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Monday, February 22, 2010

Daring Bakers - Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This has not been an easy challenge (that's a contradiction in terms isn't it?). Firstly, I got dry ladyfingers and secondly, it took me nearly an hour to get the mascarpone to 190F. I think these problems are solvable - my next ladyfingers batch will stay in the oven for less time and I'll place my special tin ladyfingers tray on top of another, firmer sheet. That way the sponge won't get so much direct heat. The mascarpone problem will probably be solved if I just follow the instructions and use the right kind of cream. My supermarket has only one kind of cream, the highly pasteurized kind. This will be a good excuse to go to Wholefoods in Manhattan and maybe indulge in a little stroll around Williams Sonoma as well. (The mascarpone did set overnight in the fridge though but it didn't have much texture; more like yoghurt.)

The Zabaglione - fabulous, 10 out of 10. Easy and quick to make.

The Pastry Cream - also fabulous, 10 out of 10. I love the lemon flavor.

Next day: I made another batch of ladyfingers.

Batch 2 of the Ladyfingers worked out much better - using the same recipe, I baked them for about 12 minutes and placed a baking tray underneath the ladyfinger pan.

The verdict? They loved it at work and I feel very happy that I have learned to make such a wonderful dessert. Making it the next time won't be so difficult, I am sure, as I will know what to expect.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

I've been looking for a really good chocolate chip cookie for a while. The "Back of the Box" recipes that I've tried are quite nice but nothing like these - Dorie's recipe is fabulous; maybe it's the brown sugar and nuts mix that puts it over the top; they are just delicious and are on my "Make Often" list.

The batter made quite a lot - 50 cookies. I made two batches, one for our Troops and one for the Office. Kait of Kait's Plate made this week's pick. Thank you, Kait. It's an excellent choice.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend Baking - Four Different Treats

I've been a busy bee this weekend, baking Chocolate Spice Cookies; Pistachio Biscotti; Apricot Squares; and Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes. The Mini Bundt Cakes are for last week's Tuesdays with Dorie (am trying to catch up!)and are going to the Office; the other three items are for a fabulous group I have just joined - the Secret Bakers. Basically, you get matched up with a blogger to bake for and in return you receive a treat package from another volunteer. Identities are not revealed (we are "secret bakers") until the nice surprise comes in the mail. My package this week is going to my "secret bakee." I'm posting the recipes here. It's fun to bake for another blogger and gives one a great opportunity to try out new recipes and get delicious goodies in return.

Chocolate Spice Cookies
by Nick Malgieri and David Joachin

Yield: Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup molasses
2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with a large rubber spatula. Beat in the applesauce and molasses.

Stir in the dry ingredients to make a soft dough.

Drop tablespoons of the dough (or use a small ice cream scoop) an inch apart on the prepared pans.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, changing the position of the pans about halfway through the baking. Exchange the top pan and the bottom and also turn them back to front at the same time. The cookies will still be fairly moist when they are done. Avoid overbaking them or they will be dry and hard. (10 mins. is just right.)
Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool the cookies.

I brushed some beaten egg white over them and sprinkled on pretty decorations - otherwise they would look very plain. They taste fabulous! Five Stars!

Apricot Squares
(from somewhere on the internet - can't find the source right now).

1/2 cup of butter (room temperature)
1 cup of light brown sugar (packed)
1/2 teasp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teasp. baking powder
l cup oats (quickcook)
1/2 cup apricot jam

Oven temperature must be 350F and pan size 8x8 inches. Butter pan, but do not use baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar
Add vanilla extract
In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and oats.
Mix dry ingredients with butter and sugar.
Reserve 1/4 cup of mixture for topping.
Pat remaining mixture into pan.
Spoon on apricot jam.
Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of topping over the jam.
Bake 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cut when cooled. (I would say 35-40 mins. should be enough.)

These are really good - the brown sugar gives a caramelly flavor.

Lenox Pistachio Biscotti
adapted from Baking From my Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of pistachios, medium-size chopped.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal together. (If you are adding ground spices, add them to this mixture before combining.)

3. Beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the pistachios and mix just to blend.

4. Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.

6. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, setting them again on the same sides as before and slide the sheet back into the oven.

7. Bake the biscotti at 350F for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature. These are very nice indeed. (The baking time might need to be a little longer but the biscotti must not get too brown on the underside.)

Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes

From Dorie Greenspan's "BAKING From My Home to Yours"
These were due for our "Tuesdays with Dorie" blogging last week but I was in the middle of doing a bake-in for a reception at my Church, so I'm sneaking these lovely little cakes in one week late - just couldn't resist trying out the mini bundt pan.

I've just had a munch - this cake is delicious; a nice, close-crumb cake a bit like a pound cake. The chocolate frosting is a bit gummy, so for the remainder of the cakelets I'm going to use a chocolate ganache.

The best chocolate ganache ever! From Joy of Baking:
8 ozs. chocolate
3/4 cups cream
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. cognac
Heat cream and butter, bring to just a boil.
Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir and whisk.
Add cognac.