Oh, Tom, how I love your food and desserts! And, what a month it was. November was the perfect month to explore The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook with all the pies, tarts, and brunch-type foods. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?
Tom’s Tasty Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Croutons (p.342) I’ve think I’ve finally found my go-to tomato soup recipe! The soup was simple, quick, made with things you should have in your cupboard at all times (canned or preserved tomatoes, onions, garlic, and assorted spices). Despite using canned tomatoes, the soup tasted really fresh. I used a bit less cream than it called for and it was fantastic. Go ahead and use the called for amount, if you prefer, but I tend to like my tomato soup on the blended-put-not-creamy side.
Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Avocado (p. 344) Grilled cheese AND bacon AND avocado! Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, I’ll just put it out there. It was just too effing much. I might differ from other grilled cheese lovers here, but enough already.! Enough with the bigger-is-better philosophy. Just enough. More isn’t necessarily better. A lot of times, it is simply just too much. A grilled cheese sandwich with ~2 oz of cheese, 2 pieces of bacon, and ¼ of an avocado + a “generous spread” of butter on each slice is just too much. Too much heavy greasiness and fat. Not in an avoiding-dietary-fat sort of way. No, I don’t go down that road. People need some amount of dietary fat. This is more in a “holy shit, that is a lot of greasiness-per-bite and I’m going to vomit if I eat it” sort of way. It seems it is just how it is anymore though. When I go out to eat and see a grilled cheese on the menu it reads like a competition to see how many types of cheese and other items one can add to the sandwich. And, you know, I am not opposed to big ol’ messy sandwiches. I love them. But if the ingredients all you leave you with one big greasy mouth feel it is too much. Fine, keep the greasier elements. But add in some arugula. Or pickled vegetables of nearly any kind. Something. Just cut the grease with something. Please.
Parsley Chive Scones (p.86) I really like a savory scone and these were pretty good. We had them with the tomato soup, which was sort of ok. The recipe called for a teaspoon of lemon zest. In general I am a fan of lemon in zest in just about anything, but I found I liked the scones best on their own. Warm and savory, but with lemon, they were good. But paired with soup or eggs the combination was a bit off for me.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel (p.106) Oooh, now this was great! What is not to love about butter, sugar, sour cream, and eggs?! I used a mix of frozen blackberries and blueberries from summer. Have company over or be ready to bring some to friends because it makes a full, thick 9 x 13 pan! I’ll halve it next time since there are just 3 of us in our home.
Dahlia Bakery Granola (p.110) The awesome thing about granola is that you can customize it to your hearts content. Don’t like pecans? Leave them out. Have cranberries instead of apricots? Substitute. Keep the basics in very rough proportions and tinker away. I already have a granola recipe that I adore, but I’m always on the lookout for new additions or things I haven’t tried. In my Cook the Books endeavors I am doing as little substitution as possible to get a true sense of the recipes as written, so I followed this completely except substituting pistachios for hazelnuts (don’t really like them). This recipe was good. Really good. I didn’t like the addition of sesame seeds so when I make it again, I’ll leave those out. But the proportions of wet-to-dry and add-ins to base all seemed spot on and, on the whole, I love it!
Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies with Fresh Ginger (p.135) These were a major hit. Both the Babylady and I love molasses and/or ginger cookies. I put in more fresh ginger than called for because I always wish the cookies I buy in coffee shops managed to keep the great molasses-i-ness but had more ginger. I’m glad I did and they were an absolutely perfect soft molasses/ginger cookie. Oh, and he called for flattening them before cookie which I haven’t done with ginger cookies before. I think I squished them a bit *too* much because they were pretty thin. It didn’t matter though and they were still perfect. They are long gone and I am sad.
Flaky but Tender Pastry Dough (p.183) Oh, how I sometimes regret getting rid of my food processor. Once I got the Vitamix, I rashly assumed I didn’t need the processor anymore and sold it on craiglist. The Vitamix is amazing for pretty much everything. Everything, that is, except for making pastry dough (or shredding cheese/grating carrots). I managed to mix up some great dough anyway with the Kitchenaid. I used whole wheat pastry flour because for some reason I couldn’t find white pastry flour. Only whole wheat. Which, was fine, but still odd that I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it at 3 stores. I really liked how it turned out using WW pastry flour, but would like to make it as written to compare. Tom has very thorough instructions on how to roll, shape, and bake your crust whether it is single, double, or hand-held versions. Follow closely what he says about edges (see the apple pie below, for what not to do).
Silk Chocolate Cream Pie (p.167) Tom called for pecan crust, but we all hate pecans here, so I went for the flaky but tender pastry dough. This was the first pie crust I ever made. And, it worked perfectly. I overcooked it a bit in the blind bake, but still it was as flaky as it could have been in the overcooked state. And, 3 days later, it was still perfect! The crust wasn’t soggy. The chocolate wasn’t weepy. The whipped cream topping was still set. It was damn good. Which is saying a lot since I am not really a fan of chocolate desserts in general.
Sugar Pumpkin Crème Pie (p.194) Pumpkin pie is usually pretty meh. Not bad. Not great. Just sort of dutifully makes it’s texturally weird appearance. When I saw Tom’s recipe for the sugar pumpkin crème pie, I was intrigued. Here was a pumpkin pie I could stand behind! The blind baked flaky but tender pie crust is covered with a layer of crushed gingersnaps and butter and topped with the a mix of pumpkin purée with a crème anglaise. Yes. It was fantastic. When I make it again I’ll use a bit less heavy cream so it isn’t quite so rich, but oh.my.god. this pie is good. We topped it with the sugar cranberries and some powdered sugared pastry leaves. I’m a pumpkin pie convert.
“Hot Buttered Rum” Apple Pie (p. 199) Tom gives very clear instructions on how to use the tender but flaky pie dough. He tells us that because it is a softer dough, with a large proportion of pastry flour, that the rim should not be fluted or high (or otherwise decorated much) because it will collapse. Head this warning. Because if you do not, it will collapse and it will spill over. Being the pie newbie, I made cute leaf cut out edges that overlapped the edge of the pan. I checked in on the pie and the crust was dripping down on the drip pan below. I quickly shoved it back up with a knife. It solved the problem, but resulted in a far-less pretty pie than it should have been. The pie was good though! I couldn’t taste the rum too much (or perhaps, I was too far into my Rye Sours** to notice….), but the pie was great! The crust was perfect, though ugly. The apples (gravenstein, as called for) I used got soft quicker than I expected, so I’d keep a better eye on that next time. But, first fruit pie, I’m calling it a success!
I didn’t get to many things I wanted to make. Such as the English Muffins. Or the Coconut Cream Pie. I won’t say I was too busy. We are all busy in our own ways and I’m trying to stop saying that. We all make choices. Instead of cooking when I could, I opted instead to commune with the sofa and a giant pile of old movies. Choices. And, in the end, I feel it was a pretty rocking mix of choices. A good start on The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. And a good start on the embarrassingly long list of movies I haven’t seen. Win-win. The coconut pie is still coming this weekend though. It is my mom’s favorite also, so I saved it till she would be visiting.
- Did the recipes taste good? Totally. With the exception of the average scones (and the more-is-better-ification of the grilled cheese), I loved everything.
- Would I use it again? Yes. There are still a lot of things I need to get to. I’m still after the english muffins and coconut cream pie, as I mentioned. But I can’t wait to make the apple dumplings with date butter, peanut butter sandwich cookies,and the pear tart.
- Is it reliable? Yes, the directions were clear and instructive. I really appreciated all the information about how to mix, roll, shape, and bake pastry dough. As a life-long pie dough avoider, it helped me feel confident.
- Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort? Yes! None of mine were as pretty as the book versions. But everything turned out great and nothing was difficult.
So here we are– the end of the November review and starting up the last month of Cook the Books! with Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. Wow! Can’t wait to see what you do for December!
**Rye Sour was the Thanksgiving cocktail of choice: Proportions vary, but this is what we did: 2.5oz rye (we used Bulleit), 1 oz simple syrup, ¾ oz lemon juice. Shake with ice. Pour over ice. Give it a red wine float (we used a syrah).