27 October 2009

TWD: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

Well.  Today's TWD Challenge was the first of the recipes that I would look at and think, "gee, that looks fun, I'd sure like to try it, but I'll never eat it, so meh."  Fortunately, I had a dinner gathering to attend on Saturday so I could dispose of the cake.  What you are looking at is a thick, dense, fudgy, malevolently dark brownie studded with cherries and bittersweet chocolate, covered with a layer of cream-cheese scented mascarpone mousse.  Yep.

This was also the first recipe that had me running all over NorthEastern Town and its environs looking for ingredients.  The fancypants grocery was out of mascarpone, but the dusty old one near me had it.  Dried cherries came in a wide variety of prices and were found in the randomest sections of the stores.

The batter was pretty straightforward.  It called for ground pepper!  I wasn't sure how the pepper would work with amaretto-soaked cherries instead of Kirsch-soaked ones, but I was intrigued by the idea of using pepper, so I only used 1 teaspoon. I'd do more next time--you couldn't even taste it. 

None of the liquor stores had any Kirsch, so I had to sub amaretto to flambe my cherries.  Flambe-ing was easy and fun.  I enjoy fire!

These cherries are totally on fire.  You just can't see it here.

Timing the cake was a bit hard.  I let it stay in an extra 5 minutes, but I'm not sure that was a great idea.  It didn't burn, but the sides seemed very hard to me.  It looked lovely though, nice and even and shiny. I put it in the fridge for a day before topping.

I whipped up the topping in a few minutes.  Mine was spreadable, not pourable, so I smoothed it out.  It was nice and light and fluffy and ever so faintly cheesy.  The cake is very, very dense and fudgy and very, very rich. It was a big hit at the women's group I went to, even though I --ahem--broke one of my hostess's knives trying to cut through the tough sides.  Em BARR ass ING.  I really have to figure out what went wrong there.  I was so aghast I forgot to take a photo of the cut cake.  I thought it was mighty tasty, but just too rich for me--I like my cakes, well, cakey.   And if I had to do it over again I'd personally leave out the extra chocolate chunks--they were just too much.  It gave me a headache.  Everyone else raved.

Overall:  it was fun and pretty convenient (time-wise) to make.  A good sophisticated crowd pleaser.  Good to keep in the arsenal for dinner parties, not something I'd make for myself at home. 

Next week's cake is a doozy of a shopping expedition, and centers around an ingredient I've always heard of but have never had.  We'll see how this goes!  I also have a hankering for sugar cookies, so there might be some cookie shenanigans coming up, too.

25 October 2009


I haven't neglected the blog.  I've spent the past three days at a conference, so I haven't been doing much that is blogworthy.  Never fear--posting will resume on Tuesday with this week's TWD selection.

20 October 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits

So I haven't yet been officially added as a Tuesdays With Dorie participant, but I am so amped to do it, I'm gonna go ahead and to the post this week.  I hope I'm not gonna get blackballed!

The Tuesdays with Dorie challenge is simple:  it's a group of bloggers who all own the same cookbook, Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Each week, someone chooses a recipe from the book that everyone is to try, and they blog about their adventures in pastry on Tuesday.  I've had this cookbook for about 2 years now, and though I use it very regularly (those of you who know me have probably eaten something from it at some point) there are still tons of recipes in there that I have not tried.

This week's selection,  is Sweet Potato Biscuits.  I love a good sweet potato biscuit, especially with ham.  However, despite my Southern origins, I have no aptitude for biscuit making, like, AT ALL.  None.  I can make scones, but not biscuits.  Muffins?  Sure.  Shortcake?  You betcha.  Yeast cinnamon rolls?  No problem.  Biscuits, though, give me fits.

I had everything on hand except the potatoes.  The recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes.  Um...really? What?

I have a very faint, very long-ago recollection of such an item, but my southern mind thinks "why?  why on this green earth would anyone need sweet potatoes to be in a can?  They're everywhere, and they are cheap!"  But then I went to my local grocery store and found to my surprise that sweet potatoes are apparently not that common (read: not abundant, not appealing, and not cheap) in my new Northeastern location, even in October.  (Also noted:  canned white potatoes are VERY popular.  The store was about clean out of them, and they weren't even on sale!  What do you do with those?) Well well.  So canned potatoes it is.  I still don't trust 'em, though. hmph.

The recipe's pretty straightforward biscuity madness.  Mix up dry stuff.  I used BOTH cinnamon and nutmeg. I'm boss like that.

Cut in butter.

I used Dorie's method of doing it by hand--literally.  Though I HATE having butter and flour all over my fingers (so unseemly), it works.

I stuck the bowl in the fridge while I drained and mashed the taters.  Into the flour and butter they go
and on to be cut.  The dough was pretty, all yellow with orange bits of potato.

I think I used a smaller cutter than intended, but whatever, they look cute!

Most of them are going to be frozen for later use.  Dorie's scones freeze beautifully, so I expected these would too.  They did.

I baked a few straight from the freezer.  They puffed and rounded a bit, but didn't really rise much.  No matter.  They're quite tasty.  Very sweet potatoey but not cloyingly sweet, nice and tender.   FABULOUS with bacon.  And so easy and fast!  Definitely adding to the rotation. They'll be great with ham for the next potluck I go to. Inhabitants of Northeastern Town: consider yourself warned.

19 October 2009


Tonight I realized I had no dessert about the house, and since I had a pretty early dinner (for me) I figured I needed something to distract me from cutting my wrists or kicking the TV while watching all the female characters on Mad Men wander around angrily doing nothing in pretty dresses.  I had a couple apples, but needed to save those for work.  I made chocolate lava cakes this weekend, but in each instance they left me wired for hours.  And I do need to be in at a reasonable time tomorrow.

What to do?  Make brownies, that's what!

I don't understand why on earth more people don't make their own brownies.   I'm not gonna lie, I grew up on brownies from a box too, but really, homemade brownies are really just about the fastest, easiest, most forgiving baked dessert there is.  Really.  I promise.  It's really hard to screw them up.  You have to work at ruining brownies.  They don't care about ingredient temperatures or mixing time.  They can be as simple or as fancy as you want, and chances are that if you ever bake at all, you have everything you'd need to make a pan in your kitchen right now.  You don't even need a mixer, just one bowl and a spoon.  And they are genuinely waaaaay better.  I decided to try making my own on a whim one day, and have never gone back.

I like my brownies simple.  My favorite recipe is adapted from the 1950 Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, (which I LOVE).  These brownies are chewy rather than squidgy, more cakey than fudgy, but that's what I like best (which is why I hate most bakery brownies, everyone does those heavy fudgy things).

First, you want to melt your butter (1/3 cup) and chocolate (2 oz) together.  My recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which I never have about the house, so I substitute 3/8 c cocoa and either 2 T butter or oil. Melt (double boiler or microwave, it doesn't matter) and mix together.

Then dump in a cup of sugar and two eggs.  Stir it all up.

At this point you can add flavoring if you want.  Or not.  I love vanilla, so I usually add a splash, and today I'm also including about 1/2 tsp of espresso powder for extra chocolate taste.  That's totally optional, though.

Now add in 3/4 c flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  You're supposed to sift them in, but these are brownies.  It does not really matter unless you have super lumpy flour, and if your flour is that lumpy...well, I can't help you there.  Stir.

I think brownies require walnuts, so I add about 1/2 cup or howevermuch looks right.  Spread your batter in a nicely greased 8 inch pan and bake for about 30 minutes on 350.

Cool.  Cut.  Apply to face.

15 October 2009

Ready, set...

Hello!  Welcome to Ornamental Confectionery.  I'm Miss Kate, your hostess.  As you can guess, I like to bake, I mostly bake sweet stuff, and I like decorating sometimes, too.    I mostly set up this blog because I am dying to participate in the Tuesdays With Dorie challenge, but I imagine other things will appear here, too.  I cook or bake something just about every day.  It might take me a minute to work out exactly what else I want to do, so bear with me.  I'm not sure if I want it to be a "food" blog per se because frankly I find them kinda boring, but who knows?  Look around, lemme know what you think, etc.

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