Friday, December 24, 2010

Eibrot


My niece and I share many traits, including our name, but the prominent trait is definitely our sweet tooth.  This girl takes after my own heart!  My girl is always asking me to bake with her or buy her a sweet treat.  Most of the time I do because I want the same thing she does.  A few days ago, M asked me to make the sweet bread thing that we made together last year.   I immediately knew what she was talking about and we made a plan to make this sweet treat for breakfast when her dad arrived.  This is basically french toast in little pieces and then covered in a melted sugar syrup.  I think this tastes great with Challah, but any bread will do.  Pair it with sausage and some fruit and you have a breakfast fit for any sweet loving person.

Eibrot

5 eggs
2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cinnamon
8 c bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I use Challah)
6 T vegetable oil,divided
6 T butter, divided
1 c sugar, divided

Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Add 4 c bread cubes to the bowl and toss.  Allow bread to sit until soaked, about 5 minutes.
Heat 3 T oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Slightly squeeze the bread cubes and add them to the pan in a single layer.  (At this point, add the remaining bread cubes to the remaining egg mixture to soak.)  Saute until golden on all sides.  (Keep the cubes spaced so that they brown on all sides rather then cook together.)  Add 3 T butter to the pan and stir until melted.  Sprinkle in 1/2 c sugar over bread and toss until sugar is melted and syrupy.  Transfer to a serving dish and repeat sauteing cubes, melting butter, sprinkling sugar with the remaining bread cubes.
Serve with fruit.  Yum! Yum!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maple Cheddar Biscuits


Before I run off to the pool, I want to share with all of you a great recipe I stumbled upon yesterday.  I was flipping through A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman and this recipe practically hit me in the head.  After a fun day at the pool, I gathered my charges (niece and nephew) and we ran to Publix for the ingredients.  These took no time at all to put together and they were spectacular.  Next time I have a party, I will make these but cut them into circles with a biscuit cutter, bake and fill with ham and serve them as mini "ham and cheese" apps. 

Maple Cheddar Biscuits (adapted from A Passion for Baking)

2 c. flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder (make sure it is SUPER fresh)
1/2 c unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 c shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup then fill up to the 2/3 c mark with milk
1 c 1/2 inch chunks of sharp Cheddar cheese
melted butter for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Arrange oven rack to upper third position. 
In a food processor, add flour, salt, and baking powder and blend briefly.  Add butter and pulse to make a coarse, grainy mixture.  Turn out into a large bowl.  In center, stir in shredded cheese, egg and milk mixture.  Stir to make a stiff dough.  Fold in Cheddar chunks. 
Knead dough briefly to bring together.  Shape into a square with a 3/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 3 or 4 inch squares.  Dab with a little of the melted butter.  Bake until golden brown, about 17 to 22 minutes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Taking It Easy


For years my family has been congregating in Florida during the holidays.  We are fortunate to have parents who own a beautiful condo and love to have us all around them.  As our family changes with new in-laws and job changes, we can't all go together for two weeks but we all try.  When circumstance does not allow being in Florida, the next years gathering calls us even stronger.  Three things are consistent in Florida: good food - whether simple or complex, lounging in sun, and enjoying each others company. 

I thoroughly enjoy cooking for my family.  They are always willing to try my experiments.  Each year I try a few new things and remake the oldie but goodies.  For me, the most important element is ease of preparation.  My parents are always willing to make the complicated stuff while vacationing - unlike myself.  I like short ingredient lists and super simple instructions while I vacation.  I also like to see how creative I can get with leftovers.  I am not a fan of eating the same thing over and over.  Also, I believe that food that is reheated over and over DOES NOT taste better.  So... I try to come up with stuff like this:


My sister grilled a few steaks the other day and they have been sitting in the fridge waiting for someone, anyone to come along and be inspired.  I decided to slice the steaks up (cutting out as much fat as possible) and cover them in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce.  Then I nuked them just to take the chill out.  Into this I thinly sliced a green onion.  I toasted a Ciabatta roll from Costco, layered the sliced steak on it, gave it a little cayenne dusting and topped it with fresh mozzarella.  Tada!  Lunch for my mom and sister.  Hello Florida!

P.S.  You guys MUST try PB Snickers - Whoa Baby!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vanilla Bean Financier

This weekend I decided to play check up with my Heavenly Baker friends.  The past few weeks have been ultra busy and things are finally starting to settle down.  So... I made the fake financiers (which I thought were really good) and the fudge-y chocolate bundt cake (which I thought was ok).  I wanted to make the Lemon Crown Cake but that one will have to be patient.


I started with the Velvet Fudge Cake.  I mixed and creamed and bloomed as directed.  Here is where I got stuck.  I really like the flavor from a mixture of chocolate and cocoa in cakes.  I think it rounds out the chocolate flavor better then just using one of these.  This cake only used cocoa and since the batter was pretty stable, I decided to add mini chocolate chips.  In the end, I thought this turned out to be a good decision because I found the cake to bit dry and the chips added a touch of moisture.  I am a sucker for super moist cakes and unfortunately, this one didn't cut it. 

Next I moved on to the fake financiers.  I must admit that I started this cake with a lot of reservation.  I LOVE real financiers and I couldn't imagine removing the almond flour.  Why do it when the alternative is so wonderful?!?  Well, I proceeded as directed and I must say the result was surprisingly good.  I like the dense texture and I thought the flavor profile was really good.  I like the strong vanilla flavor as well as the buttery-ness.  I did decide to change this recipe up a little as well.  I added one sour cherry to each little cake as well as some pistachios (I just couldn't have a nut-less financier).  So... all that went well until I did the one thing that I always so and that always ticks me off.  I overfilled the molds.  I compulsively do this and I don't know why.  I hate myself!!!! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rockin' Rum Balls


Rum Balls are a curious thing.  Are they for adults or can children enjoy them too?  Who knows.  All I know is, this recipe rocks.  I love it, my neice loves it, and my friends love it too.  The best part is there is no baking involved and they sit in the fridge like champs.
So... pull out your hoiday baking bowl (mine is a big, bright red ceramic one), mix up a batch and when friends or family drop by, you will have fudgy, rum-y, sweet confections that makes people of all ages happy!

Rum Balls

1 c. crushed Nilla wafers
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cocoa
1 ½ T. corn syrup
¼ c. spiced rum

In a bowl combine the wafers, pecans, powdered sugar, and cocoa.  Stir until well combined.  In a small bowl, mix together corn syrup and rum.  Pour rum mixture into wafer mixture and mix with your hand until the dough holds together well.  Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.  If the dough is still dry, slowly add more rum until it holds together well.  Roll dough into bite sized balls.  Roll balls in additional powdered sugar.  Store in an airtight container.             

Enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cupcake Paradise


This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting my sweet sister in Toronto.  To date, my sisters have only married Canadians.  While I am fond of our neighbors to the north, they are all REALLY fond of them!  Anyway, my youngest sister now lives in Toronto and I must say that it seems like she was born for city living.  She is always out and about looking for great parks, shops and best of all food!  This weekend started with the best cupcakes I have ever eaten.  Correction: the best cupcakes I have ever eaten from a bakery.  Our morning started at For the Love of Cake and Balzac's.  We selected six flavors.  The Bailey's Irish Cream was a must along with Very Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut, Red Velvet and a Coconut Snowball.  All I can say is OH MY GOODNESS!!!  Each cupcake had a creamy center and a creamy but not overly sweet frosting.  The Baily's one had a chocolate ganache center.  The coconut had a coconut cream center.  Oh dear, my mouth is watering.  After making our cupcake selection we headed over to a super charming coffee shop that served excellent cappuccinos. 
Sadly, the day continued with delicious food that I forgot to photograph.  For lunch we made our way to St. Laurence Market and munched on pasta smothered in meat sauce, Alfredo sauce and pesto as well as pea meal bacon on a bun (whoa baby!).  For dinner we wined and dined at the Mansion Keg. 
Sunday was not so focused on eating but we did manage to squeeze in a quick stop to the best chicken wing place on earth: Moose Winooski's!  All in all I had a great time and my belly is happy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monkeying Around


My Thanksgiving weekend was spent in wonderful company.  As I said in an earlier post, my family spends the entire weekend together.  On Saturday we gather for our annual brunch/all day party.  This year I decided to make my super easy Monkey Bread.  The bread is assembled the night before and simply baked in the morning.  Easy - Peasy! 

Easy Monkey Bread

18 frozen dinner roll dough balls (I usually use Rhodes)
1 (3.4 oz) pkg. butterscotch cook & serve pudding mix (I accidentally used instant once and it was fine-no worries)
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c melted butter

Butter a bundt pan.  Place the dough balls in the pan.  In this order sprinkle pudding mix, brown sugar, white sugar, then butter.  Cover pan with parchment paper and a tea towel.  Let sit on counter over night.  In the morning, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bundt pan on a cookie sheet.  Bake bread uncovered for 35-45 minutes.  The top should be golden brown and the smell should be heavenly!  Let the bread sit for 10 minutes after removing it from the oven.  Invert onto a plate and slowly help the bread release from the pan. 
At this point you can eat it steaming hot or wait until it cools a bit so you and your guests can polish it off with out the risk of burning your fingers.  Enjoy!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Let the Festivities Begin

My schedule has been crazy lately.  Run her, run there.  Today I finally said - enough!  I need to bake.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year.  My family has a beautiful tradition of spending the entire weekend together.  We laugh, eat and most importantly thank God for his bounty in all of our lives.  So, as my contribution, I make pies.  This year I could not decide which one to make so I made a bunch.



 I made Pumpkin Pie.



I made Pumpkin Pecan Pie.


I made Pecan Tart.


And... I made Sour Cherry Almond Cream Tart.

There you have it.

All these pies have one thing in common.  They all have the same full proof crust.  I use one of my favorite kitchen tools to make it.



How did people cook without food processors.  They make my life so easy.  I am thankful ;)

Fool Proof Pie Crust  (thanks Tartelette)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 c. VERY COLD butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces.
2 T. ice cold water
1 t vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix the water and vanilla and add a few ice cubes.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse a few times.  Add butter.  Pulse until the butter is completely combined.  The mixture will look like a course meal.  While food processor is running, slowly pour in 2 tablespoons of the water/vanilla mixture.  Pulse a few times.
On a floured surface, dump the dough out and knead until the dough becomes a smooth dough.  Flour lightly and roll out to fit your pie plate.  Viola!  You have a crust ready to please any palate.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Yumminess

Some of you may know that I have a very particular palate.  I am picky, picky, picky.  I am always critical of colors, textures and I certainly don't like trying new flavors.  If a food is strange or funky looking I usually pass right by it.  The crazy thing is that I know that I am missing out on a multitude of flavors and I don't really care.  Isn't that terrible?!?!?  Pour example, my Dad is always buying new fruits (persimmons, cheramoya, cactus pears) for us to try and I usually pass it right up.  They just look to weird (mature huh?).  Anyway, when a friend of mine posted a Roasted Sweet Potato Salad on her blog, I passed it right up.  Cilantro, black beans, peppers and sweet potatoes - no way!   My sister on the other hand decided to try it and after I was guaranteed that I would like it, I tried it.  Surprise, surprise, the salad is incredible.  It has a mix of flavors that make your mouth sing.  So, if you are looking for a new Thanksgiving recipe, try this one and wow your guests.  You will not regret it!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sour Cherry Scones


I was flipping through my cookbooks and I came across a sour cherry scone recipe.  Yum!  I froze a few pounds of sour cherries and I was willing to sacrifice a few to try this recipe.  That may sound funny but I always feel that the food that I preserve myself tastes better then store bought stuff.  My hope was to make a scone that didn't feel like a brick and had the yummy tang that sour cherries bring to the table.   I don't often make scones because they are not always sweet enough for me.  I like things sweet.  When I saw that this recipe only uses 1/4 cup of sugar I decided to make a glaze to drizzle on top.  I also wanted to add a crunch so in the end I changed the recipe by adding sliced almonds on the top and then drizzling with a vanilla bean glaze. 

Sour Cherry Scones  (The Craft of Baking - Karen DeMasco)

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T plus 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
6 T chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c pitted sour cherries, frozen or fresh
1 c plus 2 T heavy cream
sliced almonds
1 c powdered sugar
3 T milk
1 t vanilla paste

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Stir.  Add butter and mix until the butter is broken up in tiny pieces throughout the flour.  Add the cherries and mix just to stir them in.  Pour in cream and mix just until combined.  Using your hand, knead the dough just until it comes together.  Turn the dough onto a flour surface and shape the dough into a disk that is 7 inches round and 3/4 inch thick.  Cut the dough into twelve equal wedges.  Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the scones from the freezer.  Brush lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle sliced almonds on them pressing them in lightly.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Scones should be firm and golden on bottom. 
While scones cool, prepare glaze.  Stir together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla paste.  Drizzle over warm scones and dig in!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pear Almond Cream Coffee Cake

For the past two weeks my parents have been traveling through Spain and Portugal.  As a welcome home, I wanted to have this cake ready and waiting for them.  This cake paired with chicken soup was sure to hit the spot for my weary travelers.

My hope was that the almond cream (aka: frangipane) would make the center of this cake creamy and flavorful.  I happen to love baking with almond cream so I had some in my freezer leftover from another baking project.  I used this instead of Rose's recipe.  I am hoping it had the same effect on the cake.  So.. I started with mixing the dry ingredients, mixing the wet ingredients minus the butter and 1/2 the sour cream.  I then put the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and did a double take when the recipe said to put the butter and sour cream straight in the flour mix.  Mix well. Then add the wet ingredients.  Strange, eh?  I usually do this in reverse order or in partial additions.  Surprisingly it worked out just fine.  I finished the cake by placing the batter in my Baker's Secret Fluted Tube Pan (it really is the best even though it is the cheapest), spooning the almond cream on it and topping with the sliced pears.  In the oven it went and viola!


Welcome Home Dad and Mom!!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Viva Mexico!!

I love Mexican food.  I think it is one of the best cuisines in the world.  I love the colorful flavors and the varying heat.  I love that beans and cheese find their way onto my plate almost every time I eat Mexican food.  This recipe may not be the most authentic (I don't know if they have casseroles in Mexico) but it is fabulous.  Serve it with Mexican Crema (mexican sour cream) and you have a plate of food fit for a king!


 Enjoy it.  I sure did.


Tortilla Casserole (thank you CI!!!)

1tablespoon vegetable oil
1onion , minced
3cloves garlic , minced
1cup low-sodium chicken broth
1(15.5-ounce) can pinto beans , rinsed
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
1tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2cups shredded cooked chicken (I used leftover rotisserie chicken)
1/4cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
5cups tortilla chips (3 ounces)
2cups shredded Mexican-style cheese (see note)

Instructions

  1. 1. Heat oven, sauté aromatics, and make sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and bring to simmer.
  2. 2. Add vegetables, chicken, and herbs: Stir beans, tomatoes, and chipotle into sauce and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  3. 3. Assemble Casserole: Spread 1 cup tortilla chips over bottom of 8-inch baking dish and top with 1 cup chicken mixture. Spread 2 more cups tortilla chips into dish and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Spread remaining chicken mixture into dish and top with remaining tortilla chips. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top.
  4. 4. Bake: Bake until cheese is golden brown and casserole is bubbling, abut 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro before serving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jimmy Who??

I was flipping through a cookbook that I bought on clearance some time ago when I stumbled upon a recipe for Chocolate Jimmy Cake.  My first reaction was Jimmy who???  Well apparently, chocolate sprinkles are also called chocolate jimmies.  I was immediately intrigued!  Fudge-y chocolate sprinkles in cake batter?  Bring It!!  It took me about two years to get around to making this beauty but I finally did it.  I suppose my interest was first peaked because a friend of mine introduced me to the best sprinkles in the world.  The brand is De Ruijter and they are made in Holland.  The good news is that I can find them at my local Meijer (international food isle) so look around for them.  Hopefully you can find them too.  They come in a white box with a piece of toast covered in sprinkles.  Oh, and as a bonus, they come in Milk and Dark chocolate!!

Back to the cake.  This cake turned out to be super fudge-y and chocolate-y.  I made the mistake of using non-Dutch processed cocoa so the color was not what I wanted but the taste was still great.  This is a must for your "one day i will bake..." list.

Chocolate Jimmy Cake

2 c sifted ap flour
1/4 c cornstarch
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c strained cocoa - Dutch Processed
3/ 4 c chocolate jimmies, divided
2/3 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c superfine or strianed sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
3/4 c mil
1/4 c water
1 recipe Choclate glaze (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10-in. bundt pan (I used two small steamed pudding pans) and dust with flour. 
Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the chocolate jimmies.  Set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy.  Add sugar gradually, 1 T. at a time, taking aobut 6-8 minutes to blend in well.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time at 1-minute intervals.  Scrape sides as needed.  Beat for 1 minute longer.  Blend in vanilla.
Reduce mixer speed to medium-low.  In a small bowl combine milk with the water.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid, dividing the flour mixture into three parts and mild mixute into two parts, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix only until incorporated after each addition. 
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a tablespoon.  Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.
Cool cake for 15 minutes on rack.  Invert the cake onto a rack and remove pan.  Glaze cake when cool.  Sprinkle immediately with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate jimmies and allow to set.

Quick Chocolate Glaze

1 1/2 oz. unsweeted chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 T unsalted butter
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
3 T boiling water
1 T light corn syrup
3/4 t vanilla

Place the chocolate and butter in a small glass bowl.  Microwave for 1 minutes at 15 second intervals until melted and smooth.  Stir in sugar, and water alternately, beating well.  Stir in corn syrup, then vanilla. 


P.S. This recipe comes from the great Carole Walter.  Her recipes are straight forward and absolutely delicious!!



  
Happy Birthday C.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bostini

The words "Boston Cream Pie" makes most people that I know respond with one simple word: where?!!  It's form does not matter.  It can be a donut, a cake, a trifle or a cupcake.  This week I made the famous Bostini.

 
This little delight has popped up on many food blogs.  It's popularity is almost unprecedented.  So... when the Heavenly Bakers decided to make this little gem, I was game.  I started with the cake.  Rose suggests making the cake orange flavor and nothing about that sounded appetizing to me.  I am not one to mix fruit and chocolate.  Actually, I don't like to mix chocolate with anything except Irish Cream, vanilla, nuts or coconut.  Oh, and caramel.  I made the cake with vanilla.  I liked the cake's texture as well as its flavor when it came out of the oven.  So far so good.  I then moved on to the vanilla bean pastry cream.  It was good.  A little too good.  Last but not least the chocolate sauce.  I kind of wish I would have made a ganache instead of the butter/chocolate mixture.  The velvetiness of ganache trumps just about any other chocolate sauce in my humble opinion. 
In the end, these little beauties were good.  I have a bad habit of comparing all Boston Cream Pies with the original from the Omni Hotel in Boston.  I had the privilege of tasting the original a few years back and let me tell you all, IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! While these were not as delicious as the original, they were definitely tasty and worth making again. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sticky Asian Style Ribs


I love a good sticky rib.  These are good sticky ribs.  My cousin served these at her house a few weeks ago and they have been on my mind ever since.  They are super easy to put together.  Serve them with rice and you have a feast !  

Asian-Style Ribs

2/3 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. low-sodium soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. minced fresh ginger (I used 1 1/2 T. powdered ginger)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. pepper flakes
1 rack pork ribs (3 lbs.), cut into 2 rib sections
2 T. corn starch
3 scallions, sliced
1 t. sesame seeds
Combine first 7 ingredients.  Place ribs in slow cooker and pour sauce over it.  Cook on high for 6 hours.  Remove ribs.  Strain sauce through a sieve and skim fat off the top.  Pour sauce in sauce pan and bring to boil.  Combine 1/4 cup water and the cornstarch and stir until totally combined.  Pour into sauce and bring to boil.  Stir until thickened.  Pour sauce over ribs and top with scallion and sesame seeds.  

Thank you V for bringing this into my life!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Butter

My plans of playing in the kitchen have been put on the back burner for a few days and so I thought I would share something very dear to me with you.  I love butter!!!  It is one of my favorite things.  It is creamy and the flavor of REAL butter speaks to me in ways most things don't. 
I spent a month in  England at Le Cordon Bleu ages ago and it was there that I discovered what real butter tastes like.  The flavor is hard to pin point but I will try.  Great butter is sweet and savory at the same time.  It's flavor is dense but not greasy.  In a nutshell it is the essence of silky dairy-ness.  Real butter is rarely white.  It is usually a beautiful creamy yellow color.  The fat content is also higher then your typical grocery store brand.  One of my favorite brands is President.  If you can find it, try it.  You will not be sorry.  There is nothing like this butter spread on a piece of great bread.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rose's Angel Food Cake

Eggs are one of my favorite ingredients to work with.  The possibilities are endless.  They can be salty, sweet, cheesy, creamy, etc.  I don't know how hard it is for a chicken to make one but I can't imagine that it is easy.  Because of this, I feel really bad to throw out a yolk or a white.  Whenever possible, I save the unused portion. Whites freeze beautifully.  I actually prefer to use whites that have been frozen because some of the water evaporates and you get a firmer, thicker white to beat into beautiful white fluffiness.  Yolks on the other hand do not freeze so beautifully.  They become gelatinous and firm.  I once tried to make a custard with frozen yolks and I got a curdle-y mess.  So, if you have extra yolks, you can store them in the fridge for a few days or... as my middle sister says "make some pudding from scratch because pudding is love."


I started this cake with 8 frozen whites that I had left over from another baking adventure.  I weighed them and found that I had 9 whites according to Rose's weight listed per white.  I then multiplied the recipe by 9.  *Good news: I can still multiply long hand!*  I decided to make this a vanilla bean angel food cake.  I had a few vanilla beans in my pantry but I recently bought a vanilla paste that I wanted to experiment with so I added it to the egg whites after I added the lemon juice, cream of tarter and sugar.  It worked well.  I then carefully folded in my dry ingredients.  No problems yet. 

Rose then suggests using an off-set spatula and coating the sides with the batter before filling the pan.  The idea is that you will ensure smooth sides.  I did this and I don't think I used enough care because my sides did not look smooth (see picture above).  I filled the pan and in the oven it went.  After 35 minutes, I pull out my cake and inverted it on a wine bottle.  I let if sit for 2 hours and unmolded it.  So far so good. 

Now what????  I am not a huge fan of plain angel food cake.  It is so plain and not creamy.  I usually enjoy mine in a trifle with sliced strawberries and vanilla pudding "lightened" with whipped cream.  Yum!!

So...I decided to slice the cake in 3 layers.  I then filled the 2 layers with raspberry sauce.  The problem was that I needed to add a little weight to this cake.  I opened the fridge and there it was: dark chocolate ganache.  I spread the ganache on the top of the cake.  Then I frosted the whole thing with chocolate whipped cream.  There you have it.  I managed to turn a fat free, light cake into a whopper! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Battle of the Puddings

This weekend a friend of mine gave me two beautiful pudding basins.  Obviously, I had to make a pudding.  This started a perplexing debate: pumpkin pudding cake -vs- sticky toffee pudding.  In the end, the sticky toffee pudding won.  The reason was this.  My youngest sister recently moved to Toronto (which is 4 hours away from me) and being the sappy person that I am, I have been thinking about all the special times we spent together.  One of my fondest memories is the short week we spent together in Paris and Dublin.

 Hi Gnomie!

We trekked around Paris like two girls on a mission, but when we got to Dublin and realized that we were staying at a BEAUTIFUL hotel, the lounging began.  We sat around, watched TV and enjoyed endless room service.  This wonderful hotel not only provided wonderful service but also set out a sweet treat with a recipe at the reception desk every day.  How awesome is that?!  Now, to get to the point.  One of these recipes was Sticky Toffee Pudding and that brings us to today and the pudding basins.


Upon reviewing the recipe, I had three small problems.  First, the recipe was scaled to feed the entire city of Dublin.  I had to divide the recipe by 4 and I still ended up with a fair share of pudding.  Second, I was 100 grams short of dates (boo).  Third, I expected this to be a dense, sweet and dark pudding.  Instead it was rather light and not very sweet.  The taste was still good but different then expected.  After I realize that the pudding would not be as dense as I had planned, I made a DELICIOUS caramel, vanilla sauce that just brought the whole thing together.

Sticky Toffee Pudding - adapted from the nicest hotel in Dublin

150 g butter, softened
63 g sugar, either white or brown
6 eggs
375 g self raising flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
550 g chopped dates

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the dates until they are puree.  If the mixture begins to stick, stir in a small amount of water.  Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Stir in flour, baking soda and a pinch of salt.    Beat in the date puree.  Do not over mix.  Spoon the batter (3/4 full) into buttered pudding basins (ramekins work well also).  Bake for 40 minutes on 320 degrees.  Cool 10 minutes then unmold and serve with caramel sauce.

Caramel Vanilla Sauce

1 tsp. vanilla paste
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 c turbinado sugar
1/2 c heavy cream

In a saucepan, combine vanilla paste, butter, sugar and cream.  Place on medium heat.  Stir until combines.  Let sauce simmer for 3-5 minutes until all ingredients are dissolved and slightly thickened.  Remove from heat.  Keep warm and pour over pudding before serving.

Enjoy!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cookbook Review #1

I have a profound love for cookbooks.  In general, I do not discriminate.  I love the ones with or without pictures, ones about sweets or general cuisine.  I also love the ones dedicated to different cultures.  Like I said, I do not discriminate.  Because of my fondness for these wonderful books, I have quite a collection.  I haven't counted how many I have but I am sure I have several hundred.  So... I thought I would share with you, my dear readers, how I evaluate them.  Periodically, I will select a book, make several recipes and share my thoughts about the book.  Here we go.

The first book I selected was actually my sisters newest bargain book find: Recipes for Everyday Occasions: The Comfort Table by Katie Lee.  The reason I picked this book is simple.  I saw a pretentious girl on the cover and thought to myself - this chick can't cook!  So I started with scanning the table of contents.  The idea of how this book was put together was kind of fun.  Apparently Katie Lee enjoys throwing parties and so she organized the book according to different parties.  I was drawn to the super bowl chapter because of the tex mex style food.  I started with the buffalo chicken quesadillas.  It was quick to put together and super tasty.  Basically it was rotisserie chicken that was removed from the bones, tossed with Frank's Red Hot sauce then placed in a flour tortilla with Monterrey cheese and grilled.  It was served with a blue cheese dressing that also doubled as the dressing for a wedge salad recipe.  It was great!  

Then I moved on to the taco recipe that claimed to be the best one I will ever eat.  Ummm..... it turned out to be true.  Katie was slowly proving me wrong.  I started to feel ashamed of myself for judging a book by its cover.    The tacos were flavorful and super juicy.  They were also made with turkey which makes them gout friendly (for all the gouties in my life).  Recipe at bottom of post.


On to a salad.  Since it is fall and there are beautiful Hubbard Squash at every grocery store, I decided on a Roasted Pumpkin and Pomegranate Salad.  This salad was a combination of arugula, squash, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan.  While I was not totally thrilled with this one (I wasn't crazy about squash in my salad) my sisters really enjoyed it.  Katie: 3  Maja: 0    Boo.
The last recipe was actually made by my sister and it was  pumpkin roll.  It was pumpkin-y and creamy.  The best part about it was that it was not overly sweet.

All in all, the book is a good one.  The recipes are easy and the ingredients are typical.  It is so painful to admit that I was wrong but this chick can cook.  If you are in the market for a good party recipe cookbook, check this one out. 

 

Herbie's Tacos  -slightly changed to the way I like it
Taco Meat:
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 c. minced cilantro
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 7-oz can chopped green chiles (medium heat)
2 lb. ground turkey
1 Tbsp. garlic salt (Katie uses 2 Tbsp.)
1/4 c. chili powder
1/2 c. green taco sauce, plus more for serving (if you like it spicier, use 1/4 c. hot sauce, 1/4 c. green sauce)

Salad:
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 c. minced cilantro
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c. creamy Italian dressing 

Flour Tortillas or hard taco shells
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. sour cream

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil, cilantro, and scallions.  Add the chiles and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the turkey, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat.  As the meat is browning, stir in the garlic salt and chili powder.  When turkey has cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, stir in the green sauce.  Lower the heat to a simmer.  Stir occasionally.  

As the meat simmers, in a large bowl, toss all salad ingredients with the dressing.  Refrigerate until needed. 

Assemble the tacos by spooning the meat into the shells and toppings with cheese, salad and sour cream.  Now close your eyes and enjoy every bite!  I did.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chocolate Mousse - Delightful!!

My family celebrated my Dad's birthday this week and I always like to make a special sweet for him rather then buying him something he never uses.  The problem is that recently he has really restricted his intake of refined flours and sugars.  This posed a challenge for me because I love to bake with both of these ingredients.  (I am not on the gluten-free bus.  Take me to glutenville and leave me there.)  I wanted to make something tasty for him and this is what I came up with.  While this recipe has white sugar in it, it is not much.  Additionally, the beautiful thing about dark chocolate is that you don't need much to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Personally, I like the combination of Irish Cream and chocolate.  I find that the Irish Cream mellows the bitterness of the dark chocolate.  I hope you like it too.



Classic Chocolate Mousse - adapted from Baking by James Peterson

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. butter, cubed or slices
4 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped

Combine chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat, stopping frequently to stir.  Do not over heat.  Stir until smooth.  Set aside.
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Whisk for about 5 minutes, or until pale and slightly stiff.  Remove from the heat.  Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks, add the Irish Cream, and stir until well mixed.  Let cool to room temperature.
When chocolate mixture is cool, stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream to lighten.  Then fold in the remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula.
Spoon or pipe the mousse into desired glasses or bowls.  Garnish with additional whipped cream, fruit, nuts or coffee beans.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oktoberfest!



As many of you know, I live in Michigan where the leaves are changing and the air is chilly.  Fall came a bit later then usual this year and even though I am not ready for the short days, cold temperatures, icy roads and snow piles, I am ready for a little fall merry making.  My sister and her husband decided to have an Oktoberfest party this past weekend and I was game.  I happen to thoroughly enjoy German food.  Here is what we feasted on:

Baked Potato Soup with Bacon and Green Onions

Sausages baked with Sauerkraut


Pork Schnitzel

I have a secret weapon for schnitzel that never lets me down.  Are you ready for it???  It is a cheap non-stick electric skillet.  The advantage is two fold.  Number One: It is portable!!  Fry in your garage, on the deck or in your kitchen.  My preference is one of the first two.  I don't like when my house smells like "cooking."  Number Two: even, spot-on temperature control.  I like to fry between 350 and 375 degrees.  When I do, the outcome is a beautiful golden crust that rarely burns. 
For our Oktoberfest schnitzel, I seasoned the meat with s & p, dredged them in flour mixed with finely chopped fresh oregano and paprika, then in egg and lastly in breadcrumbs.  Then into the hot oil for ten minutes, flipping after about 5 minutes.  My favorite way to eat these is right when they come out of the oil with a little squeeze of lemon.  I burn my mouth every time but it is well worth it.  Go fry some meat- you know you want to.  ;)

Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
 
 This yummy cake is like a big biscuit that has a crunchy almond topping and a creamy vanilla custard filling.  YUM YUM

Mix:
200 g. flour
4 tsp. baking powder

Puree:
100 g. cottage cheese
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. milk
50 g. sugar
1 pkg. vanilla sugar or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine flour mixture with cheese mixture.  Knead dough until smooth.  Roll out and place in a greased springform.

Topping:
Combine 50 g. butter, 100 g. sugar, 1 pkg. vanilla sugar and 1 Tbsp. milk in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until melted and bubbly.  Stir in 100 g. sliced almonds.  Cool for 5 minutes.  
Spread topping over dough.
Bake cake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Cool cake completely.  Cut in half with a serrated knife.  Fill with vanilla pudding or whipped cream mixed with vanilla pudding.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rose's Heavenly Lava Cakes

I am totally embarrassed to admit why I started this baking challenge with a bit of trepidation.  Here goes nothing!  I am a total lava cake snob.  I don't like when these delightful little cakes are grainy, chalky or not chocolaty enough.  In my search for the perfect lava cake I stumbles upon President's Choice Molten Lava Cakes.  Let me guess what you are thinking - how can a pre-made, frozen little puck of chocolate cake taste great?!  The answer is that I don't know.  They just do!  Well, I decided to take the challenge anyway.  I wanted to join the Heavenly Bakers and if they were making these beauties, I would too. 


I started with the chocolate ganache centers.  The directions were to heat the chocolate and cream and mix together.  Then, pour the warm ganache into an egg carton lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  I really found this process cumbersome.  I would have preferred to scoop out little balls of the chilled ganache with a very small ice cream scoop.  I also had a problem with the consistency of the chilled ganache.  The recipe stated that the chocolate should be between 60%-62% cacao.  No problem.  That is exactly what I used but it still did not set up properly.  I stuck the whole thing in the freezer and mission accomplished.


 The batter came next.  Chocolate, butter, and cocoa powder are warmed and stirred until smooth.  Separately, egg yolks and cream are combined and added to the chocolate mixture.  A small amount of egg white is added to this mixture and the remaining whites are beat with cream of tartar and sugar.  The whites are then gently folded into the chocolate mixture and spooned into mini brioche tins. 


Side Note: Rose uses silicone molds but I just can't get into these contraptions.  I don't feel comfortable with them so I used steel tins.  I did not have a problem with this switch.  I simply reduced the baking time by two minutes.  

Any who.... I spooned the batter in each tin with a large ice cream scoop and gingerly placed the ganache ball in the center being careful not to push them down as instructed.  In the end, I wish I had pushed them in a bit.  The ganache balls stayed on the top and I was hoping they would fall to the center of the cakes.  Then I baked, cooled and un-molded as instructed.  I decided to serve with whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar and here is what I got:

 VOILA!

Overall, I like the cakes but I have to admit, I still like the PC one better.  

Hello to all my new baking friends.  I am really looking forward to blogging with you!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweet Memories


When I was in elementary school, my mom packed my lunch with nutritious brain food everyday.  She would always pack an apple, money for milk and a sandwich (never PB & J).  BORING!!!  In hind sight, I can appreciate her efforts to help me grow strong and be prepared for school each day.  But....   I NEVER had the sweets that the other kids had.  For those of you that know me personally, you know how terrible this was for me.  I love, love, love cakes, chocolates, puddings, pies.... the list goes on and on.  Well, when I was in high school I finally broke free from my mom's lunch control and ate Ho-Ho's for lunch at least two times a week.  At the time, they were sooo good.  Recently, I was looking for a treat for my nieces and nephew and I saw a box of them at the store.  I excitedly opened the box with them while I was explaining how great they where.  Much to my surprise, they didn't taste great.  They are more sweet then chocolate-y.  Actually, they are painfully sweet.  I was kind of disappointed but it really didn't matter since I didn't plan on buying anymore for a long time (I am now the adult that insists on boring healthful food.  wink wink).

Well... I was watching Cook's Country TV and these came on!  Adult Hostess Cupcakes!!  Can you believe it??!!??!!

CHOCOLATE CREAM CUPCAKES




1cup all-purpose flour
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/4teaspoon Salt
1/2cup boiling water
1/3cup cocoa powder
1/3cup semisweet chocolate chips
1tablespoon instant espresso
3/4cup sugar
1/2cup sour cream
1/2cup vegetable oil
2large eggs
1teaspoon vanilla extract
FILLING
3tablespoons water
3/4teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4tablespoon (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , softened

Pinch salt
1 1/4cups marshmallow créme (see note)
GLAZE
1/2cup semisweet chocolate chips
3tablespoons unsalted butter 











Instructions 

1. MAKE BATTER Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Whisk water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and espresso in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool -cupcakes in tin 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely. 

2. PREPARE FILLING Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes, then whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth; refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer 1/3 cup marshmallow mixture to pastry bag fitted with small plain tip; reserve remaining mixture for filling cupcakes. 

3. ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES Microwave chocolate and butter in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Following photos 1 to 3 at left, cut cone from top of each cupcake and fill cupcakes with 1 tablespoon filling each. Replace tops, frost with 2 teaspoons cooled glaze, and let sit 10 minutes. Using pastry bag, pipe curlicues across glazed cupcakes. Serve. (Cupcakes can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)


Monday, October 4, 2010

Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes

 
I was surfing through some cooking/baking blogs and I stumbles upon Rose's Heavenly Cake bake along blog.  The idea behind this kind of blog is simple.  You buy the book, the blog coordinator post what cake the bakers are making next, and we bake and blog about the current cake.  I haven't been officially added to the list of bakers, but I am hoping this group will want to bake with me.  All this said, I think I decided to make the most complicated pudding know to man.  The brioche (see last post) took two days and the pudding took quite a bit of fussing around with.  I had no problem with the Cream Anglaise and caramelizing the pineapple but the caramel gave me a run for my money.  I could not get it to stay soft!  Every time I warmed it up to soften it, it cooled harder.  In the end, I had two conclusions, (1) forget the caramel and (2) I really think this would have tasted just as good with a nice white bread or challah.  Save the brioche for breakfast and enjoy it with some jam.  If you are interested in the recipe, email me or buy a copy of the book (Rose's Heavenly Cakes) - it's a good one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brioche


The other day I was telling my sister how there are some things I am really intimidated by and brioche is was one of them.  I get so frustrated when I try to make a yeast bread and it tastes yeast-y or dough-y.  Well, I decided to face my fears head on.  I needed brioche for a caramelized pineapple brioche pudding (will be posted on Monday - I hope) so instead of buying a mediocre loaf, I made one.  This was no easy task.  This recipe took me 36 hours to complete.  I could have expedited some steps, but I choose to give the yeast time to develop its wonderful flavors.  Some doughs require a sponge as this one did.  The idea is that when you mix flour, water, sugar and yeast and let it sit; the yeast begins to do its bubbly thing in advance.  Then you add this to more flour, yeast and in this case eggs and LOTS of butter.  My initial fear was the butter.  I didn't want the dough to separate or get greasy.  Well, I followed the directions exactly and the result was the most gorgeous dough I have ever made.  Gorgeous you say?!?  Gorgeous I say!!!  I love, love, love the feel of soft, relaxed dough.  This dough was so easy to roll out and shape.  Wow!!  I miss it already and can't wait to make it again.  Oh and by the way, it tasted great too!!

Brioche- Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Sponge
2 Tbsp. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 instant yeast
1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Combine water, sugar, yeast, flour and egg in a small bowl.  Mix with whisk until well combined and slightly airy.  Set aside.

Dough
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, cold
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) room-temp butter

In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar and yeast.  Whisk in the salt.
In the bowl of a mixer, scrape the sponge.  Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the sponge.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  (At this point, after 1 hour, the mixture can go in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.)  With the dough hook attachment, add eggs to flour/yeast mixture and mix on low for 1 minute, then on medium for 2 minutes.  Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and continue mixing for 5 minutes.  Add the butter, tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.
In a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, scrape the dough and cover with plastic wrap until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).  At this point, the dough will be very sticky.  Do not add more flour.  Then refrigerate for two hours.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and press or roll the dough into a rectangle.  Don't be afraid to add more flour to prevent sticking.  Fold the dough in thirds (like a letter), brushing off any excess flour, and again press down on it or roll it out into another rectangle.  Rotate it 90 degrees so that the closed end is facing to your left.  Give it a second fold into thirds.  Brush off excess flour.  Wrap it loosely but securely in plastic wrap and then place it in a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 6 hours or up to 2 days to allow dough to ripen and firm (flavor time!!).
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently press down the dough to deflate it.  Roll the dough into a rectangle 7 1/2 inches wide by 5 inches long.  Roll it from the top in three turns, being sure to brush off any excess flour, pressing with your thumbs to seal the dough.  Place it seam side down in a greased loaf pan.  Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  Allow to rise until the top of the dough reaches the top of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (if you have a baking stone, place it on the bottom rack).  Brush the top of the risen dough with 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. heavy cream.  Slash the top with a sharp knife 1/4 inch down and about 1 inch from either end of the pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Unmold and cool on a rack for at least 2 hours.  Then dig in!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Convenience


When I was in Italy three years ago, the chef I was working with used this tomato paste.  I was immediately intrigued.  I use quite a bit of tomato paste in sauces, soups and pastas.  The problem is that most tomato pastes come in a can.  This means that the excess has to be stored in another container.  Unfortunately, I never remember when I put it in the fridge, I usually end up with moldy paste in my fridge.  Then I open a new can and the whole ugly cycle starts again.  Enter tomato paste in a tube.  This stuff is amazing.  I can sit in the fridge for a year and still tastes great.  My local Italian grocery store sells one tube for $2.99.  Check it out!  It is worth the cost.  Happy Cooking!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Something Different

I am not one who likes to try new things.  I know what I like and I like to stick to it.  I have friends and relatives who will try just about anything from animal parts to fruits that look like eyeballs with cockroaches in the middle of them.  All I can say is there is no way that I will put those things in my mouth.  Sometimes I tell myself that there are a whole world of flavors and textures that I will never know (at the end of the day, I am OK with this).  On a rare occasion, I try something new.  Well, while I was visiting a friend in Princeton, NJ,  I boldly tried an orzo dish that I thought I would hate.  My friend C.P. is a food dare devil.  She will try almost anything including a celery orzo salad on the back of  the celery package.  I wouldn't even look at the recipe let alone try it.  So here it is.  Try it, I think most of you will love it.



ORZO STUFFING WITH CELERY, CRANBERRIES AND NUTS (thanks C.P.)

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. celery, diced
1 1/2 orzo, cooked in chicken broth and drained
3/4 c. cranberries
3/4 c. sliced, toasted pecans or almonds
3 Tbsp. sliced fresh basil
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

In a skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over med-high heat.  Add the onion, cook for 4 minutes or until the onions are translucent and golden brow.  Add the celery, cook for 4 minutes more.

Combine, cooked orzo, celery mixture, cranberries, nuts, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Toss gently to combine.  This may be served hot, room temperature or cold.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Regrouping

Sometimes when I am baking or cooking things go wrong for no apparent reason at all.  Recently this happened while I was preparing for my baby sister's wedding.  My cousin and I decided to make an elaborate cookie table as a special gift for my sissy.  This required hours and hours of cookie baking days before the wedding.  In the end, I was to bake 10 different types of cookies (10 dozen each).  Needlessly to say, this was a big task.  I was so fortunate to have an army of helpers that made the whole endeavor a great experience.  So what does this have to do with regrouping you ask.... well, while I was preparing the dough for a marzipan pine nut cookie, the dough decided to liquefy and there was no way on earth that I could have rolled it into little horns as the recipe said.  I quickly decided to change course and make a Chinese almond cookie in its place (this is not the kind of regrouping I am talking about).  Now I had a dilemma.  I had a liquid mess that I spent a fortune on (almond paste is not cheap).  I had to employ all my baking know-how to fix this one.  I knew that adding powdered sugar would only sweeten the dough and there was no guarantee that it would firm it up.  I also knew that freezing egg whites dries them.  So I decided to freeze the dough (loosely wrapped in cling film) with the hope that the dough would "dry" and then I would be able to mold it.  Plan B worked!!  The result was a tasty cookie that looked pretty fancy to me.
I should say, regrouping does not always work.  Sometimes things just don't work out and the only place for the dough is the garbage.  So, next time things don't work out, try regrouping.  The worst thing that will happen  is you will find out what doesn't work.


Chocolate-Dipped Pignoli Crescent    -from Great Cookies by Carole Walters

16 oz. almond paste, room temp.
3/4 c. sifted confectioners' sugar, spooned in and leveled
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 large egg whites, at room temp.
3 c. pine nuts

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the almond paste and sugars.  Mix for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture forms a crumb consistency.  Add the salt to the egg whites and whisk.  Add the egg whites to the almond paste in four additions.  Continue to mix until it starts to liquefy and stick to the bottom of the bowl.  This should take about 15 to 20 seconds.  Cover lightly with cling film and chill for 1 hour. 
Position the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly butter two parchment lined baking sheets.
Place the pine nuts in a shallow bowl.  Have ready a bowl of ice water.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into 1 1/4-inch balls, moistening your palms with the ice water to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll the balls in the pine nuts, pressing gently to adhere, then shape into crescents.  Place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for about 28 minutes, or until lightly brown on the bottom.  Take care not to over bake.  If needed rotate the sheets half way through.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooking rack.
When the cookies are cool enough to handle, dip half into the ganache (recipe below) and place on a cooking rack set over a sheet of wax paper.  Let stand for 1 hour or until the ganache sets. 

Chocolate Ganache

6 oz. bittersweet Chocolate, cut into 1 inch chunks 
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Place the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely chopped. 
In a small saucepan, over low heat, heat the cream and corn syrup until it is simmering.  Immediately pour the hot cream into the processor bowl.  Let stand for 1 minute so that the chocolate starts to melt.  Pulse three or four times, then let rest 1 additional minute.  Add the vanilla and pulse three or four more times. 
If the ganache's surface appears oily,  add the hot water, a few drops at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Ganache thickens as it stands.