Tuesdays with Dorie: Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin Loaves = Baking fail.

Artsy-craftsy reading reward chart = Mommy win.

That last one is epic for me.  Generally glue sticks and I are not on speaking terms.  Throw in some craft scissors and construction paper, and you get to witness hours of frustration on my part.  But I’m over the moon that my son’s started reading and want to find ways to encourage him.  He loves putting stickers on things (what preschooler doesn’t) so I hunted down some autumn leaf stickers and figured we’ll put a leaf on his tree for each book he reads.  Hopefully it goes better than the bread.

OMG, the bread!

Huge, HUGE disappointment.  All on my end.  I’m seeing the other bakers’ beautiful photos of beautiful loaves and I’m suffering from some serious bread envy.  My dough never seemed to double during the first rise and didn’t really rise at all during the second one.  Oddly, it seemed to rise the most after its overnight chill in the refrigerator.

I can’t figure out what caused the lack of rise on this one.  My kitchen was certainly warm enough (since it was 102 this weekend!) and the yeast I used worked fine for the whole wheat loaves a couple weeks ago.

What’s more frustrating is that this bread is REALLY good.  The texture in mine was all kinds of off but at least I was able to get an idea of what it should taste like.  And I have to say the homey combination of pumpkin, raisins and walnuts combined with the tart punch from the cranberries is perfect for fall.  Which just means that I’m attempting them again.  This time around though I think I’ll leave out the overnight step of chilling the dough.  I’m curious to see if the other bakers found that it added anything to make it worth the extra time.

Oh, and the extra pumpkin from the recipe?  Perfect for making homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup.  🙂

If you want to see what this bread SHOULD look like, check out Rebecca’s post over at This Bountiful Backyard.  She also has a copy of the recipe posted if you’d like to try this one yourself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coconut Rum Biscotti

Books and biscotti — a perfect combination if you ask me.  Both by nature allow us to jump off the treadmill of our daily lives and relax.  Linger.  I challenge you to eat biscotti in a hurry.  It’s kind of impossible.  Biscotti’s designed to be nibbled, dunked, swirled.  Like a good book, it’s a thing to be savored.  And in our household, these biscotti are most definitely being savored.

I switched up the ingredients for this one a bit.  The original recipe in Baking with Julia is for Hazelnut Biscotti, but with temperatures creeping into the triple digits (yuck!) I didn’t feel like boiling and toasting the hazelnuts.  Macadamia nuts felt a bit more summery.  To go along with them, I swapped out the frangelico called for in the recipe with coconut rum.  Because, again, nothing says summer like a splash of rum.  Oh and don’t worry, I won’t say anything if you decide to add a splash of rum to your weekend coffee as well.  😉

And if you’re looking for a good book to read over the summer, I recommend Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.  I’m only halfway through, so I can’t speak for the ending yet, but so far I’m completely caught up in the story.  Part Island of Dr. Moreau, part feminist Heart of Darkness, it’s a thrilling journey into the Amazon and the worlds of pharmaceutical research and medical ethics.  I’ve been sneaking downstairs early the past few mornings to squeeze in some extra reading time before the rest of the house is awake.  Now, thanks to Julia, I’ve got a sweet little treat to enjoy on those mornings.

Thanks to Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys for hosting this week.  Check out their blogs to hear their baking experiences as well as for the recipe itself.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

Growing up, every Christmas we had a marathon few days where we’d bake enough cookies to fortify a small army.  I’d always get excited seeing the bags of flour and sugar piled into the shopping cart.  Handwritten recipe cards would be pulled out from wherever they hid the rest of the year, the paper yellowed and smudged with buttery fingerprints.  Recipes would get rotated in and out, but there were always a select few that were made every year.  One of these was for cream cheese crescents.  They were a simple cream cheese dough, cut into triangles, filled with fruit jam, rolled into a crescent and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The crescents were one of the few things my mom baked from scratch.  Don’t worry, I’m not spilling any secrets here.  Ask my mom, and she’ll tell you that most of the recipes I’ve asked for begin with the words, “Open the box . . .”

As soon as I looked at Dorie’s recipe for rugelach, I immediately got excited.  The dough sounded almost exactly like my mom’s.  And these are somewhat similar to the cookie I grew up with.  Except where that was a favorite childhood recipe, this one’s grown up and graduated from college.  It’s the cookie you eyed longingly but were told were not to touch because “Those are for Grandma’s bridge club.”  It’s the cookie that you finally did steal when no one was looking and then promptly hid in the potted palm because it was filled with raisins and nuts and (blech!) prunes.  But, now that you’re an adult, this is exactly the type of cookie you find comforting.  Rich and flakey, bursting with apricots, cherries, almonds – whatever you crave – it’s both sophisticated and down-to-earth.  The type of treat to be savored with a hot cup of tea, a good book and some fluffy slippers.

It’s not a difficult recipe, just very time-consuming.  Plan on making the components ahead of time, unless you’ve got a full day to devote to baking and a Top Model marathon.  You can save some time by buying the prune or apricot lekvar, but where’s the fun in that.   Besides, it robs you of the opportunity to scurry about the kitchen, muttering the word lekvar like some sort of fringe character from middle Earth.

Since I planned on sharing these with my toddler, I omitted the amaretto.  (In spite of my being at my wit’s end with his recent naptime strike.)  I substituted vanilla since one of my favorite jam recipes combines apricots with vanilla.  After tasting it, the vanilla flavor didn’t come through as much as I’d hoped, so I might try it again using vanilla paste.  The only problem I had was rolling the dough with the filling.  Half the filling seemed to spill out on the cutting board as I was rolling them and it was difficult the dough to roll up tightly.  My first batch lost their shape quite a bit.  I cut back on the fillings for the second batch which seemed to help.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can use any fillings or combinations you want.  I made half the dough with the apricot lekvar, dried cherries and almonds and the other half with the lekvar and a mix of dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries and golden raisins.  Both were excellent but I think I prefer the one without nuts.  The dough seemed to taste flakier and richer without the texture of the nuts competing with it.  I’ve seen a few people mention using Nutella for a filling as well which sounds absolutely amazing.

Thanks to Jessica at My Baking Heart and Margaret at The Urban Hiker for hosting this week.  You can check out their blogs for more details on the recipe.