Thursday, July 31, 2008

County Fair Chiffon Cake


At around noon yesterday, a friend of mine invited me to go along to a local county fair. She then told me that there was a chiffon cake contest at the fair, and that I should enter. Now I’m not one to pass on a challenge, but this didn’t leave me a whole lot of time to plan and make a cake, especially since I don’t have a regular chiffon cake recipe I rely on. I started searching for ideas, and my mom suggested a watermelon flavored cake. I thought it would be fun to make the inside of the cake red, sprinkle chocolate chips into the batter, and cover the cake with green frosting so that it would look like a watermelon. Unfortunately I was rushing to get this ready, and so the outside didn’t look all that pretty. However, once it was cut, it looked pretty nice. I also thought it tasted nicely watermelony. Unfortunately, the cake didn’t win the competition, but it’s still pretty good.


Watermelon Chiffon Cake

1 ½ cups strained watermelon puree
1 ¼ cups + 2 Tbs granulated sugar
6 extra large egg yolks
¼ tsp grated orange zest
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
6 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup mini chocolate chips (As seeds, optional)
Red Gel Food Coloring (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the watermelon puree and 2 T of sugar in heavy bottomed sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce over high heat, until ¾ cup of the mixture remains (about 5 minutes). Set aside and let cool
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vegetable oil, vanilla, orange zest, and cooled watermelon puree
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ cup of sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and pour in the egg mixture. Fold them together until fully combined
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites using the whisk attachment. When they are foamy, add the cream of tartar and the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, firm, but not to the point of stiff peaks.
  6. Fold the egg whites into the batter, ¼ of the egg white mixture at a time. Add the food coloring with the first set of whites, so that it mixes well by the time you are done. Fold in the Chocolate Chips.
  7. Pour the batter into a 9 ½ inch tube pan. Smooth out the bottom. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, then use a knife to loosen it, and flip it on to a cooling rack


Watermelon Syrup

2 cups strained watermelon puree
½ cup sugar

  1. Mix watermelon and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan
  2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce by half (to 1 cup), about 7 minutes.
  3. Once Syrup is cool, use a pastry brush to liberally apply to the watermelon chiffon cake.


Vanilla Swiss Meringue Butter Cream

4 Large Egg Whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
Green Gel Food Coloring (optional)


  1. Put egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a double boiler. Whisk the eggs until they are foamy and warm to the touch (about 160 degrees)
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat, and pour them into the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Turn the heat off under the double boiler.
  3. Whip the egg white and sugar mixture on high speed until the eggs reach stiff peaks (I didn’t let mine get all the way to the stiff peaks phase, and as a result the frosting wasn’t really pipe-able).
  4. Once the eggs have reached stiff peaks, replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment. Add the butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Once the butter is fully incorporated and the frosting is smooth, add the vanilla and food coloring, and beat until combined.
  5. Chill the frosting until it is a spread able constituency, and frost the cake.

I drizzled a simple glaze made of water, powdered sugar, and green food coloring over the cake to try to make it look a little more like a watermelon, I didn't really think it added much though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chocolate Malted Sandwich Cookies


This is another recipe out of the Martha Stewart Cookie’s Book. I found that the cookies baked a little unpredictably (sometimes thinning out too much, and developing holes). I think part of the problem may have been that I didn’t use Dutch Process Cocoa, which effects how the cookies rise. I also originally thought that the filling was too malty, but once it was spread between two cookies, the flavor was distributed nicely. The cookies ended up as big, chewy sandwiches, and my friends were quite pleased with them.

Chocolate Malted Sandwich Cookies

Makes ~18 sandwiches

2 cups plus 2 Tbs AP Flour
½ Cup unsweetend Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
¼ cup plain malted milk powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup crème fraiche
3 Tbs hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

2. With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and crème fraiche

3. Lower the mixer speed to slow, and add the flour mixture until dough comes together.

4. Place tablespoons of batter on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets. Make sure the cookies are spaced at least 3 ½ inches apart (mine tended to grow together). Bake until flat and just firm, 10-12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Filling

10 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 Tbs unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
1 Cup plain malted milk powder
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup plus 2 Tbs half and half
1 tsp Vanilla

1. In the bowl of a double boiler heat butter and chocolate until just melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. With an electric mixer beat together the malted milk powder and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in the half and half, chocolate mixture, and vanilla. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Whip the filling on high speed until fluffy.

4. Put a large tablespoon of filling on the bottom of one cookie, and then press another cookie onto it to assemble.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jumping on the Bandwagon


Last week the New York Times published an article on how to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The secret, according to the article, was to let the dough age in the fridge for 36 hours, and to make sure that the cookies were adequately salted. I know that I’m not the first blogger to try this out, and probably won’t be the last, but I’m a big fan of a good chocolate chip cookie, so I decided that I would jump on the bandwagon and make these cookies. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, because I didn’t want to have to go to the grocery store. I used semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet, and all purpose flour instead of a mixture of bread and cake flours. I also decided not to sprinkle salt on the tops of the cookies, because I thought that was just a little outside of what I wanted to try. All in all I was very pleased with these cookies. The edges were nicely crispy, and the centers were soft. The salt in the dough definitely came through, and added some subtlety to the taste. Like Orangette, I strongly recommend sending these cookies away with other people, as otherwise you might consume them in dangerous quantities. I’ve reprinted the original David Leite, and Jacques Torres recipe from the Times below. I used 17 oz. of all purpose flour instead of the combination of cake and bread flours

NYT Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 5 inch cookies

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz.) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 ½ oz.) bread flour
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content, such as Ghirardelli
Sea salt, such as Maldon

1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla.

4. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Beat until dough just comes together. Beat in the chocolate chips until just incorporated.

5. Press plastic wrap directly on to the dough and put it in the fridge for ~36 hours.

6. Take the dough out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before you intend to bake the cookies, so that the dough can soften (I didn’t do this, and had to put the bowl into a big pan of warm water (from the tap, not heated on the stove).

7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the dough in a 3 oz ice cream scoop, or a 1/3 cup measure, onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats. Put only six cookies on a sheet. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown, but still soft.

8. Serve warm if possible.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Milestone and Martha


I got my 1,000th page visit today! Sitemeter tracks how many people come to visit my site each day, and today I passed one thousand. To be fair, it also tells me that most of those people stop at my site for only a second, and it seems that many of them arrive looking for something other than what they find. Nonetheless, I’m excited by it. I know that the big food blogs like Tartlette can get that many visits in a day, and that my average of 12 a day is rather meager, but it’s 12 times bigger than my average of between zero and one two months ago.

Today’s recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Cookies. A friend of mine chose the pear, pistachio and ginger blondies as the first recipe to test out of this book. The cookies were for a picnic, and so something light seemed appropriate (as opposed to something ridiculously rich and chocolately). The blondies turned out really tasty, and on the whole I think I like this book. The table of contents is brilliant: each recipe is listed with its own photo, and the page number. While this might make it harder to find a specific recipe if you know what you’re looking for, it makes it great for someone who is not sure what they want. The division of cookies by texture (cakey, sandy, etc), is also an interesting twist. I think I have to make a few more recipes from this book before I can pass any sort of final judgment (much to the glee of my friends), but the book has definitely made a good first impression on me. I also tried adding white chocolate to half of the cookies, because I thought it might be interesting, but the addition didn’t really do anything for me. Maybe if it had been white chocolate chunks instead of chips their presence would be more noticeable.

Martha’s Pear, Pistachio, and Ginger Blondies

Makes 1 nine inch cake pan of cookies, which is then cut into wedges

9 Tbs Unsalted Butter, softened, plus more for buttering
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp coarse salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup coarsely chopped dried pears (4 oz.)
¾ cup shelled pistachios (3 ¼ oz.)
¼ cup coarsely chopped candied ginger (1 ¼ oz.)

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Butter a nine inch cake or springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter it.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy ~3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4. Reduce the mixers speed to low, and add the flour mixture, beating until combined. Fold in the pears, pistachios, and ginger.

5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Smooth it out. Bake the cookies for about 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, rotating the pan half way through. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then either invert the cake pan or release the walls of the springform pan. Allow the blondies to cool completely.

6. Using a knife, cut the blondies into wedges. Martha suggests 12, But I cut mine into about 14.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Key Lime Cupcakes


So, here I was thinking I had this great idea, key lime cupcakes. I thought I would make a graham cracker cake, fill it with key lime filling, and top it with whipped cream. I felt very original. So off I went to google recipes for graham cracker cupcakes, and what did I discover, but that Garrett at Vanilla Garlic had already done it. Oops. But, he said his recipe was really good, so I figured I may as well try it. Two of my friends joined me for making these cupcakes. I changed the recipe just a little, I think to no real effect (instead of mixing whipped cream into the key lime filling, I folded in some egg white). I’ve reprinted Garrett’s recipe below, with my few modifications.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes
For me this made 21 cupcakes, Garrett said it made 12-14

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 cup of flour
1 ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.

2. In a food processor, or a heavy duty ziplock bag, pummel the graham crackers into crumbs.

3. Whisk together the flour, graham cracker, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. Add ¼ of the flour mixture and ¼ of the milk to the butter, and mix. Continue adding by alternating the milk and flour, until fully combined.

5. Fill the cupcake liners using a ¼ cup measure. Bake for 14-17 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Key lime filling
This makes more than is necessary for the cupcakes, use the rest in something else

5 egg yolks
1 tsp key lime zest
½ cup key lime juice (takes about 20 limes)
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1. Zest a few key limes, until you get enough zest. Then cut each key lime in half and use a juicer (I used the little hand kind) to get out the juice. I recommend putting a strainer over your juice container to catch seeds and pulp.

2. Beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color and become thick. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, the lime juice and the zest. Place in the fridge to set.

3. Here is where I differed from Garrett, I whipped up one of the egg whites with a Tsp of sugar, then folded about a cup of the egg whites into the lime filling. I didn’t find that this really did much. Garrett whisked in 2 cups of whipped cream. His way probably resulted in a thicker filling.

Whipped cream
I used only 1 cup of cream, Garrett used 3

1 Cup of whipping Cream
¼- ½ cup powdered sugar

1. Using chilled beaters, beat the cream and the sugar to stiff peaks.

Assembly
1. Using the cone method, fill the cupcakes with the key lime filling.
2. Frost the cupcakes with some whipped cream.