

We managed to let it cool for about 10 minutes, and then dug in. Despite the mustard and the eggs and the crème fraîche and the carrots and the leeks, I loved it. It was truly delicious.

I suppose there’s a lesson in there, but I’m not about to learn it.

We did manage to duct tape Ben to his chair and therefore save one piece to try cold. Two days later, it was still delicious.

This tart is great. I have faith that it’s a sign that everything I make from Around My French Table will also be great. Let the cooking begin!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Double Apple Bundt Cake

I couldn’t pass this one up, despite the fact that we just got back from vacation (very late Saturday night) and that we don’t eat carbs anymore. I mean, apple cake? Double apple cake? No chance.

So while I was at the grocery store Monday (yes, that’s yesterday) afternoon, I looked for apple butter. I have one small, precious jar of my homemade apple butter left, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice it to a cake. But all the apple butter in the store had both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in it. That is so wrong. I make apple butter by cooking homemade apple sauce down, and I make apple sauce by cooking apples with a little apple juice until they’re soft and then mashing them. No sugar in sight.

Don’t get me wrong: I love sugar. I eat sugar by the bucketful (or would if I didn’t want to keep losing weight). But apple sauce and apple butter just don’t need it, and I prefer to save the sugar for where it’s needed.

So, back to the grocery store: No natural apple butter in sight, and despair set in. I considered buying enough apples to make apple sauce, but the hour was growing late. And then inspiration struck! I make apple butter by cooking apple sauce down, right? Who says it has to be my own apple sauce? It’s easy enough to find natural apple sauce in any grocery store, so I did. Brought it home, poured it into a pot, turned on the fire very low, added some cinnamon, and stirred it occasionally for an hour or so. Voilà!

Sometimes I think there just might be hope for me.

So dinner tonight (also on the spur of the moment, and with nowhere near enough time to do it right) was a delicious tart you can read about here in French Fridays With Dorie (on, of course, Friday), which means I didn’t start — start! — making the cake till 7:30. Unlike some people of my acquaintance, I am not a night person. This was not a good time to start making a cake.

Nonetheless, I had to have my cake. And I had to have it in time to post on Tuesday.

So I played it straight, no messing around with the recipe or trying to be cute. I left out the raisins, of course, and it turned out I didn’t have any nuts. No pecans, no walnuts — just whole, unblanched almonds. Did that stop me? Nope — I found tiny bags that I’d packed as snacks, one walnuts and one pecans, which together filled half a cup, and I used almonds for the other half. Creativity!

Sadly, this post is incomplete, as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. I haven’t cut the cake, so I can’t tell you how it tastes. (The batter was pretty fantastic, though.) I am going to make a caramel sauce to go with it tonight, and we have some lovely organic raw whipped cream and homemade applesauce. I will update with opinions and more photos this evening.

So thank you to Lynne of Honey Muffin, who chose this recipe for us this month. It was a perfect way to kick off the fall, which is my favorite season by far. She’ll have the recipe for you, or you could go buy Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, which is well worth the investment. And go look at all the other TWD bakers’ blogs, because I’m sure many of them will have done very creative things with this recipe.

Update, 8:17 p.m. Tuesday: Oh. My. God. Seriously, one of the best ever. Moist and dense without being heavy, incredibly flavorful without being too rich, just sweet enough to eat plain but not too sweet to stand up to caramel sauce. Go make this cake. Now.

That’s crème fraîche on top, as it turns out, not raw organic whipped cream, and we skipped the applesauce. Totally didn’t need it.

(By the way, the caramel sauce was both extremely easy and marvelously caramelly, and it came courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. If you have not seen her blog, stop wasting your time here and go read hers. It’s way better.)

See you Friday!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Coffee-Break Muffins

I really, really loved the batter for these. I always love batters and doughs, usually more than the finished product, but this was special. Really good.

The muffins? Eh. Not so much.

They were wonderful warm, but at room temperature they were kind of blah. (Which, oddly, is the opposite of what Dorie says in the recipe.)

Luckily, I made them for my mother’s surprise birthday party, for which Ben made a chocolate birthday cake with peanut butter icing. Spread some peanut butter icing on these things and they’re golden.

I also chopped some milk chocolate and threw that into one batch, and that was pretty amazing — although still not great at room temperature.

I made them as minis and baked for 12 minutes.

And that’s really all I have to say. Sorry! Go see what all the other Tuesdays With Dorie bakers did with these, and if you want to try them yourselves, Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous, who chose these for us all to make this week, will have the recipe for you.

Bonus shot: The birthday cake Ben made — all by himself — for my mother!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Oh, God.

I love cookies, almost all of them. (Well, not those ones with candied fruit in the middle.) But I’ve never liked peanut butter cookies — they’re always dry and kind of pointless, in my experience.

But these are fantastic. (Thank you once again, Dorie.)

I made two batches, one straight and one with the chocolate variant. The only thing I changed is that I didn’t add chopped peanuts to either batch, although I did use chunky peanut butter.

I figured I’d like the chocolate ones, but not the regular. Boy, was I wrong. I ate the batter, like I always do — even when I don’t like a particular cookie recipe, I nearly always like the batter. And this batter is great: soft and light and very flavorful.

But then the first batch came out of the oven, and I tried one, just because.

It was a revelation: by far the best peanut butter cookie I’ve ever had. I ate several. And then several more.

And then I made a second batch, adding cocoa and chopped dark chocolate.

Perfect. Sublime. Stupendous.

The two kinds are great individually, and even better together:

And then, last night, I made an ice cream sandwich with two of the chocolate cookies and vanilla ice cream. Seriously, try this. There was coffee ice cream too, but I was a good girl. Next time, though …

So there you have it. I have nothing else to say. Both of these have skyrocketed up the list of my favorite cookies, debuting somewhere in the top ten.

Thank you, Dorie. Thank you for giving me back peanut butter cookies.

And thank you Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine for choosing these for us to make this week; I’d never have tried them on my own.

Check out the other Tuesdays With Dorie bakers to see what they did with these cookies, and then buy the book (Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan) or visit Jasmine Cuisine for the recipe and make them yourself.

You won’t be sorry.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I don’t know why I wasn’t terribly fond of these: I love coffee, chocolate, and shortbread. The combination should have been fantastic.

To be fair, I made them for my older son’s going-away party, and they had some competition. I also made Dorie’s World Peace cookies (with a combo of chocolate chips and mint chips — they were beyond delicious), Ben made some of Emeril’s amazing Hazelnutty Nuggets, and we had a pound cake from Stock’s (which I have been assured by someone who ought to know is the best in Philadelphia) with homemade chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

But still, the shortbread just didn’t do it for me. I was very careful not to overbeat, but they were still a bit grainy, and the coffee flavor overpowered the chocolate and butter.

But hey, other TWD bakers may have had more luck with these than I did. Thanks to Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First for choosing these cookies, and I’ll see you next week!

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