This Week’s Baking

I am on a serious baking kick these days. On Sunday, I tried a new recipe and made three plain pain d’epi and three bacon pain d’epi loaves. I wish I could tell you that putting slices of bacon into my favorite type of bread was my own idea, but one must give credit where credit is due. And credit is very due to Diamonds for Dessert for posting this incredible recipe for bacon pain d’epi.

My only deviation from her recipe was to use bread flour instead of regular white, and instead of doing all six loaves with bacon, I only did three. Not only are these loaves gorgeous (insert photo of gorgeous bread [here] – if I waited to upload any of the photos I take, sadly I’d never find the time to post…), the dough was gorgeous too. It was a dream to work with – like silk to knead. So smooth and elastic. It’s easily the best bread dough I’ve worked with thus far.

This bread was absolutely delicious with the potato soup I made for Sunday dinner. I didn’t have any leeks on hand, so I made the soup with a couple of big red onions instead. Bacon and onions; soup and bread – I can’t think of a better Sunday night dinner for an overcast, windy fall evening. And of course I’m already dreaming up variations on it – I could add green onions and sun dried tomatoes. My home made bacon would be even more awesome than the store bought stuff I had to use in Sunday’s loaf. We ate a little with leftovers for yesterday’s lunch, then had the very last plain loaf this morning with our eggs and bacon for breakfast. Of course, it wasn’t as good as when it was fresh, but it held up pretty good for three days. It still had a nice crust and chewy interior, and was just starting to show signs of staling. This dough recipe is a definite keeper.

I’ve got another batch in it’s first rise now. Instead of doing six small loaves, I’m going to do two larger ones. And we ate the rest of the bacon today sadly – the last four slices are in tonight’s dinner (crockpot balsamic chicken with potatoes). So I’m going to do a plain loaf for one and a sun dried tomato and olive loaf for the other. I’m pretty excited to try this new variation tonight. Now if only I had gotten the bread rising in time to have it with dinner… sigh.

Of course, Sunday baking isn’t complete without sweets. We’ve had a real sweet tooth lately. Must be the change of the seasons. I’m going through flour like nobody’s business. I’ve made tons of double batches of snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies (half with added walnuts for husband), and I can’t keep them in the house. Naturally I made a batch of snickerdoodles, but only a single batch this time because I also decided to make some soft ginger cookies. They will now be a repeat at our house too – so good! They’re basically a soft, chewy gingerbread. They actually had a touch too much ginger for my taste (too much ginger actually gives me a bit of a stomach ache, interestingly) so next time I’m going to just use a teaspoon instead of the two the recipe calls for. Other than that, it’s perfect. I love having three, solid go to cookie recipes. And so you can get in the cookie goodness, I’ll share where I found all three. :-) Another case of wishing I came up with these myself; that’s how good they are!

Snickerdoodles from Slow Like Honey

Soft Ginger Cookies from Allrecipes

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Apple a Day

Seriously – make all three. And I found all of these on Pinterest, proving yet again that Pinterest is the coolest thing in the world. I’ve got a couple more cookie recipe pinned – I ought to try them since I’m three for three with the successes.

And in non-cookie, non-bread related business, I’ve been really tempted to make a chocolate lava cake… but it’s quite possible that we have enough sweets in the house for two people at the moment. Possibly.

The Chocolate Cake Debate

I am in love with this new book I splurged on recently – Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever With More Than 400 Easy to Make Recipes by Diane Philips. I’ve made several dinner recipes from it that have been amazing. So imagine my excitement when I was thumbing through it and stumbled across a recipe for chocolate upside down cake. Crockpot and chocolate and cake!? Well…

You’re probably familiar with the upside down cakes. They’re also referred to as “self icing” cakes. They’re the weird recipes that call for putting batter into a pan, maybe a crumbly topping sprinkled over it and then pouring boiling water over the whole mess, and not stirring it in. Odd, but a simple concept. So simple, I got to wondering if it might be too good to be true. When the cake is done baking, it’s cakey on top and has “icing” on the bottom. You spoon it up, flip it onto a plate and voila – chocolate cake with icing.

Currently, the chocolate cake recipe we adore is the old fashioned tunnel of fudge. Simply put, it’s a major pain in the ass to make because the quantity of ingredients barely fits into my largest bowl, it’s baked in a bundt pan (which looks great but is annoying to clean) and it has to cool for two hours. Which of course, is the hardest part of baking the cake. I pull it out of the oven, I want that cake NOW! At any rate, it’s still our house cake, if you will. It’s gorgeous – it’s a classy looking cake. It’s so pretty it doesn’t even need icing. But you could, if you wanted to. Or a delicate sprinkling of powdered sugar. And my god is it good – cakey on the perimeter, fudgey in the center. And the chocolate flavor is intense!. Impressive, since it’s only made with cocoa. The crockpot cake also called for only cocoa, so could this crockpot chocolate cake give the tunnel of fudge a run for it’s money?

I’ll just cut straight to the chase and get your (and my) disappointment out of the way. No. No it cannot. First of all, it’s got nothing going on in the looks department -

 


Being baked in a crockpot, I didn’t expect it to be a real looker. But I thought it might taste decent… but sadly, it’s just no good. The cake itself isn’t dense enough – the texture was more like a steamed pudding. In my opinion steamed puddings are a bit of acquired textural experience, and I just haven’t acquired it. And the whole thing, especially the “icing” tasted really watered down. It was the blandest chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Meh. Perhaps if one used actual chocolate squares or chips to boost the flavor, it would be good. Or if I didn’t have an oven – if the crockpot were the only cooking device at my disposal and I needed a chocolate cake, I might make it again. But since tunnel of fudge has a loving place in our home already, it looks like this crockpot cake will be falling by the wayside. But it’s always fun to experiment anyway!

Sunday in the Kitchen

The last three months have been pretty rough for me in terms of food and cooking. With morning sickness that lasted pretty much all day and night, I ate what I could when I could and husband did most of the cooking. He’s been a real trooper taking over the kitchen and my share of the household chores. It certainly hasn’t been an equitable division of labor, but hey – I’m growing another human being here.

But as this pregnancy progresses, I’m feeling sick less often – which is great. Because despite how greatful I am that husband stepped up, I’ve really missed spending time in my kitchen. Poring over cookbooks and and cooking are what I enjoy and how I relax. And today I finally got my chance! After an afternoon nap (which was total bliss, except for the sore neck I woke up with) I waltzed into my kitchen, did up the few dishes in the sink, wiped down the counters and began.

First up on the docket – tunnel of fudge cake. I got out my largest mixing bowl, which isn’t quite large enough for this recipe and proceeded to make a giant, floury mess all over my freshly cleaned counters. I filled up my Nordicware bundt pan with the silky chocolate batter and popped it into the oven. I’m going to have to be patient and let it cool for almost two hours when it’s done baking so the whole thing doesn’t collapse into itself as a giant pile of sludge. I’m going to do my best to wait. I’ve got a major sweet tooth lately and I’m beyond excited about this cake.

Then, onto dinner – bacon and whiskey chili. I’ve made this recipe so many times I can do it without consulting the recipe, but I got it out anyway because I had such a taste for it. It had to be executed perfectly. As such, instead of prepping as I went, I decided to prep my mise en place beforehand. I was so excited about finally cooking that I wanted to draw it out. I diced an onion and several cloves a garlic and set them out in a bowl. I diced the bacon and set it aside. I measured the chicken stock. Lined up the cans of bean and tomatoes. Pulled the bottle of whiskey down from the woefully neglected bar. And then I measured out the spices with the brown sugar and mixed them together into a bowl. Prep complete.

I put some water onto to boil for ditalini (Yes, I’m a pasta with chili kind of girl. I’m sure chiliheads everywhere hate me. Whatever.) Then I put my stockpot over a high flame to heat it up for the main event. When the bacon went in, it sizzled in that satisfying way only bacon can. Oh, joy of cooking! Once the bacon was crispy, in went the onions and garlic. Once the onions were golden and fragrant, in went the beef until well browned. And then the spices – wow, what a smell! From there, I added the tomatoes, stock, beans and a healthy shot of whiskey. I brought it up to a boil, then reduced the flame to let it simmer. The only thing I did differently with this recipe from normal was omit the shot of whiskey for the cook!

Dinner and dessert tonight are going to be so delicious… on that note, I believe I need to take the cake out of the oven to cool. :-)