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

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)


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.