Thursday, January 29, 2009


My second official Daring Baker's challenge took place this month. I had missed the two prior because of the holiday madness, but was anxious to jump back in. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake my day and Zorra of 1x umruehen bitte aka Kocktopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

I was excited to tackle this one head on - it being a much simpler recipe this month, leaving us more wiggle room for creativity.

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes,
baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste.
Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations.

Bake tuiles in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain
tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking.

Tuile stencils were not something I had in my arsenal of cooking tools, so I cut patterns out of cardstock after I decided what the accoutrement was going to be.

I have to admit that I made more work for myself by making the chocolate mousse from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child. I had never done an egg-based mousse before. Turned out not to be that difficult, just more time consuming than I had planned. To add a creative twist, I spiked it with cinnamon, chile powder and the smallest amount of cayenne, ending up with a spiced cocoa mousse.

In order to signal that the mousse was something out of the ordinary (more to come on that later), I designed a fire template and decorated the tuiles with red and orange flames.

I didn't take a lot of photos of the process this time, but included are some of the finished product.

Tuiles are a great cookie to make if you want to impress. They are not technically difficult to make, yet they look complicated because of their delicacy.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Blue Tractor with a flat tire

Last night I took my parents to a relatively new place in town, Blue Tractor Brewery. The ambiance is perfectly achieved. Seems like they executed the exact feeling they must have been going for. So I expected the food to be above par as well, but I would have to say that it fell a little flat. I'm a picky audience, to be sure. With the Z Roadhouse in town, the owners would have to know that the BBQ on the menu would be compared with the almost flawless execution over there. The menu descriptions were very enticing - so much so that we all had a hard time deciding exactly what we would order. We started off with an appetizer of beer battered onion rings. Honestly this was the best thing that we had all night. The batter was seasoned very well, and they filled that greasy-tapas need that we seem to thrive on.

For an entree I had the cowboy reuben, with brisket, jack cheese, and coleslaw on pumpernickel. It just didn't wow me; in fact it seemed like something that you could get at a high achieving diner. The brisket, although sliced pretty thin, was not the right consistency for the sandwich. One bite and the whole piece came out of the sandwich. The sweet potato fries were tasty, but lacked salt, and the sauce "tomato ranch" that came with them was too mild. I ended up doctoring it with hot sauce on the table. My sis ordered the pulled pork which was okay, however sweeter than I like it. My dad got the "red short ribs", and they were average, easily made better in my own kitchen. What disappointed me the most was the mac and cheese. For a BBQ joint, this should be the thing around which all else revolves. No such luck. It was very undersalted, even my little ones were asking for the salt. A few bites definitely did not leave you craving that one more.

Nothing at the Blue Tractor was bad, but I left with the impression that had they put as much attention to the food details as they did to the decor, we'd have another winner for Ann Arborites. In the meantime, I'll hope they keep tweaking what they've got.