Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Julie & Julia


My dad gave me the movie "Julie & Julia" for Christmas. I hadn't actually seen the movie before, but he knew that I loved to bake and that I had a baking blog, so it was a perfect fit. My husband and I watched it the first night back in our home after the holidays. And you know what? I liked it. It made me think, "Why didn't I think of that?" If you haven't seen the movie and have no idea what I'm talking about, well...you can borrow it from me!

The bad thing about this movie is that now I just want to bake. I've got all of these yummy ideas for treats swirling around in my head and I don't know if I have the energy (or time or willpower) to make them all.

After a bedtime battle with my daughter, I came downstairs thinking I just wanted to veg in front of the tv. But something inside me led me to the kitchen where I proceeded to make Bread Pudding with Lemon Butter sauce. Why? Baking calms me. It's my release. I just get excited about what creations you can make with simple ingredients such as flour, sugar, butter, salt.

So, here's to baking. And Julie. And Julia.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Cake

When my mom was visiting this past summer, she made this cake one night. She got the recipe from my brother's friend who made it when she was visiting. As she was gathering the ingredients, I wasn't sure what we were going to get. A box of cake mix. A can of pie filling. Not two ingredients that typically go together.

When I took a bite of this cake, I was pleasantly surprised. It was very moist and chocolatey, with a hint of cherry. Delicious. And the ganache was amazing.


Last night we had a Christmas dinner with some friends and I decided to make this cake. I've had the ingredients on hand, and I thought it would be a perfect ending to a holiday dinner. I think I was right. It was a big hit, and tasted just as good as the first time I tasted it.

The best part? It's SO easy! And I keep thinking of all of the variations you could do - white cake mix with peach pie filling, yellow cake mix with apple pie filling, etc. Try this cake. You will not be disappointed.


Chocolate Cherry Cake

1 box devils food cake mix
2 eggs
1 can cherry pie filling
1 tsp almond extract

Mix eggs, pie filling, and almond extract together. Add cake mix. Mix until moist, but don't over mix.

Bake in 9” springform pan at 325 degrees for 55 min. or until done.


Ganache Frosting

2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 c. sugar (powdered)
1/2 c. high quality dark chocolate chips

Melt together. Pour frosting over cake as soon as cake comes out of oven after taking out of pan.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eggnog Pancakes

To kick off the holiday season right, I made some eggnog pancakes for breakfast. I got the idea from a friend who said to use a buttermilk pancake recipe, and just substitute eggnog for the buttermilk. Genius! I felt so festive eating eggnog pancakes, and then putting up the Christmas tree and decorating while listening to Christmas music. 'Tis the Season!


Eggnog Pancakes

2 eggs, separated
2 cups eggnog
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

Whisk together the egg whites and the eggnog in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the eggnog mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the dry ingredients. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

Cook on a hot griddle and serve.

Mmm, Pie!

I made my first attempt at lemon meringue pie for Thanksgiving, and it turned out to be an epic battle. 3 pie crusts and 2 lemon curd attempts later, I had a winner.

My first crust was Martha Stewart's Favorite Pie Crust. It was just too thin for me. It was flaky, but not very tender. Strike 1.

The second crust was Alton Brown's Pie Crust. I actually didn't taste it (duh) but it was also too thin for me. Not what I was going for. Strike 2.

My third crust was Sylvia's Perfect Pie Crust. And man, was it perfect. It was tender and flaky, and just the right thickness. It was sturdy enough to hold together when lifted out of the pie pan with that heavy curd in it. And it was SO EASY. Home Run!


The lemon curd recipe I used was Alton Brown's and with a few adjustments it turned out to be amazingly delicious. The first attempt was just plain soup. It didn't set right. And I followed every word in the instructions to a T. So, we made a couple of adjustments. I added an extra couple of tablespoons of cornstarch, and I made sure to simmer each step an extra minute.


In the end, everything was as it should be. Lemon meringue pie that was sweet, tart, and lemony, with tender, flaky crust, and just the right amount of meringue. Life is good.

Sylvia's Perfect Pie Crust

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1 whole Egg
5 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt

Instructions

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it’s a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

* For prebaking, prick the crust with a fork several times, then put some parchment paper on top of the crust and fill it with beans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, and then remove the parchment and beans and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

* If you want, you can also tent some aluminum foil around the edges of the crust to prevent from browning too quickly.


Lemon Filling

4 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Instructions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk egg yolks in medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Turn heat on medium and, stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually, 1 whisk-full at a time, add hot mixture to egg yolks and stir until you have added at least half of the mixture.

Return egg mixture to saucepan, turn heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes, until very thick. Remove from heat and gently stir in butter, lemon juice, and zest until well combined. Pour mixture into pie shell and top with meringue while filling is still hot. Make sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure pie is cooled completely before slicing.

Meringue Topping

4 egg whites
1 pinch cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Use to top lemon filling.

Yield: topping for 1 (9-inch) pie

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sour Cream Cookies

Something you may not know about me is that I have cookie cutters galore for every holiday - Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween...you name the holiday, I've got a cookie cutter for it!

So you can only imagine that as we start getting close to a holiday, the thing on my mind is how and when I can make my sour cream cookies. These cookies are tradition for me. We used to make them when I was a kid, and I always looked forward to it. We even made them with my nephews a couple of Christmases ago. We managed to keep the mess under control, and the boys had a lot of fun!

So what is the difference between a sour cream cookie and a sugar cookie? Well, I think the sour cream cookie is softer and has a creamier flavor than the sugar cookie. I also love the little hint of nutmeg that shines through. These cookies are always delicious, and I have never had a batch go wrong. Oh, and the cream cheese frosting? Don't even get me started. DELICIOUS.


Sour Cream Cookies

½ cup melted margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp nutmeg

Beat the above together until thoroughly mixed.

1 cup sour cream
½ tsp salt
3 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp soda

Mix well adding flour as needed to make dough workable. Best when dough is on the moist side. Roll dough out to about ¼ inch thickness. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until brown barely visible around bottom.


Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature (2 cubes)
¾ pound unsalted butter, room temperature (3 cubes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 ½ pounds confectioners sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and almond extracts. Add the confectioners sugar and mix until smooth.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haunted Halloween

My friends and I had another Iron Chef night, and this time the secret ingredient was Halloween. We were assigned dessert, so I went on a search to find something spooky. I wasn't originally planning on doing a time-consuming, detailed dessert, but the baker in me took over and I wanted a challenge.

I found Martha Stewart's Haunted House cake, or should I say, it found me. I knew I didn't have it in me to do every last detail like Martha, but I worked my heart out on this cake. It took me hours to make, but it was a lot of fun. And it turned out pretty haunted looking, don't ya think?


A few notes about this cake - it's a devil's food cake, meaning it's very dark chocolatey-tasting. I was very pleased with the flavor, but it did end up a little drier than I had hoped (probably from my tweaking of sizes of pans to cook it in).

On to the chocolate buttercream frosting. It was honestly delicious. Light, chocolatey, buttery, and oh-so-good. This frosting will definitely be making it into my line up of go-to recipes.

The chocolate cookies for the tree and house were made with dutch-processed cocoa, which is why they look almost black. The cookies were a little salty for me, but they held up really well on the cake. Until the tree fell off of the cake and broke...

Have a Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but pumpkin is one of those things that is hit and miss for me. Sometimes I make something with pumpkin and it turns out gooey and just plain awful. Other times it turns out just as I hoped it would. It doesn't help that my husband doesn't really like things with pumpkin in it, so I don't have a whole lot of motivation to perfect this part of my baking. Oh well.

This is a long lost recipe that I made about 5 years ago for the first time. I've only made these cookies twice in my life, but both times they turned out delicious. And that's saying something considering my history with pumpkin!


I found this recipe in the back of a Martha Stewart magazine. I needed a treat for a dinner at my in-laws, so I whipped these cookies up. Everyone loved them, and I even had people asking for the recipe. I made these again last week, and I think they turned out pretty good.

These are a light, almost cake-like cookie. The frosting is very sweet but adds a nice complementary flavor to the pumpkin spice. A few notes - this recipe makes a lot of batter. As an alternative to the cookie, you could throw some of the batter into a muffin pan and make some cupcakes. Also, the recipe on Martha Stewart's website says to pipe the batter out onto the cookie sheet, but I chose to use a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop. And last, but not least, my cookies stuck to the parchment paper I used. So I pulled out my silpat, and the cookies browned nicely on the bottom and were easy to transfer.

So, here's the recipe. And the best part? They're small so you can eat as many as you want!


Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
Martha Stewart

Makes about 6 dozen

FOR THE COOKIES

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR THE ICING

4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk,
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

3. Use a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop to scoop batter onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

4. Make icing: Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add butter to confectioners' sugar, scraping any browned bits from sides and bottom of pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cupcake Disappointment

My friends and I were in New York last week and decided to seek out some famous cupcakes. Can I just say that I was totally disappointed? I had envisioned this cute, trendy bakery with amazing, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes. What I found was a little run-down shop that is so small it made me almost feel claustrophobic, and the cupcakes were just average - like something you could find in any old bakery.

Needless to say, my tastebuds were craving some good cupcakes. I really wanted to make some red velvet cupcakes, because 1) I love red velvet cake, and 2) it's something I have never made before. I set out to find a good recipe, and I must say that I was very pleased with the one I found. It's from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, and I was intrigued by the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Doesn't that sound delicious? I have never thought to add cinnamon to my frosting!


The result was a rich, moist, slightly chocolatey red velvet cupcake. And the cinnamon cream cheese frosting? Yum! The combination of the two was amazingly good. I am a big fan.

I also made some yellow cupcakes with Cook's Illustrated Fool Proof Frosting. The yellow cake was moist and light. But the real highlight for me was the frosting. I just might have been caught piping some frosting into my mouth...that is...if someone had been around to catch me.


Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
Makes one dozen cupcakes

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 325° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325° F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, cold (I used room temperature)
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.

Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated.

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.

Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.


Classic Yellow Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, ending with the flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Fool Proof Chocolate Frosting
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated
Makes 3 cups to frost one 9-inch, 2-layer cake

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
Pinch table salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Frosting can be used immediately and can be made 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies


I was watching Martha Stewart the other day when she started into her baking segment. She had her plumber on the show giving DIY tips and had him help her make Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies (appropriately named for more than one reason). These cookies seriously have everything in them. Oats. Check. Chocolate. Check. Coconut. Check. Nuts. Check. Cranberries. Check. Toffee. Check. Pretzels. Check?

Yep, pretzels. I've never made cookies with pretzels in them. And now that I have, I still don't know what I think. It's...strangely...pleasant? Let me explain.

When I pulled the first batch of these cookies out of the oven, my husband and I both dug right in. Our initial reaction was that they were just all right. But being who we are, we kept eating more. And more. After about the 10th cookie each (ok, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration...maybe) we realized that these cookies had grown on us. We liked them. They were different. Enjoyable for some reason that we couldn't quite put our finger on. Maybe it was the pretzels.


Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies
Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup toffee bits
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
3/4 cup dried cherries (I used cranberries)
3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
3/4 cup roughly chopped salted pretzels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add to the butter mixture; continue mixing until well combined. Add the oats, coconut, toffee, chocolate, cherries, pecans, and pretzels and mix on low until just combined.

Using a 2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop batter onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the palm of your hand to flatten cookies evenly. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Streusel-Roasted Plums

Did I not tell you that my husband missed his calling in life? Well, he did. He has this amazing ability to look over a few recipes to get ideas, and then head into the kitchen and throw ingredients together until he gets what he wants. He's a natural.

We went to an Asian food market (which we love!) the other day and he headed straight for the plums. I thought he just wanted to eat them fresh, but when we got home he started whipping something up in the kitchen. What was he making, you ask? Streusel-Roasted Plums. It was pleasantly tart, sweet, salty, and crunchy all at the same time. Yum!


Streusel-Roasted Plums
Adapted from Bon App├ętit Magazine

5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, divided
5 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

6 large firm plums, halved, pitted

Preheat oven to 400°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and lemon juice. Bring just to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves and syrup is smooth; remove skillet from heat.

Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Cut in with back of fork until streusel begins to hold together. Mix in nuts.

Cut very thin slice off rounded side of each plum half (to create flat surface). Lightly press 1 tablespoon streusel onto cut side of each plum half. Place plums, streusel side up, in syrup in skillet. Roast plums until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and preheat broiler. Broil plums until streusel is crisp and golden, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Place 2 plum halves on plate and top with whipping cream or ice cream, then spoon over syrup from skillet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Freezer Jam

The other day I was browsing through some blogs when I saw these fabric jam toppers. I thought they were so stinkin' cute and wanted to print them out right then and there. But then I remembered that I didn't have any homemade jam to put the toppers on. Hmmm.

For obvious reasons, I decided that I needed to make some jam. I'll admit, I'm not a purist when it comes to making jam. I just don't have it in me to do the whole sterilizing, cooking, steaming thingy. When I was young, my mom would make peach freezer jam, and I loved it. Freezer jam - it's so fresh and light tasting - and easy. Perfect!

My husband loves strawberry jam, and I love peach jam, so I had to make both. Luckily we have a produce junction nearby that sells fruit cheap. And even more luckily there were still tons of jars at the store. Ball makes these jars with cute silver lids now and I'm a big fan!

There is a lot of sugar in jam. Did you know that? If you didn't, you might not want to make your own so you can stay ignorant of that fact.

And now we have strawberry jam. Lots of it! I got 6 8oz jars out of one batch (I made 2 batches).

And peach jam! I got 8 8oz jars out of one batch.


Sure Jell Freezer Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries, a little over a pint (3 cups crushed peaches, about 2 lbs, plus 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice)
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (4 1/2 cups sugar for peach jam)
3/4 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin

Mix crushed fruit with sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the pectin into the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Stir the boiling water into the strawberries. Allow to stand for 3 minutes before pouring into jars or other storage containers.

Place tops on the containers, and leave for 24 hours. Place into freezer, and store frozen until ready to use.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Banana Bread

The other day Pioneer Woman posted this recipe, and I just so happened to have some bananas that were a little past their prime. I was pretty excited that I would get to use my bundt pan, since I've only used it a handful of times since my sister gave it to me for Christmas.


The bread was much more cake-like than other banana breads that I have made. The recipe didn't call for any nuts, and I know that some people prefer nuts in their banana bread (my husband included). It was very moist, and stayed that way for the remainder of the days that I munched on it. Delicious!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fruit Pizza

A couple of weeks ago we had a farewell party for one of our dear friends. He was being deployed to Afghanistan the next day and we all wanted to see him before he left. I wanted to make a special dessert for him, so I asked his wife what his favorite dessert was. She said he loves fruit pizza, so fruit pizza is what I made!

The recipe I used is one my family used to make when I was younger. I'm not sure where my mom got the recipe because the copy I have is handwritten and extremely vague. But I remember it being good, so I used it.

I wasn't quite sure on the cook time, and I'm still not sure. I couldn't really tell if the crust was ever done, and in the end I think I could have cooked it a little longer. My tip would be to cook it until it's starting to brown on top.

I also was unsure of the cream cheese topping, since my recipe just says to use equal parts of cream cheese and equal parts of whipping cream. I decided to beat the cream until it was whipping cream consistency, and then used a hand mixer to mix it in with the cream cheese, and added powdered sugar. In the end I think it turned out nicely. I also cut the pizza before adding the fruit for ease in dishing it out. Here's the awesome recipe I used!


Fruit Pizza

Crust:
1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Mix all ingredients together and press into an 18 x 13 inch jelly roll pan, or 2 round pizza pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Sauce:
Equal amounts of cream cheese and whipping cream (I used 8 oz of each). Then add powdered sugar as needed.

Spread on crust when the crust is cooled, and then top with your choice of fruit toppings: kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mandarin oranges.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fresh fruit tarts! Lime curd tarts!

Whenever I go to a bakery and am looking over the selection, my eye always lingers on the fruit tarts. The bright assortment of fresh fruit, the cute little package it comes in...you know what I'm talking about, right? The only thing is, I hardly ever buy them, simply because they're always so expensive!

My husband gave me a beautiful set of 4 1/2 inch tart pans for my birthday, and I couldn't wait to use them! This was a new venture for me, as I've never made tarts before. I've learned a few things in the process, and will definitely be making more because they were so yummy, and definitely cheaper than if I had bought them at a fancy restaurant or bakery!


I used Ina Garten's recipe out of the Barefoot Contessa cookbook. When I made the fresh fruit tart, I baked the tart shell right before I served it. The shell was pretty crunchy, and reminded me of a sweet shortbread. When I make it again, I'll bake the tart shells the day before, and assemble the tart a few hours before serving so that the moisture from the pastry cream can seep into the shell and soften it up a bit. My parents and siblings were all visiting so they got to enjoy this tasty treat!

A few days later I made a lime curd tart. I did as mentioned above, and baked the tart shell the day before and assembled it early enough that the shell was all nice and soft. I do have to admit that I liked the fruit tart a little better. It was a much lighter dessert - the lime curd was very thick, rich, and sweet. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious. But I could only eat half of it. Both tarts were a lot of work, but I enjoyed making them!


Here are the recipes!

Tart shell
from Ina Garten

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into 5 flat discs. Press the dough into 5 4½-inch false-bottom tart pans, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and rice, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 10-15 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.


Pastry cream (for fruit tarts)
from Ina Garten

6 extra large egg yolks at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium high speed for 3 minutes until the mixture is light yellow and falls back into the bowl in a ribbon. On low speed, beat in the cornstarch. Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat 2 to 3 more minutes. Taste to be sure the cornstarch is cooked. Remove from the heat, mix in the butter, vanilla, and cream and strain into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.

To assemble fresh fruit tart, fill tart shells with pastry cream and group each fruit to make a casual arrangement.


Lime Curd
from Ina Garten

4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 4½-inch baked tart shells

Remove the zest of 4 limes with a zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Fill the tart shells with warm lime curd and allow to set at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BYU Mint Brownies

When I think back to my college days, I have fond memories of living away from home for the first time, figuring out how to juggle school and my social life, making life-long friends, and mint brownies. They were happy days. Particularly the days when I got to eat a mint brownie.

Brigham Young University (BYU) is famous for their mint brownies. At least I think they should be. These brownies are so moist, and I go nuts for anything with mint in it. Whenever you went to an event catered by BYU, the mint brownies were there. You could also buy them in the Cougareat, our little cafeteria in the student center.

When I received a copy of the recipe in an alumni email 5 years ago, I was so excited to make them myself. 5 years passed and I still hadn't made them...but I held on to the recipe knowing that one day I would succumb to the temptation.

We had a bbq with some friends a few weeks ago, and it was like an aha! moment when I realized they would be the perfect thing to make for dessert. I went and bought margarine (which I never do) just for the brownies. And was it worth it? Oh yes!


BYU MINT BROWNIES

Sugar-n-Spice, Cougareat Food Court

MAKES ONE 9-BY-13 PAN OF BROWNIES.
PREP AND COOK: 90 min. COOL: 1 hr.

1 c. margarine
1/2 c. cocoa
2 Tbsp. honey
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts
12 oz. chocolate icing (I used the recipe for the mint icing below but just added about 1/3 C of cocoa and left out the mint extract and green food coloring)

MINT ICING
5 Tbsp. margarine
dash of salt
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. mint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring

1. Melt margarine and mix in cocoa. Allow to cool. Add honey, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Add nuts. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool.

2. Prepare mint icing: Soften margarine. Add salt, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Add mint extract and food coloring. Mix. Add milk gradually until the consistency is a little thinner than cake frosting.

3. Spread mint icing over brownies. Place brownies in the freezer for a short time to stiffen the icing. Remove from the freezer and carefully add a layer of chocolate icing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

Ever since I found out about National Cheesecake Day last year, I cannot imagine my life without it. I LOVE cheesecake. Love it. I always have cream cheese on hand in my fridge just in case I have a hankering. And what better excuse to make cheesecake than National Cheesecake day?

Last year I made a copycat recipe of the white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. I was sorely disappointed. The crust was soggy and it just didn't seem right. So I decided to try again. I looked at a few different recipes and created my own version of the cheesecake. The result? So delicious!


I love a nice, solid crust so I used 2 cups of crushed oreos. And when I make cheesecake, I always use 2 packages of original cream cheese, and 2 packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese. I think this is my attempt to bring some little piece of "healthy" to my cheesecake.

Oh, and about the crazy method of turning off the oven and leaving the cheesecake in until room temperature? Believe me, you will never have a crack down the middle of your cheesecake if you do this.

One last thing - if you want to be able to slice your cheesecake cleanly, freeze the cheesecake and slice it with a super sharp knife that has been dipped into hot water. wipe off the water then make your cuts.


White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

2 cups oreo cookies, crushed
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 c butter, melted
3.5 oz white chocolate, broken into small pieces

4 8 oz packages Philadelphia cream cheese at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs at room temp
¼ cup raspberry preserves

white chocolate, for garnish
whipping cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the crust, combine the crushed oreos, melted butter, and sugar until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Set the crust aside.

Stir the raspberry preserves until a nice, smooth consistency and set aside. Break the white chocolate into small chunks and set aside.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and mix until combined.

Sprinkle 3.5 ounces of white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust. Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Just a couple passes is fine, you don't want to blend the raspberry and cream cheese together too much. Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.

Bake in middle of oven for 60 minutes. Wrap bottom of spring-form pan with foil, so if the butter leaks, it won’t drip and make smoke in the oven.

Test for doneness by jiggling the pan – done when center jiggles, but doesn’t wobble (across the whole cheesecake). When done, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven until it all comes to room temperature (about 4-5 hours).

Best when served cold.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Margarita Pizza

Have I ever told you what an amazing chef my husband is? He is the master of breads and slow bbq. And his pizza is the most delicious pizza ever. I really think he may have missed his calling in life because he could sell this stuff, no problemo.

We happened to have some fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and some basil growing in our herb garden - all of the ingredients you need for some margarita pizza. I suggested it to my husband and he happily agreed to it because he loves an excuse to pull out his pizza peel and Zyliss pizza wheel and start throwing some dough around in the air.

As always, the pizza was fabulous. He makes his dough from memory, but he's adapted it from a recipe of Alton Brown's, which I have posted below.


Pizza Dough

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure olive oil
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups bread flour (for bread machines)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil
Olive oil, for the pizza crust
Flour, for dusting the pizza peel

Directions

Place the sugar, salt, olive oil, water, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and remaining cup of flour into the standing mixer's work bowl. Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer on low and mix until the dough just comes together, forming a ball. Lube the hook attachment with cooking spray. Attach the hook to the mixer and knead for 15 minutes on medium speed.

Tear off a small piece of dough and flatten into a disc. Stretch the dough until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if the baker's windowpane, or taut membrane, has formed. If the dough tears before it forms, knead the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Roll the pizza dough into a smooth ball on the countertop. Place into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the bowl and toss to coat.

Place the pizza stone or tile onto the bottom of a cold oven and turn the oven to its highest temperature, about 500 degrees F.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blueberry Boy Bait

With a name like that, don't you just want to try it? We had a bunch of fresh blueberries sitting in the fridge just waiting to be used. I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and thought I'd give it a go.

What really made this cake different from your ordinary coffee cake was that it was moist, buttery, and delicious! The texture was lighter than I was expecting. And, in my opinion, the cinnamon sugar topping made the cake. It was oh so good! My husband ate half of the pan. No, I am not exaggerating. I have never seen him eat that much dessert in one sitting. I guess that this cake really does act as "boy bait!"


Blueberry Boy Bait
Adapted from Cook’s Country, which adapted it from the original

Like any recipe with a great name, this also has a great story, which was that in 1954, a 15-year-old girl stole the show (but only won second prize) in the junior division of an early Pillbury Bake-Off with a variation of this recipe, named, she said, after the effect it had on boys.

Cook’s Country magazine dusted this recipe off from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Dessert Cookbook and made a few tweaks to bring it more deliciously into the modern age: butter was swapped for shortening, the quantity of blueberries was doubled and some plain sugar was replaced with brown sugar. The result? Let’s just say you don’t need to be a boy to be lured in.

Serves 12, generously

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

Topping
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

The other day, my husband and I bought a freezer to go in our basement. The first thing that went into the freezer was my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, for obvious reasons. I sent my husband to buy me some blackberries, but sadly there were no blackberries to be found at the store. So, I decided to make strawberry ice cream instead.


This ice cream is SOOOOO rich and creamy. It's the good kind of homemade ice cream - made with heavy cream and half and half. You really can't go wrong if you make it, I promise. I gave my 1-year-old a few bites before bedtime, and she couldn't get enough. If that isn't a testament to the deliciousness of this ice cream, I don't know what is!


Pioneer Woman's Delicious Blackberry (or Strawberry) Ice Cream

2 pints fresh blackberries (I used strawberries)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar

5 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice/puree as possible. Set aside.

Heat half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk/half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer, then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.

Add blackberry juice/puree to the cream/custard mixture and stir. Chill mixture completely, then freeze in an ice cream maker until thick. Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

What a day! My arms are sore from playing volleyball, my stomach is full from good grillin', and I've seen enough fireworks to last me the year!

At the start of the day, I was feeling lazy and didn't have any plans for baking. But my sister was in town this year and together we came up with a very patriotic dessert. We decided to make Ina Garten's Flag Cake, and it turned out beautiful! It's more of a sponge cake, and together with the cream cheese icing and fruit, it's delicious. We used strawberries instead of raspberries (mostly because that's what we had in the fridge), and it worked out just fine. We also cut the sheet cake in half and made it into a double layer cake.


We cut into the cake while my brother-in-law, who is Irish, was taking a shower. We joked about how he wasn't even American so it was ok that he wasn't there to witness the cutting of the cake. We weren't even sure we were going to give him any, with him being Irish and all. Welcome to America!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Molasses Cookies

My friend, Sydney, brought me over some cookies one night. My husband and I devoured them. They were amazing. She was willing to share this fabulous recipe, and I think you all should go make a batch right now. I'm serious.

Molasses Cookies

Recipe from Sydney R's Great-Grandma Sydney Minnette

3/4 C shortening (not butter)
1 C sugar
1/4 C dark molasses
1 egg
2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, extra if desired
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix shortening, sugar, molasses and egg in big bowl. Mix all dry
ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and
mix until well blended. Dough should be fairly stiff.

Separate dough into 1” balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet
with about an inch separating each ball of dough. Bake for 7-9
minutes until the top of the cookie is cracking and the cookie has
flattened out a bit. Leave cookies on cookie sheet for about 5
minutes. These cookies are delicious warm and fresh or later in the
cookie jar, but will also keep very well in a Ziploc bag in the
freezer.

German Chocolate Cake

My husband turned 30 this week. Hard to believe we're entering that phase of life. The birthday card I gave him pretty much sums things up: "I think everything happens for a reason. For example, people turn 30 because the fun part of their life has ended." Happy birthday, hon!

I really enjoy making birthday cakes. The fancy kind. All from scratch and with multiple layers. This year my husband chose a German chocolate cake. Did you know that this cake isn't even German? The cake took its name from an American with the last name of "German." Sam German created the mild dark baking chocolate bar for Baker's Chocolate Company in 1852. The company name the chocolate in his honor - "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate." In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the "s" have been dropped, thus giving the false hint as for the chocolate's origin.

Anyway, on to the recipe. These are the raw ingredients I used. I would have used a better chocolate, but my husband chose the cake around 11:30 pm the night before his birthday, and I started baking the next morning.


I used Martha Stewart's recipe, and I was a little disappointed. It wasn't as moist as I would have liked, and it didn't make enough frosting. So, if I had to do it over, I would have divided it up into 3 separate pans and cooked for a shorter amount of time. And, I would have doubled the frosting recipe. Here's the link to Martha Stewart's Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting (aka German Chocolate Cake).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happy Father's Day

We had a great Father's Day. Very relaxing and enjoyable. And, my husband got to grill up some burgers. Awesome!

I was debating whether or not to make Bakerella's fast food for the dessert. The question: is it too cute for my husband? Probably. But I just couldn't resist!

My husband's reaction was classic - he just stared at them in amazement and kept asking how I made it. He was very surprised and concluded that he needed to "up the ante" for my holiday desserts in the future. I'm excited to see what he pulls out of his hat for my birthday! :)


Finally - a picture in the daylight. See what a difference that makes?

Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake


Yum!

A couple of weeks ago I made the declaration to my husband that I wanted to make a dessert. Not cookies because that's always my default. I wanted to make a cake. The one that came to mind was Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake. I had seen her blog entry previously and thought it would be the perfect compromise for me and my husband - I love anything with cream cheese, and he loves anything with strawberry shortcake. Voila! Enter Pioneer Woman!

Unfortunately I found that I only had enough powdered sugar to make about 1/3 of the frosting recipe. This actually turned out to be ok for us. My husband is of the opinion that less is more when it comes to frosting, and this was the case with this cake. It was really good. You should go make it.

Note: I know that my picture is less than great, but I always seem to bake at night. This means bad lighting. I may have to invest in a daylight lamp or something so my pictures will look better. Either that, or I need to start waking up early and baking. Hmmm, quite the dilemma...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fabulous Lemon Cake

I have made this recipe 3 times now, and every time I make it I get rave reviews (granted, twice it was for the same people, but that's because they asked me to make it again). It really is delicious. Very moist and full of lemon flavor. My husband and I were trying to figure out why people like this so much, and I've decided that it's because it's different from your everyday dessert. I mean, how often do you eat a dessert of just lemon?

A few tips of mine. The recipe calls for 6 to 8 lemons, but I only use 4. It gives me all of the zest I need and all of the juice I need. I use 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water in the syrup, and I don't feel obligated to use all of the syrup on the cake. I do think it helps to make the cake really moist so I wouldn't omit it. But just use your best judgment of how much it needs when it comes to spooning it on the cake.

Oh yeah, one more thing. If I need it for a luncheon, I make the cakes the night before and put the syrup on. Then the next morning I add the glaze and let it set. It tastes just as good as it would have if it had been baked fresh that morning, but it saves a whole lot of time and stress in the morning!

Lemon Cake from Barefoot Contessa Parties!

Ingredients

* 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
* 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
* 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
* 3 cups flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
* 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

* 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
* 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rice Pudding

We had some milk that needed to be used up, so I decided to make some rice pudding. I looked at a few different recipes and couldn't find one that was exactly what I wanted so I improvised. I already had some cooked rice so that had to be a key ingredient. I also wanted to have more of a custard pudding, so adding an egg was the trick there.

I was very pleased with the rice pudding in the end. It was very thick, rich, and creamy. The second day we added a little milk to loosen it up and it was just as tasty. My husband and I ate it all up so fast (2 days when it should have taken us a week) that I didn't even get a picture!

Rice Pudding

3 ½ cups cooked rice, at room temperature
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups half and half
1 cup cream
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten well
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins

Combine rice, milk, half and half, cream, sugar and salt in a large heavy pot. Cook over medium high heat until mixture begins to simmer, stirring continuously. Reduce heat so that the mixture is at a low simmer, continuing to stir until mixture becomes thickened (about 25 minutes). Add beaten egg very slowly and mix well to combine. Simmer for another minute. Add vanilla, cinnamon and raisins and stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Applebee’s Walnut Blondie With Maple Butter Sauce

The other day I was reading through the blogs I follow and saw a picture of this.

Can you blame me for wanting to try it? I had all of the ingredients so I headed to the kitchen. After I made it, I realized that I'm not really even a fan of blondies - it just looked so good on the screen! I'm glad I tried it because I like to broaden my horizons and make new things. My review? It was delicious. Fabulous. But VERY sweet. Too sweet for me, in fact. And that's a hard thing to do.

Walnut Blondie with Maple Butter Sauce

Ingredients:
Dough
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or more if desired)
1/3 cup butter or margarine (melted)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Maple Butter Sauce
3/4 cup maple syrup ( I highly recommend using REAL maple syrup )
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Dough
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add baking powder, baking soda and salt to the already sifted flour. Then sift dry ingredients again. Add chopped nuts and mix well. Set aside.

Add brown sugar to melted butter and mix well. Then add egg and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, until mixed well.

Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread out dough in a 9-inch pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Use a toothpick or fork to test if it is cooked in the center.

Serve warm with ice cream and Maple Butter Sauce.

Maple Butter Sauce

In a pan, add real maple syrup and butter, cook over low heat until butter is melted. Next, stir in brown sugar until completely dissolved. If you desire, add walnuts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We had some friends over for an authentic Irish meal in honor of St. Patrick's Day. We made Irish bacon and cabbage (corned beef is actually an Irish American tradition - in Ireland they eat pork much more often), Colcannon (which is mashed potatoes with cabbage), soda bread, and drank blackcurrant squash. It was a delicious meal! I asked my sister who is living in Ireland what to serve for dessert and her Irish husband said apple tart with custard. I remembered eating this while we were in Ireland and decided it would be perfect.

I found an Irish apple pie dessert online and decided to give it a go. I was a bit worried about the crust when I started to roll it out. The sour cream in the dough became really moist and made the rolling difficult. I used a lot of flour when I rolled out the top of the crust so that it wouldn't stick. This was my first time using sour cream in a pie crust, but I have to say it turned out really flaky and delicious. I made it festive by using a shamrock cookie cutter on the top crust. To serve, we dished some custard into a soup plate and put a piece of pie on top.



Irish Apple Pie

For crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

For filling:
5 large Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

For wash:
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pie pan.
2. To Make Crust: In a large bowl, combine flours, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening until coarse crumbs are formed. Mix in sour cream and lemon juice. Keep mixing until dough forms a ball; dough may be slightly lumpy, this is fine. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and allow to chill for 1 hour.
3. Once chilled, take dough out of refrigerator and cut it in half; keep one half covered and in the refrigerator. Roll dough to 1/8 of an inch. To lift pie shell, roll dough around rolling pin and then unroll into pie pan. Trim overhanging edges of pie crust.
4. To Make Filling: Place apples into pie shell. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and nutmeg; mix thoroughly. Sprinkle mixture over apples. Squirt lemon juice over apples. Place pie in refrigerator while top crust is rolled out.
5. Remove pie from refrigerator. Brush outer edge of bottom crust with beaten egg. Place second crust on top of pie; crimp pie shell edges together. Brush entire top crust with egg and cut 4 steam slots into it.
6. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow pie to completely cool before serving. Serve warm with Bird's Custard.

I didn't get a picture of the soda bread, but it turned out great. It was my first time making it and I thought it turned out much more moist than the soda breads we ate in Ireland. Oh, and it was so easy! The trick is to not overwork the dough. It will look like a clumpy ball when finished, but it will taste great!

Irish Soda Bread

1 lb all purpose flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon baking soda
14 oz buttermilk, approximately

First, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a large, wide mixing bowl.

Make a well in the center. Pour most of the milk into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.

Gently roll the ball of dough around with floury hands for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Then pat it gently into a round, about 2 in high.

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet (I used a silpat). With a sharp knife cut a deep cross in it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread.

Put this into your preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 400°F for a further 25 minutes, or until cooked. When the bread is cooked it will sound hollow when tapped.

Cooking time: 35 minutes, approximately
Yield: Makes 1 loaf

Monday, March 9, 2009

Easy Cheese Danish

I am always in search of a good bakery. And whenever I go into a bakery, I check to see if they have cream cheese danishes (well, cream cheese anything, really). I decided I was going to venture into the pastry world by making my own cream cheese danish. After reading through a cookbook and seeing the extensive work that goes into making pastries, I had just about given up.

I happened to be thumbing through Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home" when I noticed her Easy Cheese Danish recipe. The recipe called for frozen pastry sheets - the perfect solution for me! So I gathered all of the ingredients to make these danishes, and I thought they were fabulous. They have a nice hint of lemon, and I loaded the cream cheese into the pastry because that's my favorite part.

I will say that you can't really mess these up. I left the pastry sheets on the counter for close to 4 hours before getting started (even though the recommended thaw time is 40 minutes), and then I refrigerated them overnight so that I could bake them the next morning for breakfast. I was worried the pastry wouldn't puff up correctly, but I was pleasantly surprised. The recipe says to eat them warm, but I prefer them cold. Either way, they're delicious!

Easy Cheese Danish

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 T ricotta cheese (I used mascarpone)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 - 1 T grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese & sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and cream together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10x10 inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the puff pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Makes 8 Danish

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

As part of the February challenge for the DB, I made a flourless chocolate cake for Valentine's day. I took pictures, and then promptly forgot to post (it didn't help that I was out of town for a week). This was my first flourless cake, and I was actually surprised by the texture. I was expecting dense based on appearance, but it was actually pretty light (which makes sense because you fold in stiff egg whites). It was a pretty easy cake to make, and I enjoyed it.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.


Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.