The Fabulous Baker Girl

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Biscuits and Beef Stew: A Classic Combination October 20, 2009

Pancakes, biscuits, and stew 036They are a classic combination.  At least to me.  They just go together.  I mean, you need the warm, flaky biscuit to sop up all the gravy leftover from the stew.  Of course, in my house you’re more likely to see a biscuit sopping up butter mixed with honey.  But that’s beside the point.

When fall hits and bathing suit season gives way to something less scary, all I want to do is hunker down and curl up with my favorite blanket and a good book or look out the window at the changing colors in the trees.  What better accompaniment could there be than stew?

When Erin or Prudence Pennywise ( chose sweet potato biscuits for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I thought what better time to have beef stew for dinner.

My recipe for beef stew was given to me by my mother-in-law.  It is my favorite kind of recipe — it is her recipe and now it is mine.  If it came from a cookbook, no one knows which one.  It the kind of recipe that the maker can truly claim.  My copy of the recipe is scribbled on the back of another recipe in my husband’s hand.   I love that.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I make it.  Plus, this is really good stew.  It’s warm, rich, beefy and loaded with veggies — although not rutabaga which is my mother-in-law includes.

The biscuits were a great addition with the stew.  I was a bit worried that the sweetness of the sweet potatoes might not go well with it,Pancakes, biscuits, and stew 033 but I worried for nothing.  They weren’t overly sweet and even though I added the optional cinnamon and nutmeg, I didn’t really taste them.  I could smell them while it baked though — mmmmmm….

What I loved about these biscuits is that you can make them with canned sweet potatoes.  I’m not usually a fan of canned food but this makes the recipe accessible and easy.  The biscuits are soft and flaky with just a hint of sweet.  They were really good with our honey butter.  I was wondering what they might taste like made with pumpkin.  Then I wondered what they would taste like covered in chocolate gravy (see my other post).  If I had any leftover, I would have tried that.  Maybe next time.

You can find the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s sweet potato biscuit on Erin’s blog.  The recipe for beef stew is below.

Happy Fall!

Beef Stew

Like many recipes from the home cook, I have no real amounts here.  I just add what looks right to me.  You’ll have to do the same.


Seasoning salt and pepperPancakes, biscuits, and stew 034


Stew meat (or a roast, cut up), about a pound

Onions, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

1 can Campbells’ Beef Broth

2-3 cans Swanson’s Beef Broth (yes, you need both kinds)

Carrots, chopped

Potatoes, chopped

Rutabage (if you must), chopped




Heat a bit of oil in a large pot.  While it heats, season your beef with seasoning salt and pepper.  Then, dredge with flour.  Brown meat in the oil along with the onions and garlic.

Add in about half the can of Campbell’s broth.   Be sure to scrape up all the flavorful stuff off the bottom of the pan.  Let come boil until it gets thick.  Add in the rest of the broth (both kinds).  Reserve one can of the Swanson’s broth in case you need it later.

Let this gently simmer for an hour or two.

After at least an hour, add in the carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga (if you must).  Let this simmer for about an hour more, or until veggies are nice and tender.  If you think you want to thicken the broth, take out about a half of the broth now.  You can also use some of the leftover broth.  If you think that you need more broth, add that in now too.

When the carrots and potatoes are tender, add in peas and/or corn and let cook until heated through.  Add some cornstarch to your reserved broth and then add that back into the stew, if needed.  Let come to a boil and cook until desired thickness.

Serve with biscuits, of course.


TWD: Split Level Pudding October 6, 2009

I have to confess that I really haven’t been baking lately.  I don’t know if it’s a combination of being busy or lazy or if it’s because in an effort to lose a few pounds I’ve just been staying away.  Or maybe it’s because my pumpkin doughnuts were just so darn good I can’t top them.

Whatever the reason, I still had my Tuesdays with Dorie to do.  I missed lack week I was busy and didn’t really manage my time well.  Since I don’t want to get kicked out, I figured I”d better get baking.

The Bottom Level

The Bottom Level

As it turns out, this weeks recipe doesn’t need to be baked.  Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla ( picked Split Level Pudding — a nice vanilla pudding on top of a layer of chocolate ganache.   Mmmmm…I think I can handle that.

I just finished making these puddings.  They are really quite fun but I do think that the vanilla pudding was a bit fussy to make.  First you have to blend the eggs and sugar and then add the hot milk and then put it all back on the stove to thicken and then back to the food processor to blend in the butter and vanilla.  It just seemed to me that there had to be an easier, less fussy way to do this.  As my head is in a bit of a fog right now, this was not the time for me to find out.  No experimenting for me — just the straight up recipe as written by Dorie.

I was a little worried about the pudding not being thick enough.  Actually…I am still worried, as I have yet to actually try this pudding.  I did taste it while it was warm (yum!) but it seemed a bit loose.  I am hoping that chilling it will firm it up a bit.  I’m really quite excited about trying this tonight.  I think that the hidden gem of ganache underneath will really complement the vanilla pudding.

I hope I can wait that long…

The Top Level

The Top Level

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls


TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets…Don’t let the name fool you! September 22, 2009

When I saw that Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes ( chose Cottage Cheese Pufflets for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  For some reason, I was thinking maybe they were a pancake of sorts.  Little did I know that these are actually cookies.  What a pleasant little surprise!  And they aren’t just any cookie.  They are filled cookies that look like a lot more trouble than they are.  The kind where people’s jaws drop open upon discovering that you actually made them.

cottage cheese pufflettes 007The most interesting thing about this recipe is that it does, indeed, have cottage cheese in it.  And butter.  A lot of butter.  The pastry dough is exceptionally easy to put together.  Just cream the butter, sugar and salt, add the cottage cheese and vanilla and process until completely smooth.  Then, pulse in your flour.  Done.

Unfortunately, the ease of making the dough itself is a bit offset by the difficulty the dough is to work with.  It requires a lot of chilling.  The recipe calls for three hours of chill time before rolling out, cutting, and assembling but you’ll find that it’s easier to chill, roll, chill again, and then cut.  The key to working with this dough is to work in small batches and keep it cold (and it does warm up quickly — at least it did for me because when I made these it was very hot and humid).

The recipe calls for the dough to be filled with jam.  I didn’t have any that I was happy with so I tried to figure out what I could use instead.  The obvious answer was chocolate so I went with that.  I whipped up some ganachecottage cheese pufflettes 008 and let that chill too so it was nice and firm.  Since I really liked the half-moon shape of the apple turnovers from last week, I decided to cut the dough into circles instead of the prescribed squares.  This did mean I had leftover dough, but we’ll deal with that later.  Because the dough isn’t very sweet and neither was the ganache, I topped the pufflets with some raw sugar.

My first batch turned out so pretty and they tasted pretty good too but now I was curious what they would be like with the jam.  That’s when it hit me that I had bought some dandelion jam on a whim at the farmer’s market over the summer.  I broke that out and gave it a try.  For those of you who have never had dandelion jam, it tastes a lot like honey.  Mine was also very sweet so I didn’t top these with any sugar.  I found the jam much harder to deal with.  The jam kind of oozed out of the sides as I tried to seal the cookies and I wasn’t left with much on the inside.  This version turned out much different from the chocolate version.  With the chocolate ganache, the cookie and filling remained separate while the dandelion jam pretty much melted into the dough and became a sort of glaze rather than a filling.  Both version were equally delightful though, so no complaints here.

As for the dough I had leftover…well, I knew that the pastry wouldn’t be as tender once it had been rolled out but I didn’t want to waste it.  Last week in my pastry class, I made some various things from puff pastry.  One of those things were palmiers which is fancily rolled puff pastry that is rolled in sugar, cut into slices and baked.  I decided to do the same thing with my leftover dough.  I covered my work surface with raw sugar and rolled out my dough.  I made sure both sides with covered.  Then I rolled the dough into a spiral.  After chilling, I cut them into slices and baked.

I think that these actually turned out to be my favorite.  Like I knew, the dough wasn’t quite as tender, but the sugar melted and gave a very nice, subtle caramel flavor.  I’m thinking I may make this again just do all of it like this.  Or I may try nutella.  Such tough decisions!

cottage cheese pufflettes 005


TWD: The Lime Pie that had Better be Worth it! August 25, 2009

Lime Cream Pie before covering

Lime Cream Pie before covering

So this for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, Linda of Tender Crumb decided on Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie.  After reading the recipe, I knew it was going to take some time to make.  I had planned to make it over the weekend, but that just didn’t pan out.

Instead, I made it yesterday and recruited the help of my daughter.  She loves to grate and juice.  This was the perfect recipe for her!  As she did that I made the graham cracker crust.  Things were cruising along and I figured this would be easier than I expected.


I don’ t think I’ve ever been so frustrated trying to bake something in my life!

The recipe says that bringing the lime cream to temperature would take about 10 minutes.  Well…it took me more like an hour and it still didn’t come to 180 degrees.  Near the end it finally dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with my thermometer.  I stuck it in a glass of ice water so I could calibrate it and, sure enough, the temp was way off — the wrong way.  So I thought my cream was at 150 degrees but it was actually at 145.


I finally just gave up and took it off the heat anyway.  By the time it had cooled slightly, it was so thick that I had to force it through the strainer to get rid of the lime zest.  I almost skipped that part.  I had a hard time incorporating the butter while blending.  By the time I was done, I had lime cream all over my my kitchen, on my shirt, and in my hair.  At this point I’m not sure why I’ve gone through all this trouble for something that isn’t chocolate.

Lime Cream Pie 015

I miss chocolate.

According to the recipe, the lime cream is supposed to be refrigerated for four hours before you put it in the pie crust and then another three hours after you add the meringue.  Seriously?  After all that work I have to wait?

I don’t think so.

Since my cream was so thick to begin with, I just added it straight to the crust and let it chill for awhile.  Then, since everyone was so anxious to eat it, I ended up adding whipped cream to it to cut the tartness instead of the meringue.

I know it’s not the exact recipe but by the end I was so exhausted (who knew standing at the stove constantly stirring for an hour could be so tiring?) that I am perfectly okay with that.  We all like fresh whipped cream better anyway.

As for whether or not this pie was worth it…well…it was good.  The texture was phenomenal.  So beautifully creamy — like butter (probably from the 2 1/2 sticks in the cream) — and perfectly tart.  I’m glad I took the trouble to strain the zest out because that would have ruined the lovely texture of the lime cream.  We all agreed that the whipped cream was a nice touch, adding a bit of sweetness to the whole thing.

I’m glad I made this pie.  I know my family enjoy trying new things and chocolate, as hard as it is for me to fathom, is not everyone’s favorite.   So, even though this wasn’t my particular favorite (still liked it though), it was worth it just to make my family happy.  If you are lime-lover, you’d be happy to make this too.  Just make sure your thermometer works.

To see the recipe for the Creamist Lime Cream Pie with Meringue, visit Linda at

Lime Cream Pie 016


TWD: Applesauce Spice Bars August 18, 2009

If you have ever read any of my blog, you will know that fruit is not really my thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a nice, crisp, coldrock cakes, baked eggs, and applesauce bars 011 apple or a juicy peach or plump, sweet grapes.  But fruit to me is…well…fruit.  It doesn’t belong in sweets.

Yet, time and time I seem to prove myself wrong.  Both banana bread and blueberry muffins are about as delicious as they come.  I was delighted with Nigella’s pineapple upside down cake and Dorie Greenspan’s apple crisp was fabulous.

And now Dorie has done it again.

This week Karen from Something Sweet by Karen ( chose Dorie’s Applesauce Spice Bars.  When I made them yesterday, I was feeling a little out of sorts.  I had just come home after being away for a few days so I guess I was just trying to get back in the swing of things.  I felt like I was trying to think of a hundred different things at the same time and not concentrating on any of them.  That was my state of mind as I approached this recipe.  The one day I needed chocolate I get stuck with apples.

Thank goodness it was so easy to prepare.  The hardest thing to was peel and chop the apple.  Which I forgot to do until I was ready to add it.  Oh well…no harm done.  I made myself follow the recipe to a T.  I’m not big on raisins but I added them anyway.  I used golden raisins which I find sweeter and nicer than regular ones.  I’m not a huge fan of nuts in baked goods like this but I put them in.  I’m not a drinker but I happened to have some rum on hand, which I added in lieu of the applejack (which I always figured was a cereal).

The batter for these bars is prepared in a saucepan after melted butter and brown sugar are mixed together.  I like that I didn’t need any special equipment, no electric mixer.  It was just me and the ingredients.  I started to relax a little.  After all how can melted butter and brown sugar be bad?

After the bars baked, I poured on the glaze (more melted butter, brown sugar, and, this time, cream) and waited for them to cool.  When it was time to make dinner, I snuck a bite.  They were still slightly warm but I discovered, to my delight, that they were pretty good.  After a few more minutes, I tried another bite.  They were really moist and good.  Before dinner was quite ready, I tried them again.  Wait a minute…I actually like these!  Before I knew it, I had nibbled away a whole end of the pan.  Luckily, it was the short end.  There aren’t a lot of raisins in so I hardly noticed them.  When I did, they just added a nice sweet plumpness.  The nuts were a nice contrast in texture that I didn’t mind a bit and you can’t taste the rum at all.

These are really a nice little snack bar — a great after school snack, or a sweet ending to lunch with friends, or a nice, light dessert after a heavy dinner served with a bit of vanilla ice cream.  I’d say these bars are a hit.  I guess I’m beginning to change my mind about fruit.  Maybe it can be a dessert.

Don’t get me wrong.  Chocolate will always reign supreme in my book, but a change can be nice too.

To view the recipe for Applesauce Spice Bars please visit Karen at


Tuesdays with Dorie: Brownie Buttons and Tempations August 11, 2009

Brownie Rounds 013

My second week with Dorie and imagine my delight in getting to make something chocolate.  Brownies, no less.  Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen, who chose these little gems, must really know her stuff.

Note to self:  peruse Jayma’s blog (!

I was excited to try these Brownie Buttons even though I am the self-proclaimed best brownie baker in the world and have the best recipe imaginable (hey, Howie agrees with me)!  Still, I am open-minded and love trying anything new.

Seeing that these were little bit-sized brownies reminded me of a cute little pan I saw.  It was made for brownies and was just like mini-muffins, only square-shaped instead of round.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to make an investment of this pan.  Especially since I had a 50% off coupon for Michaels.  I got the kids in the car and started to go.  Only I got to thinking.  Do I really need this pan?  Will I use it enough to warrant its use of my precious cabinet space?  Or would it too end up in my garage sale pile next to the Popsicle-shaped cake pan and the Twinkie-shaped pan?  Hmmm….alas, I decided it was not worth it and very reluctantly turned my car around and went to do some other shopping that actually was necessary.  Uh…that was hard but even at 50% off it seemed like a waste.  Of course, I still have that coupon and now I’m bhaving second thoughts.  Let’s hope I can stay strong.

But I’m off the subject now…let’s get back

These little brownies are so easy to make and come out just adorable using a plain old mini-muffin pan.  Ella decided to help me make them.  You may remember that she’s my chef, not my baker, so I a bit surprised she wanted to help.  I think it was her way of apologizing for being a bit, um,  shall we say…difficult when we were at the store earlier.  She was a huge help and other than melting the chocolate could probably have made the whole recipe without me.

The recipe calls for adding orange zest.  I did not plan for that so I didn’t have an orange.  Funny, since I almost bought one at the store the other day.  I must have been trying to tell myself something.  Luckily, this was optional and I don’t feel like I was missing anything by leaving it out.  Although Ella, who loves to grate and zest things, was a bit disappointed.  The recipe also called for bittersweet chocolate which I also didn’t have so I used 2 ounces of semisweet and a half of unsweetened.  As far as I could tell this didn’t affect the outcome at all.  The brownies turned out nice and moist and just the right amount of sweet and a whole lot delicious.

These are the perfect little sweet treat for after school or for dessert after lunch with friends.  Perhaps you have company for tea and want a little something sweet — these are just the thing.  Dipping the brownies into white chocolate dresses them up a bit and makes them extra special.  They definitely seem like more trouble than they are — which is such a nice thing.  It’s good to have easy little treats like these that still seem like something special in you repertoire.

So even if these Brownie Rounds did present me with a tempation or two (considering I probably shouldn’t eat anymore of them since I’ve already eaten most of them by myself), they are totally worth it.

Note: I’m new to Tuesdays with Dorie, so I’m not sure whether or not I’m supposed to post the recipes.  If you’d like the recipe for Brownie Buttons, please click on the link above for Two Scientist Experimenting in the Kitchen.  Thanks!


Tuesdays with Dorie: Classic Banana Bundt Cake August 4, 2009

Solar oven and banana cake 017

Classic Bundt Cake with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze

For those of you who don’t know, Dorie Greenspan is the author of Baking From My Home to Yours.  There is a group of organized bakers who choose recipes from the cookbook to try every week and then post about them on their blogs every week.  You can find them all at  I recently noticed that they were accepting new members so I decided to ask if I could join.  I haven’t heard word back yet about whether or not I was accepted, but on the chance that I am, I baked up this weeks recipe:  classic banana bundt cake.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this recipe.  On one hand, I had a bunch of overripe bananas that were destined for the freezer if I didn’t use them.  Not mention, banana bread is one of my very favorite things in the entire world.  On the other hand, this was not banana bread and I’ve never really understood the idea of banana cake.  Like I said, I love banana bread especially all warm and oozing with melted butter but this doesn’t seem to pass as dessert.

In any case, I was still enthusiastic to give the recipe a try.  When I looked at it I was relieved to see it was quite simple to put together.  The perfect thing to whip up while my soup was cooking.  I was joined in the kitchen by Melanie, my 4-year-old.  She likes to help when I bake.  She was particularly intrigued when I told her what we were making, but then again she thought we were making “butt cake”.  I’m still laughing at that.

As I said, this recipe was easy to prepare.  The only problem I had was that I didn’t have a bundt pan so I used a regular cake pan.  I probably should have used two but it all turned out okay in the end.  I loved the banana smell that filled the house.  It’s such a warm and comforting smell.

Not surprisingly, my three girls didn’t want banana cake for dessert.  Nothing but ice cream for them.  However, after my little one was asleep and my oldest one was up reading with Dad, Melanie asked me if she could have a piece.  She said she had “forgotten” to brush her teeth so she could still eat something.  She sat on my lap and ate a slice.  It was a very big hit.  She made all the “MmMMMmmmmm!!!!” sounds you could imagine and said it was “Delicious!”.

I have to agree.  It was delicious.  Even without the proper pan, the cake baked up moist and surprisingly cake-like with a rich but not overpowering banana flavor.  It was just the right amount of sweet.  Even though Dorie says that it tastes better the next day, I ate two slice while still warm from the oven.  I’m not sure how it could get any better.  I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

I’d have to say that this first Tuesday with Dorie was a success.

Although I do have to admit, to me, like I had predicted, this is much more of a snack cake.  You won’t find me serving this cake for dessert anytime soon but I think it may just find it’s way onto my breakfast table.  Or my snack plate.  Or my lunchbox.  Or…most notably, in my stomach.