Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Puff Pastry

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.

Puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should make our own at least once in awhile, right? Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
Once we have our puff pastry dough made and chilled, we are going to roll and form a portion of it into vols-au-vent, which are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling.

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 GreenspanYield: 2-1/2 pounds doughSteph’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.
Ingredients:2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour1 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 water1 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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

DB: Dobos Cake

I almost fell out of my chair when I saw what the challenge was for this month. I have this Hungian Cookbook and this was one of the recipes I was dying to try. I just couldn't find a reason to make it...until now!

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

So, what is the Dobos Torta (or Torte)?
The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.


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:

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:

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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Milo Cookies

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.

I always wanted to learn how to make Milan cookies, so I was really excited for this challenage. However, I wasn't happy with the results. The problem for me was that batter had lemon extract in it, which was way too strong and I hate orange chocolate. I also pour too large amounts of batter into the baking sheet and ended up with giant milo cookies. If I use this recipe again, I will definitely omit the lemon and the orange and uses smaller batches of batter.

I haven't tried the marshmallow cookies yet, but I'm dying to try it. Hopefully I will have better luck.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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

• 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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July's Cheese of the Month

Well, it has been two months and I have finally started up my Cheese of the Month again. This month I've selected something really challenging....Gorgonzola.

Gorgonzola is one of those stinky strong flavored cheeses, so I'm a litte scared about what to make with it. I look forward to seeing everyone's creations. Good luck!

Remember to e-mail me when you are done.

What is Cheese of the Month? Go here to find out:

April's Cream Cheese Results

I can't believe it is now July and I am finally putting up a blog about April's results! May and June were crazy busy months for me. May was my birthday month (that's right I get a whole month!), I got a new job (nursing assistant), mom graduated from Nursing School; and in June I went on vacation and had my wisdom teeth extracted and then I got a really sick! So, I've been a little behind on my blogging. But better late than never!

April was an easy month for me, because the Daring Baker's Challenage was the same thing I planned to make anyways...CHEESECAKE! The recipe was AMAZING, too. I modified several times and each time I have gotten rave reviews. I made three types: Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Dark Chocolate Mocha, and Nutella. All I did was tweek the original recipe a little.

Here's the original recipe. I included all of my variations at the bottom.***

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Nutella Cheesecake: I just added a whole jar of Nutella to the batter and omitted the lemon juice and vanilla. For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. Everyone LOVED it! My sister's friends said it was "Olive Garden Cheesecake Good!"

Dark Chocolate Mocha: I warmed the cream up and added 2 tbsp of instant coffee. I then added a whole bar of melted Dark Chocolate to the batter. I omitted the lemon juice. For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies.

I added a decorated touch by added vienna waffer sticks around the the cheesecake. I then covered it in with a dark chocolate ganche.

I made it for a Princess House Party my neighbor was throwing and one (older) lady said that eating my cheesecake was like having a "sexual experience!" How funny is that?!

Peanut Butter Cup: I omitted the lemon juice and added 1 Cup of homemade peanut butter. I then covered it in with a dark chocolate ganche. For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. I made it for my friend's bridal shower. Everyone LOVED it. My mom said it was "sooooooo good!" (She's a Negative Nelly, so that it is the ultimate compliment!)
I'm not the only one who has been busy. Cristine of Cooking with Cristine was a little late too. She made some amazing Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese Muffins. Make sure to check out her blog.
Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese Muffins
6 ounces flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 ounces sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
5/8 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
4 TBSP butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons lemon curd
1/4 teaspoon vanilla2 ounces cream cheese
3/4 ounce powdered sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 ounces powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a muffin pan with paper cases.
Sift flour, baking powder and sugar together.
Add lemon zest.
Mix together the milk, egg, butter, lemon curd and vanilla.
Mix together the cream cheese and icing sugar in a seperate bowl.
Make a well in center of the dry ingredients, quickly stir in the wet ingredients using no more than 12 strokes.
Put 1 tablespoon of the muffin mix into the base of the muffin pans.
Pop a fraction of the cream cheese mixture on top and then cover with the remaining muffin mixture.
The tins should be almost full to the top.
Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Prepare the glaze by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice together.
Remove the muffins from their tins, cool for five minutes and then drizzle with the glaze.

DB: Bakewell Tart

June was a very busy month for me. I just finished up my job training and then I went to florida for a friend's wedding/vacation. So, I've been a little behind in my blogging.

The Daring Baker's Challenage this month was a Bakewell Tart. The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

Bakewell Tart History and Lore

Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Mediaeval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted,
“This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”
By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.
This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.
Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.
Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.
Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee or just eat it sneaky slice by sneaky slice until, to your chagrin, you realise the whole tart has somehow disappeared despite you never having pulled out a plate, fork or napkin with which to eat it.

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.Annemarie’s notes:• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
(4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
(4.5oz) icing sugar
3 eggs
(½ tsp) almond extract
(4.5oz) ground almonds
(1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well, there goes my diet....

Well, I got a new job as a nurse's aide taking care of the I haven't had a lot of time to bake. I have also been despritely trying to loose a few inches because my bride's maide dress is snug and the wedding is in two weeks. (That and one of the resident at the home keeps calling me fat. Well, at least I'm not crazy!) Oh boy. I hate diets. I don't believe in them. So, after two days with no snacks or desserts I made this strudel and I ate a few pieces with NO GUILT! I figure that as long as I don't bend over, my dress won't rip and everything will be fine. Everyone will be looking at the bride, right?

I didn't have time for The Cheese of the Month or Operation Baking Gals, so I figured I would at least do the Daring Bakers. Since I've been training, I haven't had too many days off and the days I've had off I've been exhaused. Thus, I made my strudel the day it was due!

I absolutely LOVE strudel, especially apple. It reminds me of our honeymoon in Vienna and of course my daughter who was conceived there! ;-)

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

The recipe is fairly simple, it is just the stretching of the dough that was a little hard. I didn't have cider vinger, so I used red wine vinegar and that seemed to work fine. I also don't drink so I didnt' use rum. I used vanilla instead. I always soak my raisins in vanilla before added them to anything. I also didn't have nor do I like walnuts, so I just added extra raisins. For the bread cumbs, I used some homemade multigrain bread that my dad had me us. I just grounded it up in the mini chopper.

My strudel tasted amazing except that it wasn't as flaky as I wanted it to be. So, I'm going to try it again tomorrow. That didn't stop Baby Bell and I from eating it with vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce! This was a great challenge and I look forward to trying other fillings in the strawberry rubharb or raspberry.

Apple Strudel

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbsstrudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel Dough
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cheesecake-Daring Bakers Challenage

This month's challenage was CHEESECAKE!! I was making a cheesecake for Easter anyways, so I was thrilled to see this was the challenage! I've never made cheesecake before so I was a little nervous. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

It turned out perfectly! I was a little nervous about the water bath, but another baker suggested wrapping the pan in foil and then with plastic wrap to keep the crust from getting soggy. It worked too!

I modified the recipe and made a Nutella Cheesecake with a Dark Chocolate Glaze and an Oreo Cookie Crust. I just added a whole jar of Nutella to the batter and omitted the lemon juice and vanilla. For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. Everyone LOVED it! My sister's friends said it was "Olive Garden Cheesecake Good!"

Here's the oreo crust.
Here's my delicious creation!
I was amazed that there were no cracks!

My daugher LOVES Nutella!
I love this recipe so much that I made another one for my friend's Princess House party last week. I made a Dark Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake. It turned out AMAZING. An elderly woman at the party said that eating my cheesecake was like having a "sexual experience!" I LOVE old people! She said that she bought a cheesecake from the store and had to throw it away because it didnt' taste good. She was thrilled when I gave her the recipe.

To make the Dark Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake, I omitted the lemon juice and added 1 tbsp instant coffee to 1/4 c of the cream, which I heated in the microwave first. I added the rest of the cream to the batter cold. I then added 5 oz of melted dark chocolate. I used Choceur of course! I love Aldi's!!! For the crust I omitted the graham crackers and subbed Oreo Cookies. I decorated the sides with those straws that are filled with cream. I can't remember the exact name though. (I will post a picture of my creation soon!)

I making a Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake this Sunday for my friend's bridal shower and I'm planning on making at least two more this month for another party!

Here's the original recipe:
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Some variations from the recipe creator:
** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.
Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):
**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Light 'n' Tender Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix

I absolutely LOVE pancakes! I found yet another great King Arthur Flour recipe for healthy pancakes. I bought some whole wheat flour, so I wanted to use it, but I didn't want the "wheaty" taste. This recipe was perfect. Because it has oatmeal in it, it is natural sweetly and has no "wheaty" taste. The name speaks for itselves. I made them for my sister and she insisted that I give her some of the mixture to take home. This mix makes a TON, too!

I served the pancakes with a homemade berry sauce. I included that recipe too. The berry sauce can be used for a variety of things, such as a fondue dip* or a sauce for ice cream.

Light 'n' Tender Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix

3 1/2 cups (12 1/4 ounces) old-fashioned or quick rolled oats
4 cups (1 pound) King Arthur whole wheat flour, traditional or white wheat
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil

1. To make the mix: Grind the oats in a food processor until they're chopped fine, but not a powder.
2. Combine the oats, flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, preferably the bowl of an electric mixer.
3. Mix on low speed, and drizzle the oil into the bowl slowly while the mixer is running. When all the oil has been added, stop the mixer and squeeze a clump of the mix in your hand; if it holds together, it's just right. If it won't hold together, stir in 1 tablespoon of oil at a time, until it does. 4. Store indefinitely in an airtight container in the freezer.

To make the pancakes:
1. Whisk together 1 cup (4 3/8 ounces) mix, 1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup each yogurt and milk), 1 tablespoon orange juice, and 1 large egg. Don't worry if the batter seems thin at first; it'll thicken as it stands.
2. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes before cooking. Heat your griddle or pan till a drop of water sputters when you drop it on the surface.
3.Lightly grease, and pour pancake batter by the 1/4-cupful onto the griddle. A muffin scoop works well here.
4. Cook the pancakes till they're golden brown on the bottom, flip them over, and cook till golden brown on the other side.
5.Serve with butter and syrup; fresh fruit is a plus, of course.

Yield: 10 medium-sized (3 1/2") pancakes.

Mixed Berry Sauce

1 Pkg Frozen Mixed Berries
1/4 C Sugar

1. Thaw berries and place in blender.
2. Strain berries threw a sieve into saucepan.
3. Heat on medium heat and add sugar.
4. When sauce is warm remove from heat.

*For fondue: place in a fondue pot and serve with pound cake, brownies, different variety of cheeses, and/or angel food cake for dipping.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

S'Mores Bars

This recipe is so simple and so yummy!

S'mores Bars (16)

16 Whole Graham Crackers
6 Tbsp Butter, melted
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 C miniature marshmallows
1 Can Sweetend condensed milk
15 Hershey's Hugs
1/4 C M&Ms

1. Preheat to 350 F. Line square baking pan with foil; coat with cooking spray.
2. Break 5 grahma crackers into 1 inch pieces, reserve.
3. Finely crush, remaing crackers and combine with butter and sugar.
4. Press into bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
5. Combine marshmallows and grahma crackers pieces. Place over crust.
6. Pour sweetend condensed milk evely over the marshmallow mixture. Top with hugs and M&Ms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chocolate Cake with Oreo Cookies and Cream Filling

Birthday Princess

Baby Bell's 2nd birthday was in March, so I decided that instead of buying a cake and paying lots of money, it would be cheaper and more fun to make my own. Well, I can honestly say it was cheaper to make my own, but it was A LOT of work!
We had a Hello Kitty theme.

I got a book from the Library entitled The Whimsical Bakehouse and it had a great selection of recipes from cakes to frostings to cheesecake to decorating with chocolate! I decided to go with a simple chocolate cake since I was making this cake for a very picky bunch of people: my inlaws! Don't get me wrong, they are WONDERFUL people, they are just really really picky and aren't up for trying new and exciting recipes. I bought some cake flour from the Surplus store for $1.00 and I already had all of the other ingredients in stock, except for the Oreos and Heavy Whipping Cream.

For the filling I went with the Oreo Cookies and Cream Filling. I figured everyone loves Oreos, right? I decided to go with their house recipe for Buttercream, which was the same choice. This was the best buttercream recipe I have ever tasted! Both the filling and frosting make enough to frosting my entire cake plus I had a some leftover for future use. Maybe for cupcakes, perhaps?
I use the Betty Crocker Bake and Fill, but I think next time I'll just use cake pans. The Bake and Fill did do the job, it was just weird for me to work with since it was my first time. The recipe belows calls for doing 3 cups of the batter in one pan and filling the rest in the other, so one will be more full then the other. I think this might be because these cakes where meant to filled so they are lopsided. I didn't do this method because I used the bake and fill, so I'm not sure what the times would be if you wanted to just fill them evenly. I would start with the lesser time and keep checking every 5 minutes or so. The Bake and Fill took about 45 minutes to bake.
The total time it took from start to finish was about 4 hours. I reccomend, though, giving the cake a lot more time to completely cool before frosting it. I was a little hasty and had a hard time with it. The cake must be put in the fridge if not consuming right away. Don't worry, it won't be dry. In fact, as long as you give it a half hour to an hour to sit out in room temperature, it will be very moist! I made my cake the day before and I found that the longer it sat the more flavorful it was. Everyone raved about this cake, so I will definitely be making this one from now on.
Chocolate Butter Cake (9 Cups Batter)
1 C hot coffee
1 C cocoa powder
1 C cold water
3 C cake flour
2 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp baking powder
3/4 Tsp salt
2 Sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 C sugar
4 Large eggs
1 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract
1. Grease and flour two 10x3-inch round pans.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
3. In a small bowll, combine and whisk until there are no lumps the coffee and cocoa powder.
4. Add and whisk until smooth the water.
5.On a piece of wax paper, sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
6. In a seperate bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
7. Slowly add eggs, one at a time and vanilla.
8. Add the dry ingredients alternately to the butter and egg mixture with the cocoa, mixing until smooth.
9. Pour 3 cups of the batter into one pan and the rest into the other. Bake the less full pan for 20-25 minutes, and bake the fuller pan of 30-35 minutes.
10. Cool each cake a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before turning them out of their pans.
Oreo Cookies and Cream Filling (6 Cups)
2 1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C confectioner's sugar (I call it "powdered sugar")
1/2 Tsp pure vanilla extract
20 Oreos (I used double stuffed.)
1. In a bowl, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff.
2. Gently fold in Oreos.
House Buttercream
6 C confectioner's sugar
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp vanilla extract
1 C boiling water
2 3/4 C vegetable shortening
1 1/2 Sticks butter, slightly chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1. In a bowl, stir together sugar, salt, and vanilla.
2. Add and whip at low speed the boiling water. Let cool.
3. Add and whip unitl smooth the vegetable shortening and butter.
4. Increase teh speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy and doubled in volume. This should take 10-20 minutes.
Assembling the cake
I could just tell you but I think it is better if you watch step by step videos from this website:
1. Make sure cake is completely cool before frosting.
2. Place cake in fridge if you are not eating it right away.
3. Allow 30 minutes to an hour to set out at room temp. before serving.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

April's Cheese of the Month is...

Well, I decided to choose a cheese that is often overlooked and underappreciated---kind of like all of us moms! This cheese can be used in any type of dish from appretizers to dinners to dips to desserts. That's right, I'm taking about Cream Cheese or its baby sister---the cheese that begins with an N. Can anyone pronounce it? Well, anyways I love Cream Cheese. It is stable at our house. My daughter loves it on homemade toast or bagels, my husband loves it in dips and mash potatoes, and I love it in desserts! If you want an even bigger challenge try creating a whole meal---appretizers, entree, sides, and desserts---uses cream cheese! Now that's a challenage! But one recipe would do just find too! Good luck!

And remember to e-mail me when you are done.

What is Cheese of the Month? Go here to find out:

Fontina Results

Well, this month sure did go by fast! This was my daughter's birthday month---yes that's right she gets a whole month! Since our family isn't from this area, we had to spend every weekend visiting and having parties, which was a TON of fun but very exhausing! So, I made sure to do my recipe at the beginning of the month.

We had two wonderful bloggers this month, Carey of Cooking with Carey and Samantha of The Second Lunch. Carey made a wonderfully delicious Roast Turkey Panini with Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, and Fontina. Yummy! I absolutely LOVE paninis! And what a great choice of flavors, too!

Roast Turkey Panini with Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, and Fontina
Carey of Cooking with Carey

1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
8 slices ciabatta bread or other rustic Italian white bread, thinly sliced
8 ounces very thinly sliced roast turkey breast
1 roasted red bell pepper, stemmed, skin and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
6 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced, to cover the bread slices
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Arrange the slices of bread on a flat work surface and, using a small spoon, divide the pesto evenly among 1 side of each of the bread slices.

Divide the turkey, roasted pepper strips, and fontina equally among 4 of the bread slices. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread, pesto sides down, to form 4 sandwiches.

Brush the outsides of each sandwich lightly with some of the olive oil. Heat a large skillet, griddle, or grill pan over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, pressing occasionally with a large metal spatula or the bottom of a small heavy saucepan, about 4 minutes per side. Remove sandwiches and transfer to a cutting board. Slice in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.

Samantha of The Second Lunch wisely combined her Barefoot Blogging challenge with this month's cheese challenge. She prepared some lovely Tomato Goat Cheese Tarts. The tastly little tarts combined two cheeses; goat cheese and some sort of melty cheese. Of course she used Fontina, which a great melting cheese. What a fantastic pairing! Make sure to check out her blog to see beautiful photos of her creation as well as the scenery on the way to get her cheeses!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts
adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 2

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- coarse salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated Fontina, with some shaved
- 2 ounces goat cheese (I used plain, but Ina recommends herb and garlic Montrachet)
- 2 thick slices of tomato (about 1/4 inch) from a medium tomato
- a few teaspoons of julienned basil (use fresh if at all possible, but it works fine with dried)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Take a sheet of defrosted puff pastry (I used Trader Joe’s Artisanal Puff Pastry, frozen, which comes in big sheets), and draw six inch large circles of pastry, using a bowl or saucer as your guide. Place pastry rounds on a sheet pan lined with parchment, and stick in the fridge to keep them cold until you are ready to use them. (Note: quickly take the leftover scraps, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, and put them in the oven for the next ten minutes or so while you cook the onions. They make a fantastic snack.)
3. In a pan on medium heat, add a couple of good glugs of olive oil, and saute the onion and garlic for about 15 minutes until starting to get very soft. Season with salt and pepper, add the white wine and thyme leaves. Turn the heat down just slightly, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until very soft and lightly browned. Take off the heat.
4. Now for the fun part: take your pastry rounds, and with a sharp knife, score a 1/4 inch wide border around the inside of the edge of the circle. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the fontina cheese on each round, staying inside the scored border. (This is so when baking, the border will rise and create a little edge.)
5. In each circle, place half of your sauteed onions inside the border, and crumble an ounce of the goat cheese. Take your tomato and plop it on top, brushing it with a little bit of olive oil, giving it a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and the basil, and the rest of the fontina cheese.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden. You might want to watch it in the end, because if your oven is too hot or uneven it might start to burn. You can serve it on its own, or with a little lemony salad with arugula, and any leftover tomato you might have.

I decided to do something simple this month. Flipping through my Pillsbury Cookbook, I found a new twist on an old favorite---Mac N Cheese, grown up style! I had to tweek the recipe a little but it ended up being FABULOUS! My husband loved it and it was so easy to make too. Fontina is one of those cheeses that melts beautifully. The recipe calls for Swiss, but Aldi's was out of it so I decided to use Havarti since it was a milder type of cheese that melts well. I also omitted the alcohol since we don't drink. (I'm sure the alcohol burns off but why take the risk?) I also omitted the tomatoes because I thought that would ruin the flavor. So, I added onions insteads! I love onions and onions and cheese go very well together. This dish was amazing and I will be making it a stable in my house!

Grown-Up Mac "N" Cheese
Pillsbury Complete Cookbook

2 1/2 C Uncooked Penne Pasta
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/8 Tsp White Pepper
Dash Nutmeg
1 1/4 C Half and Half
1/2 C Fontina, shredded
1/2 C Havarti, shredded
1/2 C Fresh Parmesan, shredded
1/4 small onion, minced

1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 1 1/2 quart caserole with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Make the pasta as directed and drain.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions and then stir in flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; cook and stir until bubbly. Gradually add half and half, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring fequently. Remove from heat. Stir in all three cheeses until melted.

4. Add pasta to cheese sauce, stir gently to coat. Pour into sprayed dish.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are bubble and mixture is thoroughly heated.

Team Baking with the Baby

My daugther, Baby Bell, and I have been baking with Operation Baking Gals for a few months now. This month I thought I would host my cousin, Eddie. For those of you who are new to what Baking GALS is all about, let me take a moment to sum it up for you. Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic troops that are currently deployed. Each soldier is "Hosted" by a blogger, and potential bakers are "recruited" from the bloggers own site as well as the GALS site. Each Host recruits between 20-25 bakers, meaning LOTS of goodies get delivered to our many, in fact that he or she has plenty to share with their fellow troops!

I already posted Eddie's information on the site but I thought I would post it here too.

Before being sent to Iraq, he was helping to raise his baby nephew, Josh, while attending high school. He sacrificed a lot to stay home on weekends and weeknights to watch the baby. However, when he had free time, he would spend it riding his four wheeler with his friends. Yes, he is a big red neck! He graduated from Uniontown High School in Pa and is now 19 years old. He is very patriotic and knew when he signed up that he would be sent to Iraq fairly quickly. He is proud to serve his country and to make a better world for his nephew. Sadly, I don’t have a current picture of him right now, but he comes from a long line of good looking people! ;-) He loves all types of cookies, but chocolate chip are his favorite. He also has NO allergies, so anything goes! If you would like to join my group please e-mail me at

If you have any questions about what to send or how to send to it you can go the site FAQ's: You do not have to register on the site if you don't want too. You can just simply email me and I'll send you his address. My daughter and I just send 7 dozen cookies to him today. We made all kinds too! I love this group because my daughter and I are "baking for a cause!" The soliders all need and appreciate the goodies we make. It is a small way to "do our part."

Thanks for your support and happy baking!

Team Baking with the Baby

Saturday, February 28, 2009

March's Cheese Shall Be....

Well, last year my husband wasn't sure what to get me for my birthday. I was kind of upset because I'm so easy to buy for. Anything and I mean ANYTHING I get I love and appreciate. I ALWAYS find a way to use the presents I recieve. I tried to explain this to him and I was mad because he should know this by now. Flustered I blurted out, "You could go into the grocery store and by me a block of cheese and I would be happy!" Well, On my birthday I reciped $30 worth of cheeses! But true to my word, I was very happy and wanted to use all that cheese, which is why I started the Cheese of the Month Challenge. One of those cheeses was Fontina. I never had it before so I was anxious to try it. It was sooooooo delicious. My husband and I fought over it! I mainly used it on top of pasta or on sandwiches. But this time I want to use it in a dish or maybe a dessert.

So this month's challenge is Fontina or anything had the word Fontina in it. I think I saw a block of Fontinalle somewhere. It is kind of like parm. or romanio. I found some at Aldi and Weis. So good luck!

And remember to e-mail me when you are done.

What is Cheese of the Month? Go here to find out:

Good luck fellow cheesians! I look forward to reading about your delicious creations!

Feta Results-UPDATED

I was excited to finally use one of my favorite cheeses---FETA. I was also excited to see that four people participated in this month challenge. And of course everything that everyone made sounded absolutely delicious!!! Of course, I have never had a dish with feta in it that I didn't like!

Feta is one of those cheeses that can be used to enhance an elegant meal or to add some flavor to something really simple. Cristine of Cooking with Cristine displays this with her simple yet flavorful Chicken Caesar Wraps. Feta and Casear Dressing were just met to be together in this warm juicy wrap. What can be better than a meal that can be eaten with one hand?!

Chicken Caesar Wraps
Cristine of Cooking with Cristine

Grilled Chicken Breast
Black Beans (warmed)
Black Olives
Newman's Own Creamy Ceasar Dressing

1. Warm chicken with dressing.
2. Pile everything onto a tortilla and wrap up.

Of course if you have more time and what something that is elegant and classy, then Carey's, of Cooking with Carey, Steamed Mussels with Tomato Sauce and Feta is the way to go. This saucy dish was made for Carey's husband birthday. (Wasn't that sweet?) Check out her blog, the picture she took looks like something that should be in a menu!

Steamed Mussels with Tomato Sauce and Feta
Carey of Cooking with Carey

1 tb Olive oil
Tomatoes, undrained
1 c Finely chopped onion
1 c Water
1 md Clove garlic, peeled and
1 lb Mussels, washed, beards
3/4 c Dry white wine
2 c Rotelli pasta (8 oz)
1 ts Dried oregano, crushed
1/2 c Finely chopped parsley
1/4 ts Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 c Crumbled feta cheese
1/4 ts Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 28-oz can peeled and diced

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; saute 5 minutes. Add the wine, oregano, crushed pepper flakes and salt; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the undrained tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
3. Prepare the mussels. Place on steamer rack and place over pot. (The sauce should be cooking at a high simmer.) Cover and steam 20 to 25 minutes, or until mussel shells open (discard any that do not open).
4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions; drain. Remove the mussels from the steamer. Put the pasta into the sauce with the parsley, adding pepper to taste. Transfer to plates or large shallow bowls and sprinkle with feta cheese. Put mussels on top and serve.

Samantha of The Second Lunch is new this month and we are all glad to have her...especially after seeing her mouthwatering submission for this month. She made one of my favorite dishes using feta, Baked Shrimp with Feta. I think the best part of this dish is that it looks and taste "fancy" but is simple and quick to make. Plus it only serves one! I hate making HUGE portions of food but it always goes to waste. So it was nice to have recipe that I can just make for myself. My husband hates feta, so this dish is all mine! Sam just started blogging, so check her blog out! Her photo of her food is very professional looking.

Baked Shrimp with Feta

Samantha of The Second Lunch

4 or 5 shrimp (I used frozen)
A few small canned San Marzano tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup frozen peas1 ounce fetaa pinch salt,a pinch peppera couple of good pinches oregano

1. Couldn’t be simpler: In a baking dish lined with foil, put all the ingredients, stirring gently to allow the tomato juice to coat everything.
2. Whack it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked.
3. To serve: I served this over a bed of steamed rice, usually I use brown, but I’ve run out and need to pick up some more. I use frozen single servings of rice that I cook and wrap while still warm, which traps the moisture and allows you to easily pop one into the microwave and eat for lunch as if it was freshly made.

Arika of My Yummy Life is also new this month. What a cute name for a blog, too!?! She made a yummy Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Olives and Feta. You can't go wrong with olives and feta, now can you?! This dish is quick and simple and oh so yummy!

Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Olives and Feta(Serves 4)

Arika of My Yummy Life

4 chicken breast halves

1 28oz can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained

Feta Cheese

12-24 olives (personal preference as to amount and type)

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

12 oz pasta (spaghetti or vermicelli is best)

Preheat the oven to 425degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place two of the seasoned chicken breasts into the heated skillet and allow to brown on one side for 3-4 minutes. When the first side is golden, flip the chicken breasts and allow to brown on the other side. Set aside, and repeat with the remaining two chicken breasts.

In a bowl combine the tomatoes, feta(I use about 1/2c), and olives. Pour half of this mixture into an oven safe dish large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients.Layer the browned chicken breasts on top of the first half of the tomato/olie/feta mixture and then cover them with the remaining half of the tomatoes/olives/feta.Place the dish into the preheated oven and allow to bake until the chicken is done, about 50 minutes.

About 20 minutes before the chicken is done boil water and prepare the pasta as directed, then drain. When the chicken has been removed from the oven, transfer the breasts to a separate plate and toss the pasta in with the tomatoes/olives/feta in the baking dish. Return the chicken breasts to the baking dish and garnish the whole shebang with feta

And finally my recipe for Feburary was Sundried Tomato and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast. I got the orginal recipe from Terrence Maguire at Recipe Zaar. I wanted to combine my Daring Baker's Challenge with The Cheese of the Month Challenge, so I decided to make a Valentine's Day Dinner for my parents were came up for a visit. My parents live a few hours away, so they don't visit as offend as my daughter would like. But when they come we always eat out and I know that my dad is sick of eating out because he travels for a living. Both my parents love feta and chicken together so I thought this recipe would be perfect. It was AMAZING! I would make this again and again and again. It looks like a lot of work but it really isn't. The flavors really came together. I didn't have chicken breast so I use chicken tenders instead. I had to use a ton of toothpicks to hold them together but it worked out nicely. My parents, who are "lovely"critical, really enjoyed this dish. I would recommend it to any Feta lover out there! This dish gets Five Cheese Heads out of Five:

Sundried Tomato and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast
Terrence Maguire

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 large sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon thyme
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled finely
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use Italian style)
olive oil
toothpicks (or Butcher String)
green onion, chopped (for garnish)

1Sauté garlic and red bell pepper, in Olive Oil, for about 3 minutes (just enough to"combine" the flavors).
2Put aside to cool.
3In a bowl, combine Feta cheese, breadcrumbs, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic and red pepper mixture.
4Toss until well mixed (this will be your "stuffing").
5Lay a flattened piece of chicken breast on a cutting board or your counter.
6Put a 1/4 of the above mixture on the flattened chicken breast like you would be making a burrito and roll as tight as you can get it.
7Secure it with a toothpick or butcher string.
8Place chicken breast "roll" on a baking sheet (I spray it with Pam so it doesn't stick), brush with olive oil (this gives it a nice golden brown texture), and season with salt and pepper.
9Preheat oven to 350°F.
10Cook for about 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180°F.
11I guess you could try it on a grill, but I never attempted it yet!
12Garnish with chopped green onion and serve hot.