Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What makes it Hungarian you ask?

What does Hungarian shortbread and preschool teachers have in common? They are both awesome buttery goodness. OK well maybe the teachers are not buttery goodness but they are awesome goodness (and the shortbread is definitely buttery goodness). And they are also being celebrated this week. After all I figured what better way to say Thank you to Ms. Barbara, Ms. Laura and Ms. Carol during National Teacher Appreciation week then to bake and share this weeks treat.

Once again the list of ingredients was fairly short. Sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and butter.

And in case you did not notice....that is F.O.U.R. sticks of butter people.

That much butter does make you wonder. If someone gave this treat to you as a present is it saying "I love you" or "you annoy the crap out of me and I slowly trying to kill you from the inside out". 

I also ran a little short of sugar. I poured every grain I had but was left about a 1/4 cup short...and with an empty canister. It turns out that the lack of sugar probably worked in my favor. 

You mix it all together, beating it for eternity to get it all fluffy and nice. Only I find that while I can beat my butter until it is nice and fluffy that as soon as I add my sugar there is little hope of matter how long I beat it. Stupid organic sugar. So in my case you beat it as long as it takes to daydream about what it would be like if you invented something and it became super popular and you became rich and famous and Oprah became your BFF. In other words beat it awhile and then give up. 

You then shape your dough into 2 balls of buttery goodness, wrap your butter babies in plastic warp and stick them in the freezer for a time out. 30 minutes later take them out of their time out and (this next step is totally what makes them Hungarian not Scottish shortbread) grate the balls of chilled dough with a box grater. After grating 2 rather large balls of dough up and down, up and down, up and down on the side of a box grater you will now have big bulging arms much like the woman in Budapest that gave me the most amazing massage....despite my being sure that her ginormous man hands were going to crush my bones. 

Grated buttery goodness = large bulging biceps
After grating the first ball of dough onto the bottom of the pan you spread it with some jam. The recipe called for homemade rhubarb jam but I had neither rhubarb or the desire to make jam. Luckily along came Karen (my step-Mom).....and her amazing gift of local strawberry jam.

Spread some jam, grate some more dough, take some Motrin because your muscles hurt from grating dough and then put the whole thing in the oven. 

Take it out of the oven while you husband is bathing the wee one, have him throw the wee one immediately into the crib so that he can race downstairs and scarf up a piece of the amazing smelling shortbread. 

He needs a sign that reads: Put More Shortbread Here and No One Gets Hurt.

Lots of people commented on the Baking with Julia website that they felt the bottom layer of dough needed to be baked first but I honestly do not think so. This is not a traditional crisp, hard shortbread. After all it is based on grated dough that is not packed down. It reminds me of a crumbly cookie/cake style desert we would get in Europe. The only warning I offer is that when you try a piece of this is to keep it small and keep a gallon of milk next to you because it is sweet (despite me running out of sugar). 

Oh and as for the whole idea of giving this super sweet desert to A's super sweet preschool teachers. It turns out that Teacher Appreciation week is next week. The timing did seem a little too perfect.

And now the small print:
Hungarian Shorbread pages 327-328. Hosts: Lynette from 1 small kitchen and Cher from The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lemon Loaf

I am very happy that I am not truly accountable to the others in the Baking with Julia series because it turns out I am just horrible at keeping up with the recipes. My track record with this baking series is much like Katy Perry's song:

You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're baking and then you're not

Or something like that. All I know it that I skipped the pizza rustica because it seemed so horribly difficult and made the lemon loaf's l.e.m.o.n. loaf people! LEMON!

I was a little worried because the list of ingredients were simple and the lemon flavor was only coming from lemon zest. 

My little lemons....with an avocado so that they do not get lonely
The recipe was simple and did not even require an electric mixer which means that this recipe will be filed in my recipe box to make after the apocalypse (i.e. when we have no electricity but before the zombies come).

All I had to do was whisk:


Whisk some more and then dump into a pan:

I then popped it in the oven. I am not sure what I think about the lemon loaf. Mine was super dense but that may be because unlike what the recipe calls for, none of my ingredients were room temperature (because that would require me planning on making the loaf instead of just spontaneously making the loaf as a way of avoiding doing work). But added enough strawberries and whipped cream and anything is good. And if you are super lazy and chopping strawberries seems like too much work then you can slap on some strawberry jam with whipped cream (not that I did that or anything). 

One of the best things about this recipe is that in less than 30 minutes my kitchen went from this:

To this:

The details: Lemon Loaf Cake, page 252-253 Hosted by Truc and Michelle

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Irish Soda Bread (aka Irish Crack)

Despite my claims of being pathologically opposed to making bread I am now starting to wonder since the 2 recipes I have made from the Baking with Julia series have both been bread. However unlike the first recipe this recipe for Irish Soda bread did not require a mixer, yeast or a warm place to proof the bread. And it turns out that I like my bread like I like my men....easy ;-)

And easy it was. All I had to do was dump 4 ingredients into a bowl and quickly mix it. Since I had a ton of dried fruit leftover from having bought all the ingredients to make the last recipe (rugelach) but never actually getting around to making it (death in the family, starting crazy new life career, yada yada) I decided to throw in a cup of chopped dates.

 After mixing it you then knead it for one minute. The recipes states that at this point the dough will be "soft and malleable" and warns you that as "tantalizing as it is, it should not be overworked". Tantalizing? I am not sure that I consider soft, sticky dough encrusting my hands tantalizing. But to each his own I guess.

After you knead it for a minute you then form it into a 6 inch disk, and yes that is a tape measure you see because when a book calls for a 6 inch disk but God I am making a 6.inch.disk.  I am nothing if not precise.

 You then plop the 6 inch loaf of sticky goodness into a pie plate and bake.

 50 minutes later you have Irish Soda Bread. I could not even wait for it to completely cool before I smeared a piece with butter and gobbled it down (which is why I now will call homemade Irish Soda bread Irish Crack).

And now the small print stuff: Baking with Julia, page 214, hosted by Cathy of My Culinary Mission and Carla of Chocolate Moosey

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

And then there was bread

I have a fear of yeast....and kneading....and of all things bread so when I signed up for Baking with Julia I was definitely a bit light headed when I realized that the very first thing we were suppose to make was white bread. I mean seriously people it was if you looked into my soul and pulled out my worst fear.

If my life was a Harry Potter book then my boggart would take the form of a big bowl of yeast and flour needing to be made into bread....until now. Because I am now proud to say that I have successfully conquered my fear of bread and although I doubt I will do it again (after all good bread is so easy to buy) at least I know that if for some reason I am suddenly transported back to the Little House on the Prairie days, and I am some how able to grab hold of a industrial stand mixer and yank it back in time with me, then I will be able to at least make bread to survive on until Mike kills us a buffalo or something.

As soon as I started reading the recipe I knew that my little hand mixer was not the right tool for this job so I called my friend Kris and borrowed her amazing new stand mixer (which I have taken to calling Scarlett for obvious reasons....and because when you make bread with a stand mixer you tend to bond with it a little).

In went the yeast, the flour, more flour, some salt, a little sugar and then the mixer started to smoke a little (true story) so I immediately turned it off...scowled at it and threatened not to take it back to Little House on the Prairie land with me because it wimped out....and then kneaded it back hand. After a bunch of kneading in went some butter and then more kneading until I had a nice little lump of dough. 

It sits in a warm place, rises, gets smooshed down, folded like a big sticky piece of paper, stuffed into pans, rises and then is baked. And then you have this:


I know it probably should not be so surprising to me that I actually had a loaf of bread after all of this but somehow it was. And it was tasty bread. And the next day it was still tasty when I made it into grilled cheese sandwiches for A's lunch. 

Oh and it turns out that the mixer smoking thing that happened....happened to a lot of the other bakers, nor did it seems to do any damage to the mixer. Next up chocolate tart thingies.

And now on to the small print stuff: Baking with Julia, page 81-82, hosted by Laurie over at Slush and Jules at Someone's in the Kitchen.

Let the madness begin

I have decided to leap on the baking bandwagon (with 300 +/-  other people) and bake my way through the  Baking with Julia cookbook. This means that twice a month I will baking something from the cookbook and posting the results here. What am I hoping to get out of this.....I am not really sure. I have no real aspirations to be anything other than a casual baker of cookies but I guess I am hoping working my way through the book with other bakers will allow me to stretch my apron strings a little and conquer a few fears along the way (can anyone say yeast?).

Hope everyone enjoys the ride because I fear we may be in for a few bumps (or is it lumps?).