Summer Fruit Crostata – The relaxation of baking on spring break!

The other day I picked up a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, At Home, in the housewares section of Marshall’s.  Half price 🙂  Might as well start my cookbook collection at our vacation home in the sunny state of Arizona.  Friends have invited us for dinner so I decided to bake up a rustic pie.  I love the butter from Trader Joe’s.  It makes such a lovey crust and crumble on top.  Something about the butter tastes very fresh and creamy.  Hope everyone enjoys it!

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Ragged Rugelach – delicious but a disaster!

So this week was a Tuesdays with Dorie baking challenge.  For those unfamiliar with my earlier posts this is an online group of bakers who, together, are working our way through a baking cookbook, called Baking With Julia written by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday’s mission was fraught with mistakes for me.  I misread the instructions initially so found out too late that I needed to chill the cookies a second time overnight before baking.  First, the rugelach I am familiar with are rolled in a crescent shape.  These are pinwheels, which in my case fell apart in the oven.  This was a labour intensive recipe that required quite a bit of preparation of the ingredients.  I made the apricot lekvar from scratch which was quite tasty (must be the amaretto!).  I was disappointed that you could not see the lovely apricot spread after the cookies were prepared.  You can taste it but I am going to make them again rolling them into crescents and not overstuff ing with the filling.  I would like to see the mix of the apricot with the nut and dried fruit filling.  The cream cheese dough was very easy to work with and added a nice complexity to the taste.  So aside, from the terrible appearance – I felt like they looked like pieces of bone marrow – the taste in your mouth, was delicious.  In fact, they are very addictive.

All baker’s encounter disasters along the way including making mistakes reading the instructions.  Like life, as long as we learn from the mistakes, we will be better bakers
in the end.

A quick science lesson: Why brown sugar instead of granulated sugar?

I’ve always loved brown sugar but it wasn’t until I lived in Hong Kong that I realized its importance to my baking.  In Canada I had always used the same brand of light brown sugar.  In the grocery stores in Hong Kong, frequented by ex-pats from the UK and Australia, I found that there was a wide range of brown sugars available.  Unfortunately none of them did justice to my family’s favorite chocolate chip cookies.  I could never figure out why.  Was it the butter or the brown sugar?

This morning while reading an old copy of a magazine, Summer Entertaining from the Editors of Cook’s Magazine, I found a small article written by Erika Bruce titled Science: Why Brown Sugar Makes Chewy Cookies.  In the article the author discusses how substituting brown sugar for granulated sugar in a cookie recipe changed the texture.  She goes on to discuss the extra moisture in brown sugar, which burns off in the oven rendering not much difference between the sugars.  As it turns out, the difference is invert sugar which is not found in granulated sugar.

“How does invert sugar work its magic?  Invert sugar consists of glucose and fructose, two simple sugars.  Invert sugar is especially hygroscopic, meaning that it pulls water from wherever  it can be found, the best source being the air.  And invert sugar keeps drawing in moisture even after cookies have been baked, thus helping to keep them chewy as they cool.  So when it comes to chew in cookies, regular granulated sugar – with its lack of invert sugar – is simply no competition for brown sugar.”

So there is something to the science of brown sugar as it affects our baking.  Hope this helps you with your baking or at least helps explain why some recipes call for granulated and why others use brown sugar.