Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Red, White, But No Blue Velvet

It is getting to be that time for celebrating America ( Memorial Day, July 4th etc) so in honor of the season,  I thought I would make red and white velvet cupcakes. Red velvet cake is one of my favorites, and although I am not a vanilla person, the white velvet is a good contrast with the chocolate frosting.  Cupcakes are easy and very portable, but both of these recipes could also be used to make a layer cake, even with alternating layers.  The cake is light, but the red velvet needs a little more cocoa added to it for my taste.

And for the blue-  blueberries of course or use your imagination.

White Velvet Butter Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache Icing from Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum
3 large egg whites at room temperature
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour, sifted into the cup and leveled off
1 cup superfine sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

Line a cupcake pan with paper muffin cups.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack in the lower third of the oven.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla until just combined.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, with the flat beater, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining milk and mix on low speed until the ingredients are just moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the bowl.  On medium speed, add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, fill the cupcake liners about ¾ full. The recipe makes 14-16 cupcakes.   Bake 20-25 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center.  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely.

Milk Chocolate Ganache
I halved this recipe to ice the cupcakes and it was more than enough.
12 ounces high quality milk chocolate or 8 ounces milk chocolate and 4 ounces dark chocolate (62%)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream warmed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the chocolate until almost completely melted, using either a small microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds, or place a small heatproof bowl over a pot of hot water, stirring often.

Remove the chocolate from the hear and stir until fully melted.  Gradually stir in the cream until it is uniform in color.  Allow the mix to cool until just no longer warm to the touch, about 30 minutes. With a whisk, gently stir in the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Stir in the vanilla.

Use at once or can sit for a few hours.   The ganache keeps in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature, for 3 weeks refrigerated and for 6 months frozen.

Rose Red Velvet Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting from Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 large egg whites at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour sifted into the cup and leveled off
1 cup superfine sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I would definitely add more)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola or safflower oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Line cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites, red food coloring, and vanilla until just lightly combined.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater, mix the oil and butter on medium speed for  1 minute. It will not be completely smooth.  Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk.  Mix on low speed until the ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium, and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Using medium speed, add the egg mixture to the batter in two parts, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake pan, filling them about ¾ full.  Bake 20-25 minutes until cake tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  Cool in the pan on wire rack about 10 minutes and then remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool completely.

Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting
3 ounces white chocolate containing cocoa butter, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened but still cool
½ tablespoon crème fraiche or sour cream
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Heat the white chocolate until almost melted in small bowl over hot, but not simmering water, stirring often or microwave, stirring every 15 seconds.  Remove from heat and stir until fully melted.  Let cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but still fluid.

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, butter and crème fraiche or sour cream for a few seconds until smooth and creamy.  Scrape down the sides.  Add the cooled, melted white chocolate and pulse it in a few times until smoothly incorporated.  Add the almond extract and pulse it in.

This frosting is a nice complement to the cake- it is not too sweet. ((post by susan))

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bakery Review: Sweet Eden Bakery

Last weekend I took a trip with my boyfriend's family to their house in Hawley, PA, which is right near the Poconos.  On Saturday we went into the neighboring town of Honesdale. Although it looks like a small, rural town a few shops have opened on Main Street giving it some great flavor and culture. One of these shops is Sweet Eden Bakery, a lovely bakery full of delicious treats with a beautiful courtyard for enjoying them on a summer afternoon.

Although I usually go for chocolate, I ordered a lemon bar, because they looked too good to resist.
The lemon bar was delicious, the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It did not feel overly filling. In fact, I could have eaten 2 more. :)

Unfortunately they don't have a website, but I recommend taking a trip to Honesdale if you are ever in the area. While there you may also be interested in Milkweed, an adorable home goods store filled with quilts and pillows made of recycled vintage fabrics, and Freedlove, a chic NYC style clothing store with amazing prices.

 Sweet Eden Bakery, 1023 Main Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
Freedlove, 1023 Main Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
Milkweed, 1019 Main Street, Honesdale, PA 18431

((post by emily))

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Nuts!

The first dessert cookbook I ever owned was Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. It was a gift, and although the person who gave it to me has not been in my life for many, many years, the book (worn and falling apart from use) is still significant. From the pictures on the cover to the cakes and cookies inside, I was hooked. Yesterday it rained here, and it gave me an excuse to spend the afternoon baking. I went back to Maida Heatter, her dessert and cookie books, and found these. The bottom layer is cake-like while the top layer is caramel, sticky with pecans. If you can’t decide whether you want a cookie or a piece of candy, these bars split the difference.
Before you begin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast 2 cups of pecan halves in a shallow pan for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Set them aside.

Pecan Passion from Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies by Maida Heatter
Bottom Layer
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg at room temperature
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process
¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour

Raise oven heat to 375 degrees.  Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray.

In a small pan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Place the melted butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla and egg, and beat to mix.  Beat in the cocoa and flour.  Place this thick chocolate mixture in a ribbon or in several mounds all over the bottom of the lined pan.  Spread the mixture in an even layer- it will be a thin layer.  Bake 12-15 minutes until the cake springs back when gently pressed with a fingertip.  Remove the pan from the oven and let stand while you prepare the topping.

Pecan Topping
1 tablespoon dark rum or cognac
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
scant ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup dark corn syrup
7 ounces (2 cups) toasted pecan halves

Add the rum or cognac to the cream and set aside.

In a heavy 3 quart saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter.  With a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar, salt and corn syrup.  Stir over moderate heat until the mixture begins to boil all over the surface.  Place a candy thermometer in the pan and cook, stirring a few times, until the temperature reaches 250 degrees- about 2 minutes of boiling.  Watch it carefully.  Do not let it cook even a bit too long.

Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the cream mixture (it will bubble up) and then the pecans.  Immediately pour the hot mixture over the bottom layer.  Use a metal spoon or fork to even out the layer, making sure the nuts are spread out evenly.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Do not bake too long or it will become too hard.  Remove from the oven and let stand for at least a few hours until completely cool.  Cover the pan with a flat board or cookie sheet, invert and peel off aluminum foil or parchment.  Then turn right side up.  Cut into quarters and then cut each quarter in half.  Cut each half into 3 bars.  You can store these in the refrigerator or freezer, but they should be served at room temperature. 

Maida Heatter notes that these work with walnuts as well as pecans.  ((post by susan))

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Apple of My Eye

Forget about keeping the doctor away- you should make sure you keep everyone else away so you can have this cake all to yourself.  Teddie’s Apple Cake- this recipe was a Sunday New York Times Magazine recipe when I was in college and just starting to bake. I have made it countless times since then, and it is still one of my all time favorite cakes- it never fails to get rave reviews.  The cake is easy to make- does not require an electric mixer- and is full of apple chunks, cinnamon and raisins held together by a moist, flavorful cake with a crunchy, chewy exterior.  

Teddie’s Apple Cake from the New York Sunday Times Magazine circa 1972
1 ½ cups corn oil or canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
3 large red delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 cup golden raisins
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil and sugar.  Add eggs and beat until creamy.  In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and then add to egg mixture.  Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in apple chunks and raisins until incorporated throughout batter.  Batter will be very thick.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Bake 60 to 75 minutes until cake tester inserted in center comes out pretty clean. (time may vary slightly depending on your oven).  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.  As the cake cools, the crust gets a little crunchy which is essential for the full flavor of the cake.  When completely cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar. ((post by susan))

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Cookie to Please the Masses

Much to my dismay, I have come to discover that there are people in the world who do not (gasp!) like chocolate. My boyfriend is one of these people. This can create some problems, as my motto tends to be: if it doesn't include chocolate, it's not dessert. Recently, however, I have mastered the art of making snickerdoodles. Snickerdoodles do not have any chocolate in them, and yet they are an incredibly tasty and pleasing cookie. They are essentially sugar cookies with a hint of cinnamon and dusted with cinnamon-sugar. Snickerdoodles are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. And while some crazy people may not like chocolate, I challenge you to find someone who can refuse a snickerdoodle.

**Warning: this recipe will make 5 dozen or more small cookies. I recommend halving the recipe if you don't want so many.**
 3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + extra for topping
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar + extra for topping
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit.

Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and honey and mix thoroughly. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until blended.

In a small bowl mix together about 3 tablespoons of sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Roll balls of dough about the size of a walnut (bigger if you want bigger cookies). Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until they are coated. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the surface is puffed and slightly cracked. Enjoy! ((post by emily))

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drama Queen

When I was growing up, behavior that was considered too emotional and dramatic was characterized as acting like Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress from the late 1800s.  That association still remains with me (even though kids today probably have no idea who Sarah Bernhardt was), so I was both intrigued and amused when I saw these cookies in Martha Stewart’s cookie book. I HAVE TO MAKE THESE.  Though they are messy, time consuming and multi-step, they are a wonderful combination of flavors, and, yes, dramatic in presentation.  The almond cookie base is crunchy chewy, the chocolate filling is rich and smooth like mousse or a truffle, and then finally the thin layer of melted chocolate on the outside has a slight crunch. These are not your everyday cookie.

Sarah Bernhardt Cookies from Cookies by Martha Stewart
For the filling:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

For the cookies:
¼ lb. almond paste
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
pinch of salt

For the coating:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening

Make filling: In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and cool.  Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer until clear, about 5 minutes.  Place egg yolks in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water and whisk until warm to the touch, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to the mixer with the whisk attachment. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in hot sugar syrup.  Raise speed to high and continue beating until cool and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium and gradually beat in chocolate until fully combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Refrigerate until firm and cold, about one hour (or up to 1 week).

Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick mat or parchment paper.  In the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add egg white, almond extract and salt and beat to combine.  Transfer mix to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼ inch tip (Ateco #12) and pipe one inch cookies onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about one inch between the cookies.  Bake until firm and golden around edges, about 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.  Transfer cookies, flat side down,  to wire rack to cool completely.

Transfer filling to pastry bag fitted with a ¼ inch tip ( Ateco #12) and pipe a peaked mound on top of each cookies.  Transfer to freezer until very firm, about 1 hour.

Make coating: In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Stir in the shortening.  Cool until barely warm. Remove cookies from the freezer.  Working quickly so the filling doesn’t melt, use a chocolate fork to hold the cookie above the bowl of chocolate and spoon the melted chocolate over the cookie. Place, filling side up, on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.  Cookies can be refrigerated in airtight containers up to 4 days. ((post by susan))

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nuts to You

I have been on a cookie baking binge- trying to get away from my go-to recipes that I make all the time.  I have never made peanut butter cookies since my son is allergic to peanuts, and I didn’t want to have them around the house. Now he is away at college, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.  These cookies are simple to make and delicious. I made a few changes- made about one quarter of them the classic peanut butter cookie, and then to the rest of the dough, I added chocolate chips. Either way these cookies have a real peanut taste and are soft and slightly chewy.  They are large cookies, as called for in the recipe, but they could easily be made in a smaller, more typical size. 

Peanut Butter Cookies from the Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (2 teaspoons if you use unsalted peanut butter)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar, packed down
1 cup (9.5 ounces) peanut butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy. It will get noticeably lighter the longer you beat it.  Add the peanut butter and cream for another minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl several times in the process.  While the mixer is running, crack the eggs into a measuring cup and add the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in the eggs, letting them fall in one at a time and incorporating the first egg completely before adding the next.  Gradually add the dry ingredients in two to three additions with the mixer on low speed. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to fully incorporate the butter and sugar.  If you are adding chocolate chips, mix them in with a spatula.

Scoop the dough into 1.5 ounce balls and arrange on the prepared pans, 6 per pan.  Lightly dust with granulated sugar before pressing with a fork to make a crisscross pattern. Press cookies into ½ inch thick disks.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The tops of the fork marks and the edges of the cookies should be brown and crisp and the middle should be soft. Let cookies cool on the baking sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. ((susan))

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Triple Threat: Triple Chocolate Cookies

If you like chocolate, and I mean -really like chocolate- these cookies are for you.  So good- they are intensely rich with a creamy center and only slightly crispy on the edges. Just one will satisfy any chocolate cravings you may have. The cookies take a little bit longer to make, because you have to let them rest before baking, but they are well worth the time and good chocolate. 
Triple-Chocolate Cookies from the Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate- use fine quality chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (14.75 ounces) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (3.25 ounces) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup (4 ounces) milk chocolate chips-use fine quality milk chocolate and chop up
1 ½ teaspoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter. Put the unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and butter in a double boiler or metal bowl suspended over a pot of barely simmering water or 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the ingredients to continue to melt.  Stir until smooth and evenly combined.  Keep the mixture on the warm side of cool (80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit).

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 14 minutes until the mixture is extremely fluffy and white and the volume has increased substantially.  Add the espresso and vanilla, reduce the speed to medium-high and beat another 2 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix on  medium-low speed for about 1 minute until color is uniformly brown.  Fold in the milk chocolate chips by hand, and let the batter sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a small 1 ½ ounce scoop or  mounded teaspoon, spoon the batter onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The cookies should be slightly shiny with crinkly tops and soft centers.  Let cool on wire racks.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

These cookies would also be excellent with heath bar crunch or peanut butter chips added. ((post by susan))

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Short and Sweet

Coffee and chocolate-what a great combination. The bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the chocolate just complement each other. These cookies add the buttery crumbly texture of shortbread to the mix- a little different but very delicious. The top brownie layer is soft and chewy. A two-step process is required for these, but it is not too complicated.  It does pay off to buy those magazines for the long cross-country flight to LA for graduation.

Espresso-Shortbread Brownie Bars from Food and Wine magazine, May, 2010 issue

Shortbread Crust
10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Brownie Topping
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs at room temperature

Make the Shortbread crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine the butter, flour, sugar, ground espresso and salt and pulse until coarse crumbs form.  Press the crumbs into a 9x13 inch metal baking pan to form a crust. Prick all over with a fork. Freeze for 5 minutes until firm. Bake in lower third of the oven for 30 minutes until the crust is lightly browned and cooked through.

In the meantime, prepare the Brownie topping. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa, salt and baking powder. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the chocolate over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the eggs.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Batter will be thick.

Pour the brownie batter over the shortbread crust, making sure the surface is smooth.  Bake for 30 minute, until the brownie top is dry and lightly cracked around the edges.  The center will still be a bit soft.  Cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 24 bars. These are pretty rich so in this case, small is beautiful. ((post by susan))

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Apple a Day: Cream Cheese Apple Cake

One of my most favorite desserts, outside of chocolate, is Teddie’s Apple Cake, a recipe I got from the New York Times many years ago when I was in college. It is an incredible cake, crunchy, chewy on the outside and moist and full of apples and raisins on the inside.  This is not that recipe (will come at a later date) but having baked that cake hundreds of times, I decided it was time to branch out and try something new.  The Cream Cheese Apple Cake from the Grand Central Bakery in Seattle seemed like a good place to start.  This cake is apparently a long time standard at the bakery, and although it will never replace Teddie’s Apple Cake for me, it is a moist, flavorful apple cake that is fairly simple to make.  In my mind, the addition of raisins and some almond extract would make it even better.

Cream Cheese Apple Cake from the Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 ½ cups (17.5 ounces) granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ lbs. (3-4) tart apples, peeled and diced into ½ inch chunks
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 12 cup bundt pan. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. In a mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light in color- almost white-and the texture is fluffy, about 8 minutes. Scrape the bowl at least once during the process to make certain the butter is incorporated.

Crack the eggs into a measuring cup and add the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the eggs, letting them fall in one at a time and incorporating each egg before adding the next. Be sure to scrape the bowl a couple of times during the process. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Fold in the apples by hand and then turn the batter into the prepared pan.  I think the addition of raisins here would add to the cake.

Bake 60- 75 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  The cake is ready when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool completely and dust with a thick layer of confectioner’s sugar. Serves 14-16.
((post by susan))

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cleaning Out my Kitchen with Martha Stewart's Thumb Print Cookies

You may have noticed the lack of posts last week. On Friday I graduated from law school, and my mom and the rest of my family were out in L.A. celebrating with me. We spent a lot of time eating out, and not much time baking. I am now in the process of getting ready for my cross-country move to NYC, and because of it I have been hesitant to bake anything that requires buying a lot of new ingredients that will just go to waste. In Martha Stewart's cookbook, Cookies, I found the incredibly simple recipe for Chocolate Thumb Print Cookies. These cookies remind me of the store-bought sugar cookies that had Hershey kisses in the center that I used to love when I was a kid. The recipe is incredibly simple and requires very few ingredients, and it allowed me to use up the rest of my flour. The result? Simple, chocolaty perfection.

Chocolate Thumbprints from Cookies by Martha Stewart
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1 cup butter, the confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour beginning on low speed and increasing to medium until combined.

Form balls using 2 teaspoons of dough for each: place balls 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into cookies to make deep, wide indentations. Rotate pan, and return to oven; bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. (Note: I found that I needed to bake them for about 12-13 minutes more, but it will depend on your oven, so be sure to watch carefully.) If the indentations begin to lose definition, remove cookies from oven and press again.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine chocolate, the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, and the corn syrup in a small heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool a bit until slightly thickened. Fill thumbprints with the chocolate mixture, and set aside to firm up. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

When I am settled in NYC, I am definitely going to try variations on these cookies, perhaps with peanut butter, white chocolate, or raspberry. ((post by emily))

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Clouds in my Coffee...Cake

Maybe it was a sign - it probably was not such a great idea to make a coffee cake in the midst of a water emergency in Boston where you can’t buy a cup of coffee this week- even Starbucks isn’t making coffee, because all water has to be boiled before usage.  In any event, I wanted to bake for friends and thought the description of this coffee cake sounded delicious (“crumb topping sinks into the berries, the berries sink into the cake”) - or at least what I’d like to wake up to. But I was disappointed with the results.  The recipe calls for mixed berries but allows for substituting apples or pears.  I used apples and added some yellow raisins, because that was what I had on hand- and I think that was my mistake. Berries would definitely make a more moist cake to go with that phantom cup of coffee. Have to try this again when the environmental circumstances are more favorable.

Fresh Berry Coffee Cake with Walnut Crumb Topping from Once Upon A Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau
For the Topping
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped fine
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup almond paste
I would consider doubling or at least making 1 ½ times the amount of topping.
For the Cake
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries rinsed and dried on paper towels
1 cup fresh blueberries rinsed and dried on paper towels
1 cup fresh strawberries rinsed and dried on paper towels and cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease heavily a 13x 9 inch cake pan and dust lightly with flour (or spray with baking spray with flour). Toss the topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until topping looks moist and crumbly.  Don’t pulse it so much that it comes together in a ball. Refrigerate while making the batter.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and light lemon yellow in color, about 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla and almond extracts.

Whisk the flour and other dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Stir half the buttermilk into the butter/sugar/egg mix.  Then add half the dry ingredients.  Repeat until all the ingredients are combined and no flour is visible.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and level it with a spatula.  Cover the batter with the fresh fruit.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit in an even layer.  Bake for 50 minutes to one hour until a toothpick or small knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.  The topping will be golden brown and the cake itself will have risen through the gaps in the fruit.  I would start checking before 50 minutes to make sure cake does not get overdone and dry.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares. ((post by susan))


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dessert for Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls

I am moving in a week, so I decided to try to make something with only the ingredients I have at home in order to try to use some things up.  I turned to one of trusty cookbooks, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, for something simple. I found a recipe for cinnamon rolls that just looked too easy and too delicious not to try. I also love cinnamon rolls, because you can justify eating them for breakfast.  These are not as sinful and greasy as the cinnamon rolls you get a restaurant or pastry shop. They are small, light and fluffy, and could inspire endless variations.

Cinnamon Rolls adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan and glazing
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
~ 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or more to taste

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar in the container of a food processor and process for about 5 seconds.  Add the 2 tablespoons butter and the egg and pulse a few time, until well combined.  Add most of the milk and process until a dough ball forms. Add more milk if necessary. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for a minute or two longer, adding a little more flour or milk if necessary, until the dough is silky smooth and elastic.

Butter a bowl and place the dough in it. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, at least two hours.

Roll out the dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush liberally with melted butter, then spread with a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. I also added raisins. Roll the dough up lengthwise, then cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in a buttered muffin tin, cover, and let rise until puffy for about 1 hour.  Brush with additional butter and sprinkle with sugar just before baking.

Bake until nicely browned, about 20 to 30 minutes. ((post by emily))

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hearts and Soul: Linzer Hearts

So many recipes and too little time. Always an issue for me.  Since I look forward to trying out new recipes, I often forget about the old ones that I have made that are really good.  While going through cookbooks for this blog, I came upon cookie recipes that I made years ago, noted that they were excellent, and then promptly forgot about them because I was making something else.  I found this recipe for linzer hearts in the Silver Palate Cookbook while I was looking for a lost recipe for raspberry bars.  I wanted to make something non-chocolate that was a little special. These are fairly simple to make and literally melt in your mouth because of the confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch.  The recipe calls for a heart shaped cookie cutter, but you need not limit yourself.

Linzer Hearts from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins

¾ lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups shelled walnuts, finely grated
½ cup raspberry preserves

Cream butter and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and mix well. Sift together the flour and cornstarch. Add to the butter mixture and blend well.  Thoroughly mix in ground walnuts.  Gather dough into a ball, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for 4-6 hours.

Roll dough out t ¼ inch thickness.  Using a small heart shaped cookie cutter (about 1 ½ inches long), cut out cookies and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Chill cookies for 45 minutes.  If dough gets too soft while cutting out cookies, gather up and chill for a little longer until you can roll and cut out cookies.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake cookies 10-15 minutes until evenly lightly browned. Remove and cool on a rack.  While still warm, spread half the cookies with raspberry jam, using about a ¼ teaspoon for each.  Top each cookie with one of the remaining cookies.

Sift the remaining confectioner’s sugar into a bowl. Press top and bottom of the cookies into the bowl of sugar to coat.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, but I halved the recipe with no problem.
((post by susan))