Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas


Whether you celebrate it by going to church, eating Chinese food, going to the movies (my own family's tradition) or doing nothing at all, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. My friend Jess and I made gingerbread houses again this year, so, and I thought this would be a good day to post them. We used the same recipes and schematics as last year. Have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies!


It seems I’m running out of time to post about the Christmas cookies I made this year. What, after all, is the point of posting Christmas cookies after Christmas? It’s not as if anyone makes New Years Cookies. So, without further delay, here are the Christmas cookies I made this year. For those who don’t know, I have a Christmas cookie party every year in early December. For us law students that is the time directly preceding finals, and so it’s known for being a bit stressful. Getting people together with their favorite cookies (everyone brings some), along with some milk, nog type drinks, or whatever else they can think of. This year I made two kinds of cookies, a family favorite peppermint cookie, and the better than brownie cookies from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Both kinds of cookies were good, but the brownie cookies were really big hits, and were all gone by the end of the evening (which could not be said for any other kind of cookie. If you’re looking for a cookie with just the flavor of pure chocolate, I strongly recommend these cookies. The peppermint guys are good too, but they tend to lose their crispness quickly (after a day or two). This can be rectified by re-crisping them for a few minutes in a warm oven.

Peppermint Cookies

Makes ~ 40

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 tsp peppermint extract
¾ tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups ground peppermints

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and 1 cup of the sugar until fluffy.

2. Add eggs and extracts, mix until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter in three parts.

3. Combine the crushed peppermints with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar.

4. Form the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the crushed peppermint. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until golden and just firm.

5. Let cool on the baking sheet briefly, then remove to a cooling rack.



Better than Brownie Chocolate Cookies

Makes ~ 30 (Tracey says 24, I got more though)

2 2/3 cups (about 16 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.

2. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.

3. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine well. Slowly add the dry ingredients, folding them into the batter.

4. Once all of the flour is incorporated, fold in the chocolate chips. This dough will be more like a batter (it’s very runny), that’s how it is supposed to be,

5. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Like I said, the dough will be a little runny. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are firm on the outside. Like brownies, do not overbake! Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets.


And, if anyone has ever wondered where my penchant of baking comes from, here is a picture of all of the Christmas cookies my mom made this year. I can count 8 different kinds in that photo, and I can testify that they are all delicious.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's French For Melted

That’s right, it’s Fondue. Everyone favorite melted dessert from Switzerland. With the weather turning cold it seemed like the right season to invite people over to eat some well heated foods. Rather than sticking to one kind, I went ahead and made the traditional cheese and chocolate fondues, and then as a third, made pumpkin pie fondue with white chocolate and bourbon. That’s right, three fondues (I don’t own three pots, two were borrowed). All three were excellent, and were eaten up by the end of the evening. The chocolate and cheese fondues were both as you’d expect, but I thought the pumpkin was great (maybe just because it was my own idea), it really tasted like warm pumpkin pie, with a good kick of bourbon in it. Perfect for winter. Also, as a side dish I made ground up pecan praline, so that you could roll something dipped in chocolate or pumpkin in praline. Anyway, I’ve provided all of the recipes here, as well as suggestions for things to dip. I recommend preparing all of these in pots, and then pouring the fondues into the serving pots, as you’ll have better control of the heat over an oven, than over a sterno or whatever you call the controller in electric pots.

Cheese Fondue (From Simplyrecipes)

½ lb gruyere cheese, shredded
½ lb Swiss cheese, such as Emmenthaler or Jarlsberg, shredded
2 T cornstarch
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved crosswise
1 cup dry white wine
1 T lemon juice
1 T kirsch (optional)
Pinch fresh nutmeg

1. Toss the cheese and cornstarch together in a freezer bag and set aside.

2. Rub the inside of the pot with the garlic and discard. Add the wine and lemon juice, bring to a simmer over medium heat.

3. Gradually add the cheese, stirring constantly in a zigzag motion (this helps to keep it from becoming stringy). Do not let it boil.

4. Stir in the kirsch and nutmeg, transfer to serving pot

Suggested dippers

  • French or Italian Bread
  • Cut and blanched vegetables (broccoli, carrots, asparagus)
  • Sausage, other cubed meats
  • Pretzels
  • Apples and Pairs

Chocolate Fondue (Also from Simplyrecipes)

12 oz dark chocolate, chopped
8 oz heavy cream
Frangelico or Amaretto (to taste)
Pinch of salt

1. Put the chocolate chopped in the fondue pot. Bring the cream to a simmer on the stove. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds (If this sounds surprisingly like making ganache, that’s because that’s basically what it is).

2. Stir in the frangelico and salt. Keep over very low heat

Suggested dippers

  • Fruits (apples, pears, bananas, pineapples)
  • Pound or Angle-food Cake
  • Graham crackers
  • Peanut butter cookies (indulgent but wonderful)

Pumpkin Pie Fondue

1 cup milk
1 cup pureed pumpkin
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
Pinch cloves
Pinch nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1/3 cup bourbon
Splash bitters (optional)

1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, pumpkin and spices, bring to a light simmer. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in the white chocolate; continue stirring until it has melted. Add the bourbon and bitters, stir to combine. Transfer to fondue pot and keep over low heat.

Suggested dippers

  • Graham cracker
  • Gingersnaps
  • Pound or Angel-food cake

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

Ok, I’m back, and this time with some really great soup. I got the recipe from here, and made only a few modifications. I added some roasted corn, from one cob. I also pureed everything using a stick blender directly in the pot, rather than transferring it all to a blender.

Roasted Tomato Soup

3 lbs Roma Tomatoes, halved
3 Cloves Garlic, whole
1 Yellow Onion, halved and quartered
5 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
2 - 3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1/2 of a Chipotle chili in Adobo Sauce, seeded
Kernels from one ear of corn, roasted
Sea Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Finely chopped basil (fresh or dried)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Put tomatoes, onions, garlic and thyme in a roasting pan, toss with olive oil, and place in the oven. Roast for about 30-35 minutes. Remove the skin from the garlic and discard the thyme.

2. In a large pot combine the roasted veggies with the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Add the corn and chili. Puree with a stick blender.

3. Remove from heat and let cool to an edible temperature. Garnish with salt, pepper, and basil (some chopped bacon would be a good addition too).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

So, this is a terrible picture, sorry about that. But I baked these on the morning after my Halloween party, and had to have them ready for later that morning. A friend of mine had a birthday brunch recently, and so I decided to try this recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls. The pictures and the recipe sound so promising, but these just didn’t wow me. Just as likely it was my own fault, and not the fault of the recipe. I did make mine miniature, and so maybe the result was that I overbaked them or something. But, whatever it was, I thought they were tough, and not particularly sweet. All and all, I don’t think I would make these again.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Makes

Dough

8 ounces (1 cup) cooked pumpkin or winter squash puree (canned pumpkin)

2 large eggs

1 to 2 ounces (2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup) lukewarm water*

2 ounces (1/4 cup) soft butter

10 1/2 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

7 ounces (1 3/4 cups) white whole wheat flour

1 ounce (1/4 cup) nonfat dry milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

few grates of fresh nutmeg

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons instant yeast

*Start with smaller amount of water and adjust as needed.

Filling

5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar

1 3/4 ounces (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

pinch each of salt, freshly grated nutmeg, and ground cloves

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) crystallized ginger, minced

2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) pecans, chopped and toasted

Glaze

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1. Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients together by hand or mixer until you’ve made a soft, fairly smooth dough. You can dump it all into the bowl at once and then mix until the sticky dough holds its shape.

2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, until it’s almost doubled in bulk.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface. Gently deflate the dough and then roll it into a 14″ × 22″ rectangle. The dough will be thin.

4. Mix the sugars, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves together for the filling. Brush the melted butter over the dough and then evenly sprinkle on the filling, leaving one short edge free of filling (to make it easier to seal when rolled into a log). Gently press the filling into the dough. Sprinkle the crystallized ginger, dried cranberries, and pecans atop the filling.

5. Starting with the short end that’s covered with filling, roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into 12 rolls using a serrated knife or dental floss.

6. Place the rolls into a lightly greased 9″ × 13″ pan that’s at least 2″ deep (or 2 round cake pans). Set aside, covered, to rise for 1 hour, or until the rolls look puffy.

7. Bake the rolls in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re lightly browned and feel set. Remove them from the oven, and set them on a rack. Turn them out of the pan, and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes. Towards the end of the cooling time, make the glaze.

8. To make the glaze, whisk together the sugar and maple syrup. I added a little milk as well to thin it out. Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halloween

So, it’s only two weeks, past Halloween, so just in time for me to post what I made for my Halloween party. Unfortunately I didn’t really get many pictures of what I made, so instead I’m just going to post links to what I made (it all came from other blogs), along with some brief reviews, although in truth it was all good.

Main: Chicken and Chorizo Sliders

These were great. The chorizo and jalapeno added some nice spice, and the chicken was tasty and moist. I cooked these up on my George Foreman, and I didn’t think they took a full 7 minutes a side. I also made the avocado mayo along side, which went nicely. My only problem was that I couldn’t find slider buns, so I had to use regular hamburger buns, with the result that these were a little bready. Of course, I made a double recipe of these, and by the end of the evening they were all eaten, so no one seemed to complain.

Dessert: Cinnabon Caramel Corn

This stuff was a little like popcorn crack. I made one batch with light brown sugar, and regular corn syrup, and another with dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup (this has much more to do with my having run out of the light stuff after the first batch, and not too much with creativity). The molasses flavor was very nice though, and complemented the other flavors nicely. My only other comment was that this took longer to bake than I was expecting, and letting it bake fully is important. The popcorn gets soggy from the addition of caramel, and the baking really is needed to dry it out. That said, this is super easy to make, and totally worth it.

Other Dessert: Chocolate cupcakes

For these I used one of my own recipes, so I’ve recopied it below. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what exactly was in the buttercreams, because I just threw it together. I made it with a pound of butter, probably about the same amount of powdered sugar, and some vanilla. I then divided it into thirds, left some as vanilla (which I added red food coloring to, so I could make brains), added melted chocolate and cocoa powder to another third (to make the monsters), and added orange extract and orange food coloring to the third, to make, well, orange ones. These were great cupcakes, and people really enjoyed the decorations.

makes about 60 mini cupcakes

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 + 2 Tbs cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s special dark)
½ cup + 1 Tbs warm water
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
3/8 cup well shaken buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in cocoa powder until mixture is smooth. Add the water and mix until smooth.

2. Remove from heat. One at a time, mix in sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Sift it over the liquids and mix to combine.

4. Use a tablespoon measure to fill the mini-muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

5. Make sure to find a way to keep separate the mint and orange cupcakes, so you don’t swap their frostings.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mocha Brownies


A friend of mine had a few people over last night, and I made some brownies to bring. My friend is known for liking coffee flavored things, so I decided on mocha flavored. Some quick google searching took me to Martha’s recipe. I made it almost exactly as Martha’s recipe called for, but I added a teaspoon of extra coffee extract, and some chocolate chunks. All of the chocolate I used (the melted and chunks) came from the same big Trader Joe’s pound plus dark chocolate bar (my favorite for baking, and eating, and anything else chocolate is needed in). I did make it in a 8x8 pan, since I didn’t have a 9x9 pan to use. The result was some very tall brownies, but they tasted great.

Mocha Chunk Brownies

Makes a 9x9 pan

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp coffee extract1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with butter. Line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides. Butter paper, and set pan aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. Place butter and half the chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove bowl from pan.

4. Add sugar to the chocolate and mix to combine. Add eggs, and mix to combine, followed by the coffee extract. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Add instant espresso powder and remaining chocolate chunks. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Snickers


I’ve had the idea for this cupcake in my head since I first started baking a little over two years ago. I took a shot at it last year in the form of a cake, which was good, but not entirely what I was after. Largely because the nougat just didn’t work out. This weekend, however, I decided to take another shot, this time in a cupcake form. The result was a cupcake that I think definitely captured the essence of snickers, though at least some of my tasters thought that these were too much on the sweet side. I used a cocoa-based buttercream, mostly because I was lazy, I think a buttercream made with full chocolate might have been better. Either way, you might want to reduce the sugar from what I’ve listed. What I failed to keep in mind while tasting was that the nougat and caramel are both pretty sweet. For the cake I just used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, which held up well here with a nice chocolate flavor. The caramel recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Chocolate-Salted Caramel cupcakes

These are some of the most challenging cupcakes I’ve ever made, mostly because of the nougat. It’s taken me a good 5 or 6 tries to make it successfully, including two yesterday. For me I think the real problem is that nougat is just not common enough for lots of people to have written about, and so there aren’t a lot of instructions out there on how to make it. I followed the instructions here. I’ve done my best to write my full set of impressions below, but I think it is just one of those things to try a few times until you get the hang of it. The important thing is to coordinate everything in terms of timing, the egg whites and sugar need to be ready at the same time. Unfortunately, the recipe is in grams, which is what I did it in, but I got my grams scale for $5 at Kmart, and it’s worth having, so go out and get one.

The other challenge with these is the assembly. I cut my disks of nougat a little large (mostly because it was the smallest cutter I had). As a consequence I had to hollow out a lot of a large amount of cupcake. The thickness of the nougat also meant the holes had to be very deep. Especially since a layer of nuts and caramel also had to get in there. It’s definitely doable, but takes some effort. Also, the caramel needs to be spooned while it’s still hot, so I filled the cupcakes with the nougat and nuts first, then made the caramel.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes ~26

2 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup cocoa-powder
¾ cup water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 T vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Then add the water and mix until smooth again. Remove from heat

3. One at a time mix in the sugar, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla

4. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet, and whisk until well combined.

5. Fill cupcakes using a ¼ cup measure. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let them cool thoroughly before filling.

Peanut Butter Nougat

Makes 1 9 x 13" pan

400 grams sugar
150 grams glucose (white corn syrup)
125 grams water pinch salt
60 grams egg whites (2 large eggs)
125 grams peanut butter

1. line the pan with parchment paper, and oil it. Place the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl, put it in the microwave, set it for 1 minute, and set aside. Put the eggs and the salt in the bowl of a mixer set with the whisk attachment. Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk until combined, and place over high heat.

2. Turn on the mixer to high speed, whisking the eggs up to stiff peaks. Ideally you want the eggs to reach stiff peaks at the same time the sugar gets to the right temperature, but it’s hard to coordinate, and it’s easier to stop egg whites from beating than caramel from cooking. If the eggs get to stiff peaks before the caramel ready, turn off the mixer.

3. While the egg whites are whipping, heat the sugar to 270F. When the sugar hits about 250, turn on the microwave to melt the peanut butter (it’s just a lot easier to mix in melted peanut butter than solid).

4. As soon as the caramel hits 270, turn the mixer on high, and slowly pour the caramel down the side of the bowl.

5. Continue beating the mixture until it cools off slightly, and becomes just slightly doughy. It should still be pretty hot. Remove from the mixer, and gently fold in the melted peanut butter. DO NOT OVERBEAT, or you will make it crumbly. It should still be pourable when you’re done. My first batch needed to be scooped out of the bowl, and didn’t spread at all, it was also immediately crumbly. The second, successful batch poured out of the bowl and flowed properly to fill the pan.

6. Set aside to let cool completely.


This is the successful nougat

This is what the failed nougat looked like

Assembly stage 1

Nougat
Chocolate Cupcakes
Lightly salted peanuts

1. Using a small, circular cutter, cut out disks of nougat. It should cut fairly easily.

2. Cut large, deep cones in the cupcakes. You may need to do some extra hollowing out with the tip of your knife.

3. Place a disk of nougat into each cupcake, top with a few peanuts.

4. Cut the bottoms off of the cones you removed, so that you only have the top, place it back on the cupcake it came from, just to keep track of the proper caps.


I don't know why blogger keeps rotating my images, anyone know how to fix it?

Salted Caramel

2 & 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir until clear. Stop stirring and bring to a boil. Continue heating until caramel reaches 360 degrees.

2. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in cream, be careful, the caramel will bubble up and steam. Add the salt and continue stirring.

Assembly Stage 2

Cupcakes from stage
1 Caramel

1. As soon as the caramel becomes manageable, remove the caps from the cupcakes, pour caramel in over the nuts, and reaffix the cupcake tops.

Chocolate Buttercream

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
~4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk

1. Beat the butter until smooth. Add the cocoa, the milk. Beat in the sugar 1 cup at a time, until the frosting reaches a flavor and consistency you like.

2. This frosting was too thick to pipe, so I just spread it on with a spoon. Top with a sprinkling of peanuts.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

So, I’ve become negligent about posting again. Unfortunately it’s been busy lately. Fortunately though, this cake is an excellent return. It is, admittedly, pretty much the cake version of a cupcake I made over the summer. But that didn’t stop it from being excellent. I also used the “Deep Dark Chocolate Cake” recipe from bakewise as the cake, which was an excellent choice. Very chocolaty and moist. This recipe makes more peanut butter mousse than I needed, but I imagine you can find a creative use for the extra. Special thanks, as always, go to my friend Jessica, who helped me a great deal in making this cake (particularly by making the actual cake part).

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

Chocolate Cake Layers

Makes 3, 8 inch layers

4 cups + 2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 T Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cup water
1 ½ cup canola oil
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ + 2 T Spooned and Leveled AP flour
6 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
3/8 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter cake pans, line with parchment, and butter the parchment.

2. In a heavy saucepan stir together the sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Bring the water to a boil, stirring constantly, pour the water slowly into the cocoa mixture. Stir the mixture. Place on the heat and bring back to a boil. Turn off and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

3. Pour the cocoa mixture into a large mixing bowl, add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed for 10 seconds. Still on low speed add the flour, and then quickly add the eggs, yolks, and buttermilk. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, filling about 2/3 full. If you have extra, make them into cupcakes (that’s what I did).

4. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is set, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Peanut-Butter Mousse

2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
2 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
2 cup powdered sugar
2 T vanilla
2 cup chilled whipping cream

1. Beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and well blended.

2. Using clean, chilled beaters, and a chilled bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks.

3. Fold ¼ of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream ¼ at a time. Fold until smooth and well mixed. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Peanut-butter Ganache

18 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups heavy cream

1. Put the peanut butter and chocolate in a bowl.

2. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer, pour over the chocolate

3. Let the cream sit for a minute, then stir until thoroughly mixed. Let the ganache cool until it thickens enough to be spreadable.

Assembly

Place one layer flat side down. Spread about 2 cups of the peanut butter mousse on the cake, all the way to the edge. Place the most imperfect layer in the middle. Spread another 2 cups of peanut butter mousse on the cake. Place the final layer on top, flat side up. Pour about half the ganache over the cake, use an offset spatula to spread it all around the top and sides covering all of the cake. Once this layer of ganache, reheat the remainder just until it flows, and pour it over the cake. I found this ganache was too thick to just let it run down the cake, so I still had to use a spatula to spread it all around. I used a little extra peanut butter mousse to do the decorations.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Quiche, Two Quiche


Since everyone was back in town once school started back up, I threw a potluck. People brought lots of food, and a good time was had by all. I followed my traditional potluck style and made an entrée, and a dessert. This time for the entrée I decided to make two quiches. First, I made a pesto and goat cheese quiche with caramelized onions, and then I made a broccoli and garlic quiche with cheddar. Unfortunately the pictures are a little lacking, since I didn’t cut them until it was time to serve, at which point people dug in with a gusto which left no leftovers. The plus side is that it certainly seemed to mean that people liked the quiches (I sure did), and I would recommend them to anyone. If you’ve never tried making a quiche, it is remarkably easy, and if you’re lazy like me you can use a frozen, store-bought pie crust to make things even simpler.

For the pesto quiche I used homemade pesto, but you can just as easily use store brought if you don’t happen to have any around. I got the instructions for caramelizing onions from simply recipes. The one change is that I found it too

Goat Cheese and Pesto Quiche

1 deep dish pie crust, frozen
½ a large red onion, sliced into thin strips
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup pesto, divided
5 oz goat cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups low fat sour cream
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large tomato, sliced into quarter inch thick slices

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put oil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and a little salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to

medium low and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, until onions are well browned, stirring occasionally. Add the balsamic vinegar, and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. While the onions are cooking, blind bake the pie crust. To do this, poke holes in the bottom

of the crust with a fork. Line the crust with tin foil or parchment paper, pushing all the way into the corners. Fill the pie crust with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool briefly. Remove the pie weights or beans, and place the pie back in the oven for another 10 minutes. When this is done, turn the oven up to 400 degrees.

3. Put one T of the pesto into the pie crust. Using a pastry brush, spread the pesto around the inside of the quiche, trying to cover the entire bottom as well as the sides.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the goat cheese (it really just turns into small crumbles) and the sour cream. Add the remaining pesto and the eggs, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in the caramelized onions.

5. Layer the bottom of the quiche with the sliced tomatoes.

6. Pour the quiche filling over the tomatoes (you will probably have a little extra).

7. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. It’s done when the edges are set, but the center is still a little shaky. I should note that my quiche souffléd like crazy (it rose a good two inches, probably means I overbeat the eggs, that’s why I’m saying you should beat them lightly before adding them), which made it hard to tell when it had reached this point. I took it out after an hour 10 and it was fine (and fell back down to normal levels). Cool until just warm and serve.


Brocolli-Garlic Quiche

1 deep dish pie crust
1 cup broccoli florets, 1-2 inches of stem attached
3 cloves raw garlic
5 cloves roasted garlic, divided
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups half and half
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp cayenne
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese.

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Blind bake the pie crust. To do this, poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Line the crust with tin foil or parchment paper, pushing all the way into the corners. Fill the pie crust with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool briefly. Remove the pie weights or beans, and place the pie back in the oven for another 10 minutes. When this is done, turn the oven up to 400 degrees.

2. While the crust is baking, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the broccoli, and cook for 4 minutes.

3. With a generous pinch of salt, chop up the raw garlic until you make it into a paste. Mush in three cloves of the roasted garlic.

4. Take the remaining two cloves of roasted garlic and place them into the pie crust, using your fingers, gently crush them, and do your best to spread them around the bottom of the crust, without breaking it (this is a challenge).

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and heavy cream. Add the garlic paste, nutmeg, and cayenne.

6. Line the bottom of the crust with half of the cheese. Pour over the egg mixture. Place the broccoli in the quiche, and cover with the remaining cheese (that has not yet been done in the picture below).

7. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. I found this quiche souffléd a lot as well, but I took it out after an hour, and it seemed well set (maybe because it was on the upper rack, and so cooked a little faster). Cool until just warm and serve.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Donuts!!

A few weeks ago some friends and I decided to make donuts (I like to spell it doughnuts, but apparently I’m the only one), just because we could. It was the heady days before class had started up again. As you may recall, I’ve tried making donuts before, without much luck. Fortunately, with a recipe my friend Beth provided (from an old Pillsbury cookbook), and some additional assistance from Jessica, we were able to make some excellent donuts. These are simple drop donuts, so they don’t have quite the neat appearance of traditional donut holes, but that doesn’t stop them from tasting excellent. These are great, simple donuts for those who’ve

never tried making them before.

Cinnamon-Sugared Doughnut Drops

Makes 30-60 donuts

1.5 cups AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
2 tbl oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

1/2 cup sugar1 tsp cinnamon

1. In large saucepan, heat 2 to 3 inches oil to 375.

2. In large bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, vanilla and egg with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Drop by teaspoonfuls into hot oil, 5 to 6 at a time. Fry donut drops 1 to 1.5 minutes on each side until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; roll warm donut balls in sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

Sorry, I couldn't come up with a better title for this post. I recently got an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid, and so I figured I had to try it out and make some ice cream. Gourmet recently printed a recipe for a recipe for salted caramel ice cream, and so I thought I would try my hand. I thought the ice cream this made was really good, with a strong toffee flavor. I didn't think the salt came through particularly though, but maybe that's just me.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
3 large eggs

1. Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry, heavy skillet. Stir sugar with a fork until it begins to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occaissionally so sugar melts evenly. Continue cooking until the sugar reaches a dark amber.

2. Carefully add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will splatter), stir until all of the caramel is dissolved. Transfer into a bowl and stir in the salt. Cool to room temperature.

3. Bring milk, remaining cup cream and 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil.

4. Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Add half the hot milk mixture in a thin stream while whisking. Pout back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until mixture coats the back of the spoon and registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

5. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Chill in the fridge, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 hours. Freeze according to instructions of your ice cream maker.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Double Peanut Double Chocolate Cookies

A friend of mine was hosting a barbeque (cookout of you're a southerner who insists pulled meats must be present for it to be a barbeque). I decided to make up some cookies to bring. I got this recipe from epicurious, but instead of using chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, I used mini peanut butter cups from Trader Joes. These has a nice, cakey texture (if you like a cakey cookie), but I thought they were a little lacking in flavor.

Double Peanut Double Chocolate Cookies

Recipe says it makes 60, but I thought it made closer to 40

1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (don't use natural)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini peanut butter cups

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

2. In another bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and peanut butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

3. Beat in flour mixture, and stir in mini peanut butter cups.

4. Drop dough by teaspoons two inches apart onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for ten minutes before removing to baking racks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Browned Butter


Sorry for the delay in my blogging. It's been a busy few weeks, and I've been feeling a little lazy (as is known to happen when the summer heats up). Anyway, a few weeks ago, while I was back home, my mother brought a recipe for Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies to my attention. I'd never used browned butter before, and the article in which she had seen the recipe (in an issue of Vogue apparently), had boasted that they were the best oatmeal cookies. The recipe is very simple, and essentially makes shortbread with oatmeal in it. The resulting cookies were excellent. Crispy and sandy, with a wonderful toasted taste. These were definitely worth the foray into brown butter. The brown butter actually used in the recipe is a little odd itself, and I've included the recipe for it after the cookie recipe. A candy thermometer is helpful here.

Oatmeal Brown-Butter Cookies

Makes about 30

1 cup browned butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 cups quick cook oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to beat together the sugar and softened butter (the goal is not to cream the butter here, I found this took a fair amount of jabbing with the blunt end of my spoon).

2. In another bowl, combine the oatmeal, baking soda, salt, and flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix these into the butter (this again took a lot of mashing). Mix in the vanilla. The result should be crumbly, but cohesive enough to squeeze into balls.

3. Place 1 inch balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies with a fork until they are 1/4 inch thick.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, until pale-gold. Let cool on their sheets for a minute, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

5. Store in an airtight container.

Browned Butter

This makes 2 cups, more than you'll need for one batch of cookies

1 lb butter
1 cup powdered milk

1. Take a large bowl and fill it with ice, put a smaller, but still sizable bowl in it (ideally metal). You will need to pour your butter into this later. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the powdered milk. Continue heating the butter, stirring occaissionally. The butter will begin to bubble and foam, this is the water boiling off.

3. Continue heating the butter until it stops sizzling. It should begin to darken. Let the butter cook until it is a medium brown, like the color of a paper grocery bag. Alternatively, the temperature should reach between 245 and 250 degrees F.

4. Pour the butter into the prepared cold bowl. Immediately begin vigorously whisking the butter. At first butter will begin to solidify around the edges, use your whisk to scrape this off and reincorporate it into the whole butter mass. Stop whisking when the butter becomes too thick. This will take some time.

5. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

White Russian Cupcakes

These were the number three cupcakes in the poll I took of my coworkers. For those who don’t know, a white Russian is a drink made with vodka, kahlua and milk. I have to say, I was not a huge fan of these cupcakes. I used a recipe I got here. It could be the all purpose flour I used in place of the cake flour, but I found the texture of the cupcakes to be a little rubbery. The flavors of the alcohol also didn’t come through strongly enough. I frosted the cupcakes with a kahlua ganache, which might have been a mistake, since the chocolate flavor seemed to overwhelm everything else. The whipped cream in the original certainly would have been more faithful to the original drink, but that’s the way it goes.

White Russian Cupcakes

Makes ~15 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp b. powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 egg white, room temp
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp vodka
3 tbsp kahlua

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder). Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.

5. Add vodka and kahlua. Continue beating until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

6. Using a ¼ cup measure, carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

7. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 5 minutes. Brush tops of cupcake with kahlua. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Kahla Ganache

8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup kahlua
½ cup heavy cream

1. Put the kahlua and chocolate in a bowl.

2. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer, pour over the chocolate

3. Let the cream sit for a minute, then stir until thoroughly mixed. Let the ganache cool until it thickens enough to be spreadable.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Decadent Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cupcakes

For the end of my summer job, one of my coworkers threw a party so that all of us could celebrate. I, inevitably, made cupcakes (this really has been a cupcake heavy summer, probably because my cupcake pans are all I brought with to DC). For this particular party I let my coworkers vote on cupcake choices. I made the first and third choices (the second was made by another coworker). The number one choice was chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes. For the cupcake base I used one of my standard chocolate-cupcakes, which I filled with a peanut-butter mousse, and frosted with a peanut-butter ganache. The cupcakes were really rich, but excellent. Key to their success was cutting out large cones from the centers of the cupcakes, so that lots of mousse could get in.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes ~26

2 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup cocoa-powder
¾ cup water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 T vanillas
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 T cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

2. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Then add the water and mix until smooth again. Remove from heat

3. One at a time mix in the sugar, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla

4. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet, and whisk until well combined.

5. Fill cupcakes using a ¼ cup measure. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let them cool thoroughly before frosting.

Peanut-Butter Mousse

1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T vanilla
1 cup chilled whipping cream

1. Beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and well blended.

2. Using clean, chilled beaters, and a chilled bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks.

3. Fold ¼ of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream ¼ at a time. Fold until smooth and well mixed. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Peanut-butter Ganache

6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 cup heavy cream

1. Put the peanut butter and chocolate in a bowl.

2. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer, pour over the chocolate

3. Let the cream sit for a minute, then stir until thoroughly mixed. Let the ganache cool until it thickens enough to be spreadable.

Assembly

1. Cut large cones out of the cupcakes. Cut the bottoms off of the cones.

2. Fill the cupcakes with peanut butter mousse. Re-cover the tops of the cupcakes.

3. Pour or spread the ganache over the top of the cupcakes. Refrigerate until 30-45 minutes before serving.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brown Sugar Blondies

This is the second dessert I made for my friend’s potluck last weekend. I found the recipe here, and was pretty tempted. I thought the recipe was great. The blondies had a nice molasses flavor, and was excellently moist. Unfortunately, the recipe is largely in grams, and I don’t have a kitchen scale here in DC. I did double the original recipe for baking in a standard US cookie sheet (~11” x 17”, technically a half sheet I believe). The only ingredient I really don’t have a good measure on is the brown sugar. I needed 800 grams, so I just dumped about 8/9 of a 2 lbs (900gram) into the recipe. I thought that these were really good, but I thought it was a little strange that all of the chocolate and nuts were put on top at the end. If I were making this again, I would have stirred the chocolate and nuts directly into the batter.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

Makes 1 cookie sheet worth

¾ Cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
800 grams (most of a 2lbs bag) dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
6 eggs, beaten
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
4 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
4. oz pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Over medium heat melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the brown sugar.

3. Remove from heat, and let cool for a moment. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.

4. Sift the flour mixture over the butter mixture. Beat together until just combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cookie sheet. Spread the chocolate and nuts over the batter, and lightly push them into the batter.

6. Bake for 25 minutes, until just firm. Remove and let cool completely before cutting.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Strawberry and Champagne Cupcakes

One of the associates at work hosted a potluck over the weekend, so inevitably I volunteered to bring cupcakes (in fact, it was a bake off between this associate and myself, and I’m fairly certain her cupcakes won, but that shouldn’t be further spoken of). I decided to go for the expimental, and came up with the idea of strawberry and white-chocolate cupcakes with a champagne frosting. Thinking myself quite original, I went searching the internet for a cake recipe to use, when I came upon this. Having found it, I used Cupcake Project’s strawberry cupcakes recipe, but with a few modifications. I changed the frosting over to my champagne meringue. And for the cakes, I added white chocolate chips. To increase the strawberry flavor, I also added powdered strawberry to the cake recipe. I can’t say for sure if this made a difference, other than adding some nice color, but I have a feeling it made the cakes a little stronger. To make strawberry powder, I got some freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s, which I then crushed into a powder.

When I baked these, I followed the instructions, let them bake for 20 minutes, put in a tester, and took them out of the oven. I let them cool, and decided to eat one, only to discover that it was raw in the center. Panicked, I put the cupcakes back in the oven for about another 10 minutes. They did eventually get fully baked, and for the next bath I increased the time. Nonetheless, I would test multiple cakes before taking these guys out of the oven. I didn’t have any cake flour here in DC, so I used all purpose in its place without a problem.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 ½ C cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ C (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ C sugar
5 T powdered strawberries (see above for details)
2 large eggs
1/3 C buttermilk
¼ C canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C finely chopped fresh strawberries
12 oz. white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and strawberry powder with an electric mixer.

3. Add eggs. Mix until smooth and creamy. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Mix until combined.

4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

5. Stir in strawberries and white chocolate chips.

6. Fill cupcake liners using a quarter cup measure (half to two-thirds full). Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are golden and testers come out clean. Let cool.

Champagne Meringue Frosting

6 T egg white Powder

2/3 cup extra-dry Champagne

1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar (to taste)

1. Measure ¾ of champagne (this can be tricky because of the foam). Pour the egg white powder into a large bowl, and add the champagne. Use an electric mixer at high speed to whip the mixture until it becomes foamy. Add the sugar two Tbs at a time (until the taste gets where you like it) and beat until the meringue forms stiff peaks.

2. Frost cupcakes, lightly torch frosting with a culinary torch, or under the broiler.