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Sunday, December 27, 2009

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats

I must admit I'm a bit overdosed on baking with dark chocolate so this week I am trying a white chocolate cheesecake. The recipe is from Diana's Desserts.

I'm getting as much done tonight as possible as I won't be home until about 8-ish tomorrow and am determined to finish my cheesecake for Tuesday.

Getting it together is plain sailing - a crust with melted butter and crushed animal crackers and lots of cream cheese and white chocolate. Now it just needs to sit in the fridge until tomorrow evening. I have also made some candied kumquats as a garnish, which will go on top of whipped cream. I think this will add a bit of tartness to an otherwise very sweet cheesecake - as much as I am a white chocolate fan, it can be overly sweet at times.

Here's the recipe (tweaked):

Cheesecake Filling: 3 bars (1.5 ounces each) Godiva Solid Ivory, coarsely chopped (any other good quality white chocolate may be substituted for the Godiva brand)
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place white chocolate, butter and cream in a double boiler top and let it sit over boiled water. The steam should be enough to melt the chocoate. The water does not need to simmer. Stir until smooth and let cool.

2. Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth, using electric mixer at medium speed. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and cooled solid chocolate mixture, using low speed. Pour mixture over crust.

3. Wrap base of cheesecake pan with aluminum foil and place pan on baking tray. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until top is slightly puffed and center is just firm. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven for 1 more hour and prop oven door open. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Here is the recipe for the kumquats, from Ruth Reicl's The Gourmet Cookbook, which I found while surfing around. The recipe is in half quantities of the original.

Candied Kumquats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teasp. salt
1 cup kumquats, sliced into three's and with pips removed

Boil water, sugar and salt; stir until sugar has dissolved.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
Add sliced kumquats and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes until tender.
With slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to heatproof bowl.
Boil syrup 7-10 minutes on low until reduced to 3/8 cup. Pour syrup over kumquats and cool.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chocolate Opera Cake for a Christmas Gift

A friend asked me to make an opera cake she could give as a Christmas gift and requested that I use the best chocolate, with 70% cacao. I got some Ghirardelli Extra Bitter Chocolate and some Scharffen berger semi-sweet and went to work. It was my Christmas Day project.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself making it except that it got off to a bad start as I used a genoise recipe that must have had a mistake in it - it produced layers that looked like tough pancakes; then I turned to Helen's (Tartlette's) recipe for genoise, which I had used before. It is a lovely recipe, producing a light, rich sheet of sponge cake. For the soaking syrup, I used Grand Marnier in the mix.

I chose Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe for Chocolate Buttercream from her Cake Bible, and a chocolate glaze recipe from Carole Walter's Great Cakes. I topped the finished cake with white chocolate curls, made from Callabaut chocolate. I was pleased with the way my cake came out; however, the finishing is a bit wonky and the curls way too thick - just needs lots more practice, I guess.


Tartlette's Vanilla Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (4gr) vanilla extract (I used 1/2 teasp. vanilla and 1/2 teasp. almond essence)pinch of salt
¾ cup (150gr) of sugar
½ cup (70gr) cake flour
¼ cup (30gr) cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400F and set a rack in the middle.Lightly spray a 12x17 baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly brush with melted butter. Set aside
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, salt and sugar together in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100F on a candy thermometer(or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment (or hand held beaters) and whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume. The mixture will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl when the whisk is lifted.
Over a medium bowl or a piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour and cornstarch.
Add one-third of the flour mixture to the beaten egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl to prevent the flour mixture from making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake does not over bake and become too dry or it will not roll properly. Let cool on a rack. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and invert it on a larger piece of parchment paper. Peel of the parchment paper that was lining the baking sheet. Set the cake aside.

Soaking Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. Grand Marnier

Chocolate Buttercream (Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible)
9 ozs. bittersweet chocolate
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar

Break the chocolate into squares and place in a double boiler over very hot water or low heat. The water must not exceed 160 degrees F. or touch the bottom of the double boiler insert.
Remove double boiler from the heat and stir frequently until the chocolate begins to melt.
Return to the heat if the water cools, but be careful that it does not get too hot. Stir 8 to 10 minutes or until the chocolate is smooth. (Chocolate may be melted in microwave oven on high power if stirred every 15 seconds. Remove before fully melted and stir, using residual heat to complete the melting.)

In a mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy. (I used my KitchenAid and let it beat until the butter turned a pale cream color - about 5 mins.)

In another mixing bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Beat in the butter by the tablespoon. If the mixture looks slightly curdles, increase the speed a little and beat until smooth before continuing to add more butter. Add the melted and cooked chocolate all at once and beat until smooth and uniform in color. Place in an airtight bowl. Re-beat to restore texture.

Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze from Great Cakes

Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Favorite Walnut Pies - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's Sunday and we have just had a massive snowfall in NYC - wild horses would not drag me out of my apartment and I have run out of pecans. Thank goodness I had bought walnuts a week ago so I have made Walnut Pies instead.

This is the first time I have used pastry rings to make tarts - it's really a lot of fun, I think, but I certainly need practice. The first tarts I made came out way over-filled; for the next batch - the ones in my pic - I removed some of the filling and nuts. A couple of them still oozed syrup out on to the baking sheet but now they are all settled quite nicely, cooling off. It took 7 mins. of baking at 425 degrees F and between 15-20 mins. at 350 degrees F. I'm trying to perfect my tart shapes so that they at least begin to resemble Anita's in Dessert First, but I have a feeling that will take some time. Maybe I should use larger rings - these were 2-1/2 inch rings.

I have done a taste test - they are really very delicious (I did not use the cinnamon, chocolate or coffee but went for a plain walnut mixture). I also tried another dough,the "Perfect Food Processor Pie Crust" from Baking 911; it's very good and easy - I am not too keen on Dorie's "Good for Almost Anything Pie dough"; it just doesn't do it for me, although I do love Dorie's pate sucre recipe and the sour cream puff pastry we used for the apple turnovers.

A nice dollop of whipped cream will be a delicious addition, I am sure. I'll do that on Tuesday.

Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina picked this week's recipe - I really enjoyed it and learned some new skills. Thank you Beth. The recipe is on her blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cafe Volcano Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Amazing! Truly amazing - that these easy peasy, rather odd looking cookies can be so delicious! I made half the quantity called for in the recipe as I did not want to "waste" too many nuts in case it turned out badly; now I have a problem; the sun hasn't risen yet and I still have to take the pic, but I have already eaten more than half of the cookies. I hope the sun rises in time for there to be some cookies left for the pic.

MacDuff of The Lonely Sidecar chose this week's treat; the recipe is on her blog. Thank you, it was a nice surprise.

Done! Not the best pic but it's still dark outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sables - Tuesdays with Dorie

French Shortbread - how nice! I have been eyeing these Sables for the longest time and was so pleased that Barbara of Bungalow Barbara picked them for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie.

I prefer the dough to Scottish shortbread - it is moister and easier to handle. The sables sliced beautifully and evenly. I baked the first batch for 20 minutes - okay, but a bit too brown on the bottom; the next batch was for 18 minutes and seemed to be just right.

These cookies are deliciously buttery, which is not surprising considering there are 2 sticks of butter to 2 cups of flour. They will definitely be on my favorites list.

The recipe is on Barbara's blog. Great pick! Thank you.

And finally! I've figured out a way to make nice round slice-and-bake cookies, instead of the wonky, conky ones I've made up to now.

I could never roll a well shaped tube of cookie dough, so after much thought and "ingenuity" I decided to use my Decorator Pro. I filled the barrel with dough and pushed it out of the barrel with the plunger. Easy and what a neat cylinder it formed! I got two cylinders out of the batch of dough. Now I can see lots of slice-and-bake cookies in my future.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Winner and Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

First for the winner of I Heart Macarons from my previous blog:
We used the time-honored numbered paper slips in a box method at work and the winner is:

No. 6. Flourchild. Congratulations! "I Heart Macarons" will be on its way - just e-mail me your mailing details to

And now for the Tart. Lauren of I'll Eat You picked this very pretty pear and pistachio tart. It's fabulous - a quadruple D:

The pistachio cream - DELICIOUS
The pastry - DELICIOUS
The poached pears in Shiraz - DELICIOUS
The caramelized pistachious - DELICIOUS

At this rate I think it's going to be a wow with my "Taste Testers."

I made one dozen 4-inch tartlets from Dorie's pate sucre recipe, adding half as much again of the quantities as I know from experience that the tartlets take quite a lot of pastry. I also used one stick of butter and 4.5 TBS. of solid Crisco - the rest of my butter had been used in baking Thanksgiving goodies. The combo. seems to be rather nice although if I'd had the butter I would have used it.

I had better get to work before I start sampling the treats!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Ice Cream Cannolis

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

After much dilly dallying, I finally decided to give the Cannolis a try. I have had rather a nice afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving, preparing them. My comments on my efforts:

The dough:Tricky - easy to make but took a lot of arm muscle to roll the dough paper thin. Finally I changed rolling pins and used one of those pins that go convex in the middle - it seemed to help.
Boiling the oil - fine but had to keep on checking the candy thermometer to retain an even 370 degrees F deep fry temp; so it was a bit frustrating with lots of stop/starting.
The frying job - not as messy as I thought it would be. In fact I enjoyed watching them sizzle and only got one minor burn on my left forefinger! My first batch was way too dark, almost like tree bark; my second batch came out much better, obviously with less cooking time.
The finished product - difficult to get the blisters - only managed some rudimentary blisters.
The filling - just lazy bones. I decided on strawberry icecream with some cake sprinkles.

All in all, I am very pleased I did brave the challenge, but I don't think I will make cannoli again; my fancy is to return to the Italian Bakery on 60th St. in Brooklyn, and order a double expresso and a large, crunchy vanilla cannoli and I won't feel too guilty.

The dough recipe:
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake and a Give Away

Britin of The Nitty Britty selected this super cake. The recipe is on Britin's blog.

Nice and easy to make and what a divine aroma coming from the kitchen! I followed the recipe exactly except for the oven temp. - my bundt pan was one of those Kaiser or Nordicware dark-colored pans, so I baked at 325 degrees F instead of 350. I have learned that the darker pans conduct heat more quickly so hence the need to bake about 25 degrees lower than the recipe states.

Umm! I've just had a teeny piece of bundt cake that fell off as I was setting it up for its maple syrup glaze. It's a perfect cake for Thanksgiving, with its warm spices and tangy cranberries.

I'm also giving away a delightful little book: i heart macarons by Hisako Ogita. The first edition in English has just been published. I ended up with two copies, due to impatience with the Post Office and running to get another copy from Barnes and Noble. So if you just leave a comment on todays post I'll do the random number thing (or put the numbers in a hat!) next week, in time to announce the winner in my next TWD post.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

This is an amazing cake to make. Everything about it is elegant - the luscious ganache with loads of butter, the chestnut cream in the cake, a good cognac and more gourmet chocolate for the syrup, and the smoothe-pouring glaze. I am quite beside myself with excitement about what it will taste like and have already picked out the best shaped chestnuts I bought from the gourmet store.

If the cake tastes good, it will become the kind of dessert I would like to take to a small literary dinner party with beautiful china on the table and fine wine....Oh well, tis "such stuff as dreams are made on" as I don't get invitations to such affairs!

I found it quite fussy to prepare and what an awful chocolatey mess all over the sink and countertop but it's looking pretty neat right now in the fridge. I followed Dorie's recipe exactly, with the exception of making two layers instead of three - haven't risked cutting three layers yet ever, and the cake square didn't look deep enough to get three layers.

I have told the team at work they are getting a chestnut chocolate cake tomorrow; everyone is looking forward to it.

Katya of Second Dinner picked this recipe. It's a really great choice. Thank you, Katya.

(I didn't want to disturb the cake when I took the pic so it's presentation is pretty rough looking.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sugar-topped Molasses Spice Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

These are the best ginger cookies I have ever tasted! I love the size also, the flattened shape, and the fact that they are not too sweet. They are nice and soft in the middle and a bit crunchy on the outside (that is, with baking for 13 minutes).

I have no more to say, nothing but praise, and they are going to our troops in the Middle East - the Operation Baking-GALS program.

The recipe is on Cookies with Boys, a delightful blog created by Pamela. Thanks for a wonderful TWD pick Pamela.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

White Chocolate and Orange Cookies - Sweet & Simple Bakes

A plate full of cookies and there's more to come - I got 40 cookies out of this recipe. They are delightful and delicious. I found the best baking time was 8 minutes as they are left to sit on the hot tray for 5 minutes after being taken from the oven.

Here is a case of "From England - To England." Sweet and Simple Bakes is a wonderful English blog and my niece in England is going to get a box of these cookies in the mail. My niece lives in Cornwall, UK. It's her Birthday and I'm also sending her something pretty from L.L. Bean in the package, plus some lemon cookies from the Lemon Cookie recipe I posted last week.

White Chocolate & Orange Cookies

115g (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
200g (7ozs.) caster sugar (superfine)
1 egg
Grated zest of 1 orange (2 to 3 tsp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g (7 ozs.)plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ baking powder
¼ tsp salt
225g (8 ozs.)white chocolate chips (milk or dark chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar. Add the egg, orange zest and vanilla extract.Sift together the dry ingredients.

Stir the dry ingredients and chocolate chips into the butter mixture and combine.

Roll into balls. Use your fingers to flatten onto a non-stick baking sheet 5cm/2in apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool for five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

When cool, store in an airtight container for up to four to five days.

A Lovely Award!

I've got the Kreativ Blogger award from Nat of Girls are Made of Sugar and Spice. Why, thank you, Nat! It's perked up my day and my blog - been quite a while since I got a nice award. Check out Nat's blog - she's got some great recipes and pics.

This award comes with a tag therefore here is the list of rules :

1) Thank the person who has given you the award.
2) Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3) Link to the person who has nominated you for the award.
4) Name 7 things about myself that people might find interesting.
5) Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.

My 7 Kreativ Bloggers are:
Occasional Sugar
Eat My Cupcake
Eat My Cake Now
Crazy Asian Gal

Seven Things:
I speak Afrikaans as my second language.
I taught English in the Western Transvaal in S. Africa.
I went to school in Australia.
I love to visit my niece, Lisa, in Penzance, UK.
My favorite hobby is looking at pictures of beautiful cakes in glossy cookbooks.
I have a closet full of cookbooks.
I love spicy foods, particularly Indian and Middle Eastern foods.We got fabulous curry in S. Africa.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte - Tuesdays with Dorie

I have such hopes for the deliciousness of this torte. It's almost cool and just waiting for its mousse topping. I can't wait to take it to work tomorrow to get comments.

I made a couple of changes to Dorie's recipe - firstly, I used glace cherries, not sour cherries, and soaked them in the Kirsch for 24 hours. I did not strike a match -there is no way I'm going to play around in the kitchen with bringing up flames. I left out the cherry preserves as I believed it would be too sweet mixed with the glace cherries.

The torte mixing was pretty straightforward; it took more like 70 minutes to get baked. I tasted the mousse - wonderful! A delicate flavor and not too rich.

Thank you April of Short+Rose. This is an exotic pick.

The picture of Kitty Cat is Phoebe trying to get in the way of her Mommy's sewing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Macarons - Daring Bakers

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! My first Macaron effort. I'm posting them just so I can get DB credit for October but I am really ashamed of them; if I only had the time I would try another batch. I did learn some things, though. I made coffee macarons (no feet showed up) and orange zest macarons (feet showed up but still mega room for improvement). One "scientific" discovery was that I should let the macarons sit in the oven at 200 F for more than 5 mins.- more like 10 mins. This way I got the feet on the orange macarons.

I also found that 7-8 minutes at 375 F was not enough. Next effort I'll try 10, but my 2nd batch, the orange macarons, are a bit overbaked, to say the least, as I left them in for 15 mins!

For the filling I have chosen Nutella - always delicious and I just don't think my little experiment matches up to getting a gorgeous buttercream filling. Hopefully my next batch will. I have just pre-ordered, "I Love Macarons" by Hisako Ogita - I have always been a person who buys a book as the solution to whatever problem arises so hopefully this wonderful looking book will do the trick.

The ray of hope is that they tasted really good - particularly the coffee macarons.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lemon Cookies

Delicious, very lemony, and quick to make. I am taking them to a nice afternoon tea with a neighbor today.

These lemon cookies are icebox or refrigerator cookies.
Prep Time: :
Cook Time: :12
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces) butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together 1 cup of the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and zest, then gradually blend in the flour mixture. Form the dough into 2 rolls about 2 inches wide and 7 inches long. Wrap the rolls in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°.
Unwrap the cookie dough and cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle slices lightly with remaining sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on a rack and store in an airtight container.
Makes about 5 to 6 dozen lemon icebox cookies.

Recipe is from

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Almond Cornmeal Cake with Mascarpone Frosting and Toasted Almonds

This is a recipe for a plain almond loaf adapted from Epicurious. It's a very pleasurable cake to make, slightly unusual because of the cornmeal. It fits perfectly into an 8-1/2 loaf tin and rises very nicely.

I got a good tip from the recipe, too: to cut a 24x3 inch piece of parchment paper and place it on the base - middle of the tin with the sides hanging over. These can be used as handles to ease the baked cake out, instead of doing the upside-down, and possibly, disastrous thing. I'm going to use this tip often in future.

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F and butter an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2- by 3-inch loaf pan. Put a 24- by 3 1/2-inch strip of wax paper lengthwise down center of pan (to facilitate unmolding), leaving an overhang on each end.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Finely grind almonds with 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and stir into cornmeal mixture.

Beat butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time until just blended, then beat in vanilla. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add cornmeal mixture and stir and fold until just combined.

Transfer batter to loaf pan, smoothing top, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife, then use strips to carefully lift cake from pan onto rack.

It says 6 servings, but that would be 6 very large slices. My team is going to have thin, delicate slices so I'll get 12 out of it. Dabbed with mascarpone frosting and some toasted almonds it should be quite elegant.

The Mascarpone Frosting:
8 ozs mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teasp. vanilla
1 TBS 2% milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar

In large bowl, beat together mascarpone and butter until smoothe. Beat in vanilla extract and milk. On low speed, add in confectioners' sugar, increase speed to high and mix 1-2 minutes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Allspice Crumb Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

Nice tummy-filling muffins - a really good breakfast, except I have just consumed mine as an after dinner treat. The muffin part is delicious and could certainly stand on its own without the crumble, but the crumble adds a special spicy zing. I was a bit sparing with it after reading the P&Q for this week as I didn't want it to run over the top. I also think the muffins are well, not very light in consistency, but, no problem, they taste good.

Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table selected this weeks recipe. It'a a great one. Thank you, Kayte.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cookies for Our Troops - Operation BakingGALS

Here's this month's round of cookies for our soldiers overseas. The first box is filled with Snickerdoodles, nice old fashioned cookies; the second is of Rice Crispy Brown Sugar Cookies and then the cookies ready to go in the USPS by Priority Mail.

I hope my soldier and his team enjoy the cookies - I am told he likes sugar cookies, and these are pretty close.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Mini Vacation

I'm taking a mini-vacation for a week - going to visit Atlanta, GA. I have never been to Georgia before so I'm really looking forward to it. Will get back to blogging with TWD's Allspice Crumb Muffins.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chocolate Tartlets - Tuesdays with Dorie

I really wanted to produce a nice Chocolate Crunch Tart this week, and even planned Chocolate Crunch Minis, but my caramel with nuts turned out as hard as a rock and my Chocolate Ganache was too soft. So I ended up making the minis with just white chocolate and milk chocolate from a recipe I found in Recipezaar:

10 oz. white chocolate (I used Callebaut)
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
Melt white chocolate and cream in a double boiler, then beat in cream cheese.

I'll just have to try the tart again soon. In the meantime, I think the little tartlets will go down well with the work team.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vols-au Vents - Daring Bakers

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

My first try at Puff Pastry. It seemed awfully tricky but I believe my next production will be much less stressful as I have learned a lot from Trial l. The pufflets didn't rise as high as I wished, mainly because I didn't make a nice, evenly spread "butter sandwich." My biggest hassle was banging the frozen butter - even put it in the food processor, chopped it down with a meat tenderizer, and ended up with pockets of butter between the layers as it was still very hard. Tip to self: use butter from fridge, not freezer - it will handle more easily.

The rest of the challenge was really rather lovely - making the envelope folds (used quite a bit of flour to keep the pastry dry), rolling the dough (really soft and pliable), and cutting the little rounds and seeing how the blobs rose in the oven to show delicate layers. My filling is cream topped with blueberries and I'm looking forward to munching once my pics are taken.

I'm putting all the instructions right here, on my blog, as a ready reference. Thank you Steph for this super challenge.

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:
-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cottage Cheese Pufflets - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tricky sticky dough but really delicious little pastry bites. I found making and rolling the dough to be quite straightforward - used lots of flour to keep the pastry dry and rolled the dough into two shapes that ended up looking like ink blot tests - there was no chance of getting a rectangle! But preparing the squares was another matter - really sticky and soft to handle.

At any rate, I had enough to cut out 42 two-inch squares. They baked in around 10 minutes, in fact, a couple even caught a bit on the bottom. The office team will get them tomorrow and I wonder what their response will be - they are so tiny! Maybe it will be like eating peanuts, just popping them down the hatch.

Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes picked the Pufflets for us. Great choice, Jacque! Thank you. The recipe is on the Daisy Lane Cakes blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flaky Apple Turnovers - Tuesdays with Dorie

I'm very excited about this lovely sour cream pastry and can't wait to taste the Apple Turnovers. I halved the quantities in the recipe and found that I needed to add about 2 TBS sourcream to the dough, otherwise it would have been too crumbly to handle.

Chilling and rolling - just fine. Forming the turnovers - not so good. I rather foolishly tried mini turnovers (3 ins. in diameter) and that's just not large enough for a neat turnover. I had to mince the apple mixture to get it small enough to place on the dough circles and folding the circles was not fun at all - I don't have nice turnover shapes.

That being said, I am hoping for success at the Office on Tuesday, but I'm a bit nervous about them. I have put them in the freezer (about 20 minis) ready to bake Monday evening.

Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen picked this week's recipe - thank you, Julie, for introducing us to another wonderful Dorie pastry recipe.

Later in the day: They are wonderful little pastries! I love the crisp, slightly sweet pastry and the simple apple filling. They disappeared at work in about 30 minutes - some people came upstairs asking about the Tuesday cakes and I had to tell them they were all gone. Make again, and again...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pistachio Meringues and Chocolate Mini Morsel Meringues

Time for a Church Reception tonight, September 14. This time I did not play the over-reacher and cater all the sweet stuff; I offered to make meringues (over 100 small meringues). I did Pistachio Meringues, colored the palest green, and Chocolate Mini Morsel Meringues.

Most of my recipe is adapted from the Fine Cooking website except I had to change the baking times. I found that putting the meringues in at 220 F for 1-1/2 hours, followed by 175 F for 1-1/2 hours seemed to give a nice crisp meringue on the outside with a sticky toffee consistency right in the middle. I really like this but others might prefer a real crisp French meringue that snaps when you take a bite of it.


3 oz. (3/4 cup) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Pinch table salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped medium fine/or 1/3 cup Nestle Mini-Morsels.

Arrange oven racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Heat the oven to 220 F. Line a large heavy baking sheet with parchment. Sift together the confectioners' sugar, superfine sugar, and salt.

With an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Begin mixing on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks. Continue beating while gradually sprinkling in the sifted sugars. When all the sugar is added, increase speed to high and whip until firm, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla and the 1/3 cup pistachios and beat just until blended, about 10 seconds.

Spoon about half of the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Pipe shapes as you like (for kisses, about 1-1/2 inches wide and about 2 inches from tip to base) onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake the meringues for 1-1/2 hours at 220 F and then reduce heat to 175 F for another 1-1/2 hours. Remove them from the oven and gently lift the meringues off the parchment. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Tonight will tell if they are a favorite dessert or not. I think they will like them.

Well, "tonight" is now the next day. The meringues were a huge success, particularly the Pistachio Meringues. In fact, for my next venture I will probably leave out the chocolate chip meringues and make almond meringues to go with the pistachio ones.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here is today's treat for the co-workers, in fact, it completes the special requests list I got in July - Red Velvet Cupcakes. They are looking rather nice, just out of the oven, cooling on the rack. I didn't have any cake flour or buttermilk so I used substitutes - vinegar in milk to make buttermilk and cornflour in the AP flour to make cake flour. I'm usually very precise about using the exact ingredients, but what with the long weekend, getting ready to go to see "Julie and Julia," followed by a steakhouse dinner, I didn't get all that much time to shop around. Needless to say, the local supermarket does not know anything about cake flour and has run out of buttermilk.

I have a feeling these are going to taste just as good. I got the recipe from "Simply Recipes" and halved it to make a dozen cupcakes.

Here's the Recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups of cake flour
2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk*
1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

Frosting ingredients

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
*You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes.


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

3 In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.

4 Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.

5 Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.

6 Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

The Frosting

1 Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2 Add the vanilla extract and mix.

3 Add the powdered sugar, continually taste to get to desired sweetness. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Tuesday morning - all in their carrier, ready to deal with the "A" train.

Just a quick review - they loved them at work! Loved the color, the taste, and the cream cheese frosting! MAKE AGAIN.

No TWD This Week

I'm sorry, but there won't be a TWD from me this week. I would love to make a Chocolate Souffle but it's not really portable, so I can't take it to my taste testers. Oneday, oneday, when I have a supper party, I will give it a try. Good luck everybody; I hope your chocolate souffles rise beautifully.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tourrigini - Italian Almond Cookies

This weekend I'm doing my baking for the Troops overseas - I belong to Operation Baking GALS, where, once a month, members send baked goods, candies, etc. to our soldiers in the Middle East. So this month I thought I would try some Italian Almond Cookies or Tourrigini. They are really a soft, sweet biscotti. They should travel well, which is always something to consider as it's so hot over there - no chocolate or delicate crumbly cookies.

They are easier than biscotti as there is no "twice baking" procedure, just forming logs and baking them for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. Very delicious too, nice and sweet but not jaw breakers like biscotti. I'll wrap them in saran wrap and pack them, ready to go early in the week. I'm also making an old favorite, Molasses Cookies, to go with them. These always turn out very well shaped as they are made with Crisco, which apparently stops the cookies from spreading on the baking tray.

That should fill the box. I hope the troops really enjoy them.

Here are the recipes:

Tourrigini (Italian Almond Cookies)

1 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsp. water
1/3 c. oil
3 c. toasted almonds (unsalted)

Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl. (This batter will be very thick.) Roll into 6 equal strips, approximately 6 inches long by 2 inches wide. Use your hands to form strips on ungreased cookie sheet. Only two strips on each cookie sheet. Leave enough room between each one for growing. Brush each strip with egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool and cut in bias strips about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide.

Molasses Cookies

Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.

3/4 cup Crisco (shortening gives a much better shaped cookie than butter in this recipe - I have tried both)
1 cup sugar
1 egg whisked
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
pinch of salt (less than 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cream together Crisco and sugar (about 3-4 mins.) with stand-alone beater.
3. Lightly whisk egg and add to creamed mixture - mix in until just blended.
4. Add molasses.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients.

Use Tbs. cookie scoop (level) and drop batter in balls onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes - cookies must look a nice bronze/ginger color. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire cooler.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Expresso Cheesecake Brownies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Coming together nicely. Thirty-five minutes later - great, they are "lightly browned around the edges and puffed all over." I hope I can stay up until 11:00pm to pour on the sour cream frosting.

Well, I did - thank goodness for television and coffee. I like this brownie - it's like a brownie slice really, with quite a thin crust and the rest cheesecake. Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell picked this weeks recipe - thank you Melissa; it's a lovely choice. The recipe is on Melissa's blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I'm posting a day late - just didn't manage my schedule too well. It's a really nice cake to make, albeit the six sponge circles are a bit finicky. I alternately used two 9-inch cake rings to shape the rounds. If I make this torte again I would use just under 1-1/4 cups of batter, maybe 1-1/8, for each round as I was really running out of batter by the time nos. 5 and 6 were ready for baking.

I have learned a lot with this recipe and gained more confidence. My caramel turned out quite nicely - to date I have had problems with getting the amber color. This time I watched it like a hawk and the color turned in an instant - time for me to take it off the stove. (It looks like around hardball on the candy thermometer but I didn't risk the time to test it in case the caramel turned bitter.)

My chocolate buttercream looks really creamy so I am very satisfied with it. I have often had problems with making "scrambled eggs" when making a custard type recipe, but I bought a Nordic Ware Universal Double Boiler recently. It has a thicker base than my old boiler so the heat didn't curdle the eggs. It's fairly deep so it's necessary to use a tallish pot for the base to prevent it touching the water.

The caramel wedges? Not so good - I let the caramel get too hard so there were some casualties and I had a really hard time trying to separate the slices. However, I'm putting the slightly better ones on the cake, but they still look very wonky. I really like the lemon tang in the caramel though, so I've eaten the broken ones!

Assembly was a mixed experience - the layers came together quite evenly but the end product looks like the caramel wedges, but even more wonky. I like that I have learned this layer method; it would be nice to try it with teeny bit thicker layers.

Whew, it's done! Quite a difficult challenge I think.

Here's the recipe from our Daring Baker Hosts, Angela and Lorraine:


•2 baking sheets
•9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
•mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
•a sieve
•a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
•a small saucepan
•a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
•metal offset spatula
•sharp knife
•a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
•piping bag and tip, optional
Prep times

•Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
•Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
•Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
•Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes
Sponge cake layers

•6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
•1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
•1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
•1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
•pinch of salt
Chocolate Buttercream

•4 large eggs, at room temperature
•1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
•4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
•2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Caramel topping

•1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
•12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
•8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
•1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
Finishing touches

•a 7” cardboard round
•12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
•½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Thank you to the DB hosts, Angela and Lorraine. It has been an exciting challenge.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Creamiest Lime-Lemon Cream Meringue Pie - Tuesdays with Dorie

I've just been licking the spoon - what a lovely, thick lemon curd and very lemony-limey too! I used both lemons and limes as I ran out of lemons, and I left out the ginger because my boss does not like ginger!

It's going to be late. I will have to post tomorrow, Wednesday and take it to work on Thursday. The curd is in the fridge but still has to do the overnight thing, and then there's the meringue, of course. I just didn't start early enough (nothing unusual for me).

I read the P&Q and noted there were many comments about the length of time it took for the curd to get to 180 degrees - yes, indeed, mine took almost 25 minutes. I started with a double boiler; after about 20 minutes it just wasn't going over 170 degrees, so I put the saucepan on direct heat and it took a few minutes after that to reach the right temperature. Maybe I should have changed to direct heat earlier but then I might have got scrambled eggs.

Linda of Tender Crumb picked this week's recipe; it's a lovely choice and I'm so pleased I got a chance to see her blog - it is beautiful. Check out the recipe on the link.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Applesauce Spice Bars - Tuesdays with Dorie

Baking at the last minute as usual, to meet the Tuesday morning deadline. I was a bit pooped over the weekend as I made a lot of goodies for our Assumption Day reception so I really needed to chill out.

However, the first thing I had to do today was to clean my refrigerator - I had spilled a can of mango mousse in it and there was orangey looking, liquidy puree all over the fridge; what a clean up job it was! Finally, I got to my baking. The bars are in the oven now - maybe need another 5 - 10 minutes. I am so hoping they are going to be good. The batter was easy peasy to get together. I don't make bar cookies all that often for some reason, although I almost always enjoy eating them.

The taste test will come tomorrow at work. Karen of Something Sweet by Karen picked this week's recipe so check out her blog for the recipe. From reading the P&Q it seems the bars are delicious. Thanks a ton, Karen.

Not the prettiest pic! They are rather crumbly to cut.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Peppermint Cake

This is a lovely, ethereally light angel food cake, known at my Church as, "The Peppermint Cake." I have made it a couple of times for receptions and got a special request for it for the Assumption Day reception we had last night.

It's quite easy to make in an angelfood pan and I should imagine a number of flavoring extracts would go well, if peppermint extract is not liked. The recipe is from a fabulous site, Diana's Desserts.

It's got two excellent ratings (mine and another baker's) and one miserable one, obviously by someone who either didn't like peppermint or who messed up. It really makes me angry when people give a low rating, with no comments or explanations, which brings the average down.

I have in mind another angelfood cake as a co-worker's choice - one of our chaps said he liked angelfood cake - so I'm going to use this recipe and try out another flavoring.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Brownie Buttons - Tuesdays with Dorie

What a lovely pick from Jayna this week! I had a really enjoyable time making these adorable Brownie Buttons. I was so busy today with all sorts of duties - cashing in my coins at Pathmark's "Coin Star;" grocery shopping for the week; clearing out my closet and so on and so on, so no wonder I needed a break.

The small quantities in the recipe are just right for baking at the end of a busy day and the brownies are so easy too. They are out of the oven and I have consumed one - it's a delicious little bite. Just waiting for them to cool and I'll indulge in a bit of decorating.

The decorating inspiration: Green candy melts, a drop of peppermint extract and upside down brownie buttons. I bought some different colored candy melts at New York Cake on W.22nd St. plus some peppermint essence from the wonderful variety of flavorings they have there. I melted some of the green ones in the double boiler and then smothered the brownie buttons in them and arranged them like chocolates on the plate. They taste gorgeous - like a brownie candy. Now I'm planning some more brownie buttons with different colors and flavor extracts - they would look so cute at a party.

Thank you, Jayna. I think you have started a trend here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lemon Bundt Cake - Tonight

Even though the bananas for the banana bundt were unusable, I was determined to put on a show for Tuesday's TWD night, so I found a very promising looking recipe for a Lemon Bundt from Recipezaar. It was easy to make and quite quick - the baking time is an hour but I think mine was done in about 50 minutes - it's a teeny bit dry around the edges even then.

Right now it's cooling but I'll pour some lemon glaze over it before cutting it. I think it will make a nice cake for a hot, humid summer day.

Lemon Bundt Cake Recipe - From Recipezaar

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
8 egg yolks (save the whites for another cake recipe)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon, rind of, grated
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Beat egg yolks in separate bowl until light and lemon colored.
Blend into creamed mixture. Sift the dry ingredients well.
Add to creamed mixture alternately with the milk blending well.
Stir and blend in vanilla, lemon rind and lemon extract. Place batter in a well greased and floured Bundt pan.
Bake in a preheated 325F oven about 1 hour or until tested done. Cool in pan 15 minutes and carefully remove. Glaze if desired with a lemon glaze made from powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Banana Bundt Cake Not Tonight - TWD

Oh dear! There won't be a banana bundt for TWD this week - the bananas I was intending to use tonight look suspiciously overripe, so I'm going to coast around looking for another cake. Will have to do this one on a rewind.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vanilla Ice Cream - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's all gone - I ate this for a treat after supper tonight. It has a delicious, rich, creamy, custardy flavor and texture. I am pleased I persevered with it as the egg custard gave me quite a bit of trouble at first.

I had to make it twice as the first time the custard curdled and made scrambled eggs - unfortunately not the first time I have had this problem - I tried to make a Bavarian cream over the weekend and that also turned to scrambled eggs! I'm still not happy with my egg custard making; it didn't actually make ice cream curd in the Ice Cream Maker; it was still liquid after 30 minutes of churning. I put it in the freezer and after a couple of hours it set enough for its photo shoot and then dessert. I got some good advice on the P&Q to use a heavy-bottomed pan (which I don't have yet) and to cook it on a very low flame, also to use a double boiler.

I suppose practice makes perfect. But in spite of my frustration with the custard making I just loved this ice cream; it is so natural, no additives and really home-made tasting.

Thank you, Lynne, of Cafe Lynnylu for this lovely summer pick.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chocolate Mallow Cookies - Daring Bakers

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

The Chocky-Mallow Cookies are superb - I love everything about them; the rather plain biscuit base, the small size, the 'bury my face in it marshmallow' and the smooth chocolate dipping sauce. These cookies are quite time consuming because of wait time for the components, but the reward is delightful and delicious - dipping whole marshmallow cookies into a bowl of slightly warm chocolate is really the height of indulgence! They are definitely a keeper.

All in all, a very satisfying baking day. Thank you, Nicole of Sweet Endings. Just loved your DB choice.

Here's the recipe:

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.