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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Alpha Bakers: Frozen Pecan Tart

I am not a tart fan. I think they are really pretty and I like making pretty things because I get to take picture of it (note what motivates me to bake!) but I don't enjoy eating it because they are usually way too sweet. So my motivation to bake this tart are for our bake-a-long (I get to cross one more recipe off the list) and because it looks pretty in the book. I ventured out wanting to make this as perfect as can be. .... and just from that sentence you should already guess that something bad will happen.

My first step on making this was to take a photo of the India Tree Muscovado sugar. In the past, whenever Rose required muscovado sugar I substituted with dark brown sugar. This time, I was buying something from amazon last month and needed 1 more thing to get past the $35 bill that would get me free shipping, so I thought I treat myself and splurged the $9.68 for 1 lb of sugar. Anyway, my husband was next to me washing dishes when he noticed that his wife was taking a photo of a bag of sugar. He looked at me quizzically - wondering what on earth I was doing. So I started explaining to him that this is a special sugar that Rose likes and it comes from Mauritius. He made a comment that it is the farthest place you can get your sugar and we are polluting a lot to get a measly 1 lb over here and then $7 in the price is probably the price of transport which makes it the cheapest sugar in quality. I told him that this is the first time I use this sugar and it was because of curiosity (I didn't tell him it was also partly because of the $35 shipping since that purchase was to buy one of his Christmas presents). I do not intend to use this sugar every time. I also mentioned that our favorite apple is the Fuji apple which comes from New Zealand and that is equally far. So we started then our conversation turned into how sad it is that our food comes from far away and how much we pollute by doing so. And there must be a way to get good eating apples locally but we have not been able to find them. Even in the summer in farmer's market most of the fruits are from California. Funny how conversation started from taking a single photo!

This is a pretty easy recipe. It is not quick and easy because there are multiple steps including some waiting time for the dough to be refrigerated or frozen. But it really should be quick and easy because you can split the steps over a couple of days.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Alpha Bakers: Almond Coffee Crisps

There is not much to say about these cookies. That is not to mean that there's nothing to say. They are easy and delicious. I could not stop eating them.

This cookie was the first recipe I baked from the book. I am not baking in order, I know. But I really felt like baking the weekend after my book arrived. And I didn't feel like going to the grocery store so I had to make do with what I have in my pantry.

I was prepared though to bake this recipe, somehow, since I went to Whole Foods the week before and remembered to get Medaglia D'Oro espresso powder. I know Rose liked this brand and had checked the book and see that she indeed has recipes that use it. I vividly remembered when we started baking through Rose's Heavenly Cakes in Sep 2009 (yikes!), I could not find Medaglia D'Oro anywhere! So I used Starbucks' Via Ready Brew French Roast. It was a pretty new product back then and I liked the flavor. It was only after a year into baking Rose's Heavenly Cakes (or maybe a year and a half) that I saw Whole Foods started carrying Medaglia D'Oro. I remembered standing there in the isle thinking "finally!!!" and doing a mental happy dance (I don't really need the folks at Whole Foods thinking I'm crazy).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Alpha Bakers: The Ischler

There is no better smell than the smell of freshly-baked cookies.

This is the third recipe in our baking adventure, The Ischler are not on the quick and easy list. I suspect mainly because there are 3 components to it and the recipe is 4 pages long. But they are really pretty quick and easy, especially considering  you can make some of the components in advance. The lekvar can be made ahead of time and last indefinitely in the fridge. The cookie dough itself can be made 2 days in advance.

These cookies are one of the recipes that I was looking forward to make when I got the book. I have made the Sugar Cookies recipe from Rose's Christmas cookies several times - it is one of my favorites, so naturally I was curious about the Ischler. Add that to the fact that the Ishler's photo is so beautiful. The styling is simple, there is no prop really, just the cookies themselves. The close up shot really did the job - I want to reach into the pages and grab a cookie (or three!).

All the steps for the Ischler are easy enough and I enjoyed putting the dough together in the food processor. And then I got to the roll and cut cookie part. I find this part a bit annoying. The dough is stickier than the sugar cookie. And towards the end of rolling, they have a hard time to stay together and wants to crumble. At some point I thought that these were not worth all the efforts, and I was glad I only made 1/2 a recipe or I would have spent a lot more time rolling and cutting. It took 10 minutes to bake them and I tried a couple as they are still warm. They were so good that I forgot my annoyance from earlier. They are totally worth the efforts. I find them way too sweet with the ganache and lekvar though. I like the cookies itself without any filling so next time (yes there is a next time), I will skip the lekvar and ganache.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Alpha Bakers: English Dried Fruit Cake

I thought I wouldn't have much to say about this cake. It is one of the recipes in the book I am not excited about. When I saw the title of the recipe, I remembered the Fruitcake Wreath I baked and didn't like from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. But to my surprise (eating my second slice while typing this post), I really like this fruitcake. The crumb has a good texture - even with the mistake I did of forgetting to drain the dried fruits. I like all the fillings in it, the pecans add a nice crunch to the texture and variation to the softness that the dried fruits give. And unlike my experience with the Fruitcake Wreath, this cake has enough rum!!!

I like how simple this recipe is. I did not have much time coordination on Saturday, when I bake this. We decided to try out a new restaurant in the nearby mall, never considering the fact that it is December, less than 3 weeks before Christmas. The mall is a quick 7 mile drive from home and it took us 45 minutes to get there and find parking. By the time we got home it was 2:30 in the afternoon and we were tired from just going to eat. So it is a good thing this cake requires very little preparation time. If it had been a 5 page recipe, there would be lots of cussing in the kitchen.