Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Fall State of Mind

Both Sara and I are missing the typical New England fall a little bit these days.  Crunchy leaves.  Crisp weather.  Apple picking.  Cider and donuts.

So we were excited for this challenge, as it gave us the opportunity to make our own donuts--a first for both of us--and enjoy some fall traditions.  We heated up some home-made hard cider and made a roasted pumpkin dish for a hearty lunch to fuel our donut making.

The smiley face we found on our pumpkin foreshadowed the ones on our faces throughout this challenge.  Donuts were fun to make, and, of course, even more fun to eat. We decided to do a batch of pumpkin pie-spiced yeasted donuts and a batch of traditional cakey cider donuts. (A big thank you to Cat - master of reduction - who helped us out with the cider donuts.)

Exciting times: Sara hosted our monthly challenge in her new apartment.  And we got to use her new mint green mixer.  Isn't it lovely?  Doesn't that cider look tasty?  (It was.)

We were a little worried about the yeasted donut dough because it was quite sticky and required a lot of extra flour, but it ended up turning out fine.  We got creative with our donut cutting implements--a martini glass for the outside, and a champagne glass for the inside.  Sara's abundant glassware is one of the many reasons that she needs to host a party in her new digs.

The yeasted donuts looked perfect, and here they are about ready to rise.

The cider donut dough was also a little sticky, but similarly worked out in the end.  As you can see, our first attempt at cutting these smaller donuts with glassware resulted in a too-big hole.  So we opted to cut the center hole by hand, with great results.

Waiting for the oil to heat up to perfect frying temperature...  Aren't the little swirlies neat?

Frying the donuts!  This was so exciting to do, though a little scary since we discovered that Sara's apartment did not come with a fire extinguisher.  We were pretty sure her neighbors had one.  Luckily, we never needed to find out.

 Frying the little donut holes.  It was neat to see the yeast donuts immediately float on the surface, whereas the cider donuts sank, and then gradually floated up.

The finished product!  Our donuts turned out beautifully.  One of our more aesthetically pleasing challenges, which is pretty rare for us.

More importantly, they were absolutely delicious.

And in the spirit of fall, donuts and Halloween:

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

The donut recipes we used were:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sugar Cookie Encore

When I saw the September challenge, I quickly emailed Erica, quoting the challenge:

"It took me a long while to decide on a challenge and eventually I settled on something that I had never done before but had long admired. Decorated Sugar Cookies, and I’m not talking random squiggles and dots, I’m talking about beautifully decorated cookies that are perfect to give as a gift or to make for party or wedding favours."

I'm pretty sure this means that you have to help me make, say 240 cookies to give out as wedding favors. How does that sound? :-)
Her response:

Ooooo!!! Definitely a sign, though not for 240 cookies :)

So instead we gathered in early September to make some fall themed cookies (and some to celebrate my friend's birthday).

We started with some very easy sugar cookie dough. I make a lot of cookies, and this one was very simple (and sadly, not very tasty...). We looked through Erica's collection of cookie cutters, finding only a star of david and some other not-quite-fall-appropriate shapes. So we rolled out the dough and began some freeform shapes, deciding that fall leaves were the most achieveable.

Once the cookies were baked, we tried our hand at decorating. Our baking skills generally fall into oh-so-tasty, rather than oh-so-pretty. However, we did succeed in making some of them look presentable (I must confess, however, that we largely stole ideas from other daring bakers....).

We took them outside for a beautiful September day photo shot - notice the view straight to the bay!

So while these cookies were not meant to be wedding favours (or really for consumption by anyone), our wedding guests were not want for homemade treats. Cookies (of a more tasty variety) were made...

And beer was brewed by Erica and her boyfriend...

We were pretty happy campers!