Sourdough Surprises challenged us this month to make popovers. How fun! I don’t make popovers very much since they are best eaten fresh and there are just two of us. Popovers are one of those baked goods that go through an amazing transformation. They start out as a batter very much like a thin pancake batter, but they puff dramatically in the oven and typically rise to nearly twice their size. The outside is crispy and golden and the fluffy interior usually surrounds a hollow in the center which can be filled with all sort of yummy fillings after baking or it can be eaten plain.
Here is the baking process, going from almost nothing to tall and golden. Magical!
For this challenge I was tempted to make a sweet popover, but in the end I decided on a savory Toad-in-the-Hole version. Toad-in-the-Hole popovers are simply popovers that are baked with a bit of sausage in the bottom of the muffin tin or popover pan. It makes the popover just a bit more flavorful and substantial. I used the King Arthur Sourdough Popover recipe and added two rounds of browned chicken pesto sausage in the bottom of the tin. To my surprise, the sausage didn’t stay in the middle but rose with the popovers. So I guess I have Toad-on-the-Top Popovers instead of Toad-in-the-Hole Popovers. They were delicious and, much to my surprise, reheated all right too though they were at their best hot (and tallest) right from the oven. The sausage pairs nicely with the lightly eggy flavor of the bread and I could detect a faint note of sourdough too. They would be great at a brunch.
Author: BakeNQuilt.com adapted from King Arthur Flour
Recipe type: Breakfast
Crispy and airy popovers with a bit of sausage inside
1 cup (8oz/227g) milk
½ cup (4.5oz/128g) sourdough starter, fed or unfed
¾ tsp salt
1 cup (4.25oz/120g)all-purpose flour
1-2 pre-cooked sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces
Heat a muffin or popover pan in the oven while it’s preheating to 450°F.
If desired, brown the cooked sausage pieces in a small pan.
In the microwave or in a small saucepan, warm the milk until it feels just slightly warm to the touch.
Combine the warm milk with the eggs, sourdough starter and salt, then mix in the flour. Don’t over-mix; a few small lumps are OK. The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, about the consistency of heavy cream.
Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray it thoroughly with non-stick pan spray, or brush it generously with oil or melted butter.
Place a few sausage pieces in the bottom of the cups. Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill cups all the way to the top. Space the popovers around so there are empty cups among the full ones; this leaves more room for expansion.
Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.
Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately.
This cookie came to me in a very round-about way – from my friend’s husband’s father’s childhood babysitter! It’s a family favorite in her household and I can see why. Though it’s origins claim to be that of a Spritz cookie, these are hand shaped instead of squeezed through a cookie press. I modified the recipe slightly to use peppermint oil instead of peppermint extract for a stronger flavor and I rolled them in sparkling decorator sugar as I love the sparkle for the holidays. They remind me of mint chocolate chip ice cream in cookie form. I think these will become a favorite in my household as well.
The We Should Cocoa challenge, managed by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog, is a great excuse to make a chocolate treat and to use our creativity. The idea is to make something with chocolate each month. We can use any sort of chocolate or cocoa substance and use any ingredient that we like, but we must include the special ingredient or theme selected by the host. December’s Challenge is hosted by Chocette and the theme is alcohol.
I thought that the perfect holiday/booze combo for this challenge would be the much-maligned fruitcake. I always thought fruitcake was kind of gross – all that weirdly fluorescent candied “fruit” in a spiced and boozy base. However, I’ve been a convert in recent years as I’ve tried more elegant fruitcakes that are like vanilla pound cake, but with gourmet dried Montmorency cherries instead of the candied cherries and the occasional addition of chocolate chips.
This year, I decided to try Chocolate Fudge Fruitcake from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Houghton. It’s definitely worth making, even for the most fruitcake-phobic, and has been on my list to try for a while. Why did I wait so long? This fruitcake is a gem – dense and fudgy cake filled with brandy-soaked dried cherries, raisins and cranberries and with chocolate chips for good measure (I still can’t bring myself to use candied fruit). It’s kind of a dressed up adult brownie in loaf form. It may not be as pretty as traditional fruitcake, but it’s a cake that everyone will be happy to get. I made mini-loaves to give away for the holidays although I’m thinking not all of them will be leaving my house!
Author: BakeNQuilt.com adapted from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2 loaves
Fudgy chocolate cake filled with brandy-soaked dried fruit and chocolate chips
1 cup (8oz/227g) brandy
1 cup (5.5oz/160g) dried sour cherries
1 cup (4 oz/113g) dried cranberries
½ cup (3oz/85g) raisins
4 oz (113g) unsweetened chocolate
1½ sticks (6 oz/170g) unsalted butter
1½ cups (10.5oz/ 297g) granulated sugar
6 eggs (10.5oz/ 300g) separated
2 ( 10oz/280g) cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup (6oz/170g) chocolate chips
In a medium bowl, pour ½ cup brandy over the dried fruit. Let stand 2-3 hours or overnight.
Grease two 9x59x inch loaf pans. Line with parchment paper and grease parchment.
Preheat oven to 250F/121C.
Melt chocolate in a microwave or double boiler until melted and smooth when stirred. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, 2 at at a time, beating well after each addition. eat in cooled chocolate until well blended.
Sift together flour and baking powder. Add to chocolate mixture along with ¼ cup brandy. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and brandied fruit mixture with it’s liquid.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites with clean, dry beaters on high speed until almost stiff. Gradually beat in the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate batter.
Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly and smoothing the tops.
Place pans in the oven. Set a shallow pan of water on a rack below pans. Bake 2½ hours (replenishing water as needed), until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (there may be melted chocolate from the chips, but there shouldn’t be any wet batter).
Let cakes stand 15 minutes, then take the cakes out of the pans.
Pour 2 Tbsp. of brandy over each cake. Let cool completely. Wrap cakes in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil. Store in the refrigerator 3 to 4 weeks, sprinkling with additional brandy 2 or three times during the aging period.