Monday, November 14, 2011

The Food of My People


My mouth is watering as I write this post!  Last week my cousin posted this link on facebook and let me tell you it is a real treat!  I grew up eating the delicious food of Serbia and this video captures the real essence of Serbian cooking.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  Also, I am so curious to know the food my readers grew up eating.  If you please, leave me a comment and let me know. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Life is Full of Gambles

During the last few months I have developed the habit of making my own bread.  I don't know why but it's what I have been doing.  A friend of mine gave me a bread maker and I usually have the bread maker make the dough and then I divide the dough in two 1 lb loaves and bake then in the oven.  Some may ask why I bake my bread in the oven.  The answer is simple, I don't like the shape of the loaf in the bread maker.  I find it awkward.   So far I have made, whole wheat honey, white, honey white and cinnamon raisin bread.  Next on the agenda is oatmeal honey.
I am sure that many of you that bake regularly know that baking has a certain element of surprise to it.  A recipe that you have made multiple times can turn out totally different for no apparent reason.  On the other hand, a significant alteration can yield no difference at all.  Well, yesterday my sister commissioned me to make her a loaf of bread and since I was running low in yeast, I decided to make a 1 1/2 lb loaf of honey white for her.  As I said earlier, I generally make two pounds of dough to yield 2 loaves.  This generally gives me two smaller loaves that are about 3 inches tall.  WELL.... yesterday i thought that I would make a slightly larger loaf by using 1 1/2 lbs of dough.  I was expecting a loaf that was about 4 - 4 1/2 inches tall.  Boy was I wrong!  This is what came of my endeavour:



What can I say besides what the buns people, what the buns!?!?!
 

Magically growing bread (1 1/2 lb loaf)

1 cup cold water
2 T oil
2 T honey
1 t salt
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. yeast

Place all ingredients in bread maker in order listed.  Set bread maker to dough setting.  When dough is finished, remove from bread maker and roll dough to make a loaf shape.  Place in greased loaf pan.  Spray with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 45 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.  Open oven door and be surprised!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beef and Broccoli

I am a big fan of Beef and Broccoli but not the nasty, soggy, goopy stuff that most Chinese take-out places serve.  I like crispy broccoli and beef in a salty sauce that doesn't turn into a gelatinous mess.  So anyway, I was in the mood for some yumminess last night and this is what I made.  Unfortunately I didn't have time to photography anything (because I ate it to quickly) but I will share the recipe with all of you anyway.  Do yourself a favor and make this...soon.  I am sure you will love it and your family will not know what hit them.


BEEF AND BROCCOLI

2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 lbs. lean sirloin beef, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 tsp. oil
1 c. chicken broth, divided
5 c. broccoli, florets
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 c. water

On a plate, combine 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and salt; add beef and toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 4 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add 1/2 cup broth to same pan; stir to loosen any bits on food on bottom of pan.  Add broccoli and onion; cover and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Uncover pan and add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minutes.

In a cup, stir together soy sauce, remaining 1/2 cup broth, remaining 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch and water until blended; stir into pan.  Reduce heat to medium low and bring to a simmer; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. 

Return beef and accumulated juices to pan; toss to coat.  Serve with rice or noodles (or eat it plain like i do).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Brownies


A few weeks ago my sister and I went to What's Cooking Detroit to see Anne Thornton do a cooking demo.  I hadn't hear of her before that show but she was great.  She made Fudgy Salty Peanut Butter Brownies for us.  The demo was live (obviously) and while things didn't go perfect for her (missing bowls, fussy stoves, etc.) I found her to be real, charming and a really good cook.  This weekend I had the perfect opportunity for some baking and so I made the Brownies and Coconut Cream Cake.  The brownies were a hit and while the cake didn't go as fast as I thought it would, I thought it was super tasty, moist and delicious.  The one change I made was to the Coconut Cream Cake.  Rather then adding Coco Lopez to the frosting, I pierced the cake many times and poured it on the layers.  The cake soaked it right up and added more moisture to the cake.  The frosting was the perfect consistency.  I will definitely make this cake again and make the same change.  
 
Sorry for the gross picture.

So Food Network fans, if you haven't seen Anne in action yet, check her out.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, August 26, 2011

NYT's Original Plum (or Blackberry) Cake


Last year I subscribed to the New York Times weekend paper just to be able to read the world renown food columns.  Well, I never found the section or many recipes for that matter so I canceled my subscription within two months time.  I was however introduced to Mark Bittman, Amanda Hesser, and Melissa Clark.  These people know food.  As it turns out, Amanda Hesser released a cookbook that compiled recipes printed in the NYT's for the past 150 years.  In this book, one recipe really stands out.  It is the most requested recipe to date and it is so easy and taste-y.  I really think all of you will love it.  I made this one with blackberries because of my sister's allergy to plums but plums rock this cake.  You can substitute any fruit and I also like to sprinkle the top with sliced or slivered almonds.  ENJOY!!


NYT'S ORIGINAL PLUM TORT
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 24 halves pitted Italian (prune or purple) plums
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste
Instructions
1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sweet Friends

I don't have a baking post for you today but rather a note of thanks to all my sweet friends who have been encouraging me to continue blogging.  This week I received three notes of encouragement to keep blogging.  I hadn't planned on stopping but it seems like time has a way of marching forward without me noticing how fast it's going.  This year has been eventful (to say the least) both pleasant and difficult and in all of this, I found myself not doing what I love, baking.  So my friends, this week, I commit to baking something yummy and posting for my dear followers.  Thanks for reminding me to do what I love. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Need A Drink, Irish Cream Fudge


I belong to a book club with benefits.  Not only do I get to read interesting books, have great discussions over excellent meals but I also get gifts galore when I host.  At the last meeting I hosted a received a book called The Happy Baker: A Girl's Guide to Emotional Baking from my sister.  This book helps mate seeking females bake through the ups and downs of finding Mr. Perfect.  Thanks N.  What are you suggesting???  The book starts with a recipe that combines chocolate and Irish Cream!  What a great match!  The creaminess of Irish Cream breaks the bitterness of the chocolate and when you add roasted nuts... all I can say is WHOA BABY!!!  So whether you are nursing a broken heart (or hip - in my case) or just want to enjoy something truly decedent (with a good kick) stir up a batch of these, put in a good movie, sit back and ENJOY!

I Need a Drink, Irish Cream Fudge

3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 c. butter
3 c. confectioners' sugar
1 c. Irish Cream Liqueur
1 1/2 c. chopped almonds or hazelnuts, roasted at 325 degrees for 5-7 minutes

Melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat, stir in confectioners' sugar and Irish Cream until the mixture is smooth.  Stir in nuts.  Put mixture in a greased 8-inch square pan, spread evenly.  Refrigerate until firm.  Cut into small pieces.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Almond Pudding



I have a fondness for all things pudding.  I like the traditional smooth and creamy pudding, the baked or steamed English puddings and even summer puddings made with bread and berries.  I love them all.  I was flipping through The Cook's Book.  Which is a wonderful book full of recipes by super famous chefs when I came upon Baked Almond Pudding.  I immediately thought YUM!  I love almonds.  The recipe didn't call for fruit but I couldn't resist adding some apricots to one dish and pears to the other.  This also doubles as a gluten-free dessert.  There is only almond flour (or finely ground almonds) and absolutely no wheat flour.

Baked Almond Pudding  (recipe submitted by Shaun Hill)

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 cups ground almonds
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. Cognac (I used Frangelico)
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, almonds, cream, Cognac, lemon zest, and sugar.  Stir in the whole eggs and yolks.
Butter a shallow baking dish and pour in the batter.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges are golden brown.  Sprinkle with sugar before serving.

* These types of desserts can always handle a little fruit.  Add your favorite fruit and Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm Back! I Hope!


 Oh to be back to baking....  I am happy to report that God has blessed me with a great recovery.  His mercy is great and I am so thankful!!  While it has been really challenging for me, all is going smashingly well.  My bones, muscles and titanium are healing nicely and I am starting to feel more energetic.  Last week I was thinking, what will I blog first???  Will it be something grand (what a joke) or will it be something on my sidebar list?  Well, reality came crashing down on my head when I tried to make a simple Asian salmon and burnt it to a crisp.  All this to say: I need a little practice before I present all of you with anything spectacular.

As I sat pondering what I did wrong with the salmon, it hit me!  I will make an easy Charlotte aux Abricots, aka, Apricot Charlotte.  I love Charlottes!  They are easy and scream summer to me.  This one comes from a book my sister lent me while I convalesced called "Lunch in Paris" written by Elizabeth Bard.  It is a sassy little novel that describes Elizabeth's experiences when she moved to Paris to marry her dear, sweet Gwendal.  Each chapter has several recipes included and when I read this one, I knew I would make it!  I have a deep passion for all things apricot and since I had a few left in my freezer from last year (the best apricot year in ages) I began on my first bionic blogging adventure.

I slowly stewed my apricots in water, sugar and a vanilla bean until they were tender.  I cooled my little beauties over night and then I was ready.

This recipe could not be easier.

Charlotte aux Abricots
Ingredients:
25-35 crisp Italian ladyfingers
3 cups Greek yogurt (full fat - just do it)
32-ounce can of apricots or pears in heavy syrup (or you can make your own)

Line the sides of a small saucepan or Charlotte mold with plastic wrap (approximately 6 inches in diameter).  Line the mold, sides and bottom, with the lady fingers.  Layer yogurt and apricots in mold.  Top with a layer of lady fingers.  Pour 1/4 cup of apricot syrup on lady fingers.  Repeat layering 2 or 3 times.  End with ladyfingers and an extra 1/4 cup of syrup all over top, including sides.  Cover with plastic wrap and press the top lightly with a plate or saucer to compress Charlotte.  Refrigerate at least 12 hours.  To unmold, remove plastic wrap on top, place on serving plate and flip.  Gently shake until mold can be removed.  Remove plastic wrap and enjoy.

Wouldn't this be spectacular for brunch or a breakfast buffet??


Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogging Hiatus

Hello All,

As many of you know I will be going in for a hip replacement in two days.  I am hoping to be back to baking in about a month.  I appriciate all of you comments and I can't wait to become a bionic baker!  ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Whipped Cream Cake


This week's Heavenly Baker free choice had one requirement.  Simplicity!  I did not want to mess my whole kitchen up with a dessert that took 92 steps and 113 bowls.  I wanted a simple, straight forward cake that tasted great.  I finally decided on the Whipped Cream Cake.  How much easier could you get?  I didn't even need to let butter come to room temperature because the only fat in this cake is whipping cream.  I quickly sifted the dry ingredients, mixed the wet ones together and then folded in the dry.  Easy Peasy!  As I was pouring the batter into my cake tin, the aroma hit me.  Actually it kissed me!  This batter has the most delicious smell and so I had to taste.  After pouring the batter, I licked the spatula and OH MY GOODNESS!!!  I could have eaten a bowl of this stuff. 
I decided to keep it simple so I mixed together some strawberries and dried figs, warmed some jam with a little bit of Chamboard and off we went to dessert paradise. 
If you are looking for a simple white cake, send me an email and I will give you the recipe (unless you already have Heavenly Cakes of course).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Apricot Sour Cherry Crumble



It's crumble time baby!  I love crisps and crumbles.  I don't really know the difference so I name my desserts as the day leads me.  Yesterday was a crumble day.  Life has been spinning a web around me lately and so crumble seemed appropriate.  I decided to make a stone fruit crumble because I had them in my freeze.  I think I told all of you about my fruit hoarding disease.  I just can't seem to let them out of the freezer and then the fruit gets freezer burn, well last night I made a break through.  I opened the freezer and took out some apricots and sour cherries.  Last year was a particularly good apricot year so I froze a bunch.  They were so fragrant and juicy last year.  It was really hard to believe how taste-y they were.  (Side note - my parents are from Serbia and they always tell me how the fruit of their childhood was nothing like today's tasteless mealy messes.  I image apricots of their youth tasted like the apricots of last year and let me say - they are right!)
I wanted to try something new with my crumble.  I wanted to know if I substitute the tapioca or cornstarch with Bird's Custard Powder, would I get a creamy, vanilla scented crumble.  I knew that custard powder had corn starch in it and so I tried it.  It worked great.  I loved the flavor and the texture and I definately noted a creaminess that really added depth to the dessert.

Apricot and Sour Cherry Crumble

3-4 cups fruit (in this case apricot and sour cherry)
1 heaping T. Bird's Custard Powder
3 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1 c. quick oats
1 1/2 c. crushed cookies
1/2 cup almonds
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the fruit, custard powder, sugar and vanilla paste in a bowl.  Spoon fruit mixture in individual oven safe dishes. 
Combine melted butter, cookie crumbs, and oatmeal in a bowl.  Stir well.  Spoon over fruit mixture. 
Place dishes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes.
Enjoy plain, with whipped cream or ice cream!

Please note that these types of desserts are as flexible as their names.  You can use any fruit with any flavoring, cookie or nut.  Feel free to play around with it. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate Midnight Cake

I was never a big fan of calling a super moist chocolate laden cake "Devil's Food Cake."  What is that all about???  Who would do such a thing?  And so... I am going to call it Chocolate Midnight Cake!  I LOVE that name!  It is descriptive and intriguing and it just sounds good.

I embarked on this cakes journey with excitement and a little trepidation.  I do not have the best luck with chocolate cakes.  They are usually not chocolate-y enough and generally dry and crumble-y.  Well... it must be something that I am doing wrong because most of the other baker's cakes look great and moist and deliciously chocolate-y.  Not mine my friends.  Mine was dense (not good dense), dry and bitter (not luscious).  The frosting was also disappointing.  It took WAY too long!  I was hoping for a creamier frosting with a slightly thicker consistency.  Instead, I found the frosting to be a little thin and the cocoa added too much bitter dryness. 

For those of you that know  me, you know what a terrible sport I am and so... I will not be posting a picture of my hidious cake.  I am going to let all of you enjoy my fellow Heavenly Baker's cakes without the embarassment of comparing it to mine.  I will take myself to the opposit end of the "Featured Baker" spot and sulk.  The end.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beef Burgundy


I joined the Cook's Illustrated recipe testers about a year ago and it has been  a lot of fun so far.  I got an email from them late last week and I was so excited when I opened the link and found that Beef Burgundy was the recipe.  What fun!!!  I started by searching Meijer for salt pork.  I never purchased it before and after searching for 10 minutes I found it next to the bacon.  Duh!!  By the time I got home it was after 7 and I was looking at 3 hours of cooking.  As I started prepping, I had such a Julie/Julia moment.  I felt like Julia was coming to dinner and I had to deliver.  Silly, huh?!?  Anyway, I started chopping and browning and before I knew it, my house smelled like a French Bistro awaiting dinner guests.  Wow, the smell is really incredible.  Unfortunately I can't share the recipe quite yet but it is coming and when it does, get ready!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding 2.0



I am a little late posting this (it was supposed to be posted on Monday) but I was bit by the lazy bug and am just recovering.  Monday night I had every intention of heading straight home from work and baking up a storm.  Well, work was CRAZY and I needed a little retail therapy to heal my wounded spirit.  I stopped at Marshall's and bought the cutest little white scalloped dishes for serving who knows what and a strainer.  I really needed it all.  ;)  Anyway, I digress, Tuesday I came home from Pilates and made my cakes.  My biggest change to the recipe was removing the beer and using water in its place.  I have no desire to use beer in anything.  Everything about it makes my stomach churn.  The water worked just fine.  I also decided to split the batter up into two different pans.  First I started with my square cupcake pan (Another HAD to have!)  The results were really cute.  I really liked the perfectly shaped little square cakes.  Then I poured the remaining batter into a pudding tin and baked it rather then steaming it with the lid on.  Again, I was pleased with the result.  I made the toffee sauce - which is oh so very good!  I wanted to end up with a sweet and salty dessert so I sprinkled the toasted pecans with fleur de sel. 


I plated, photo-ed and enjoyed!  Do not be intimidated by this old fashion dessert.  It is definitely worth making and enjoying!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meyer Lemon Crown Cake




This week Heavenly Bakers had a free choice week so I decided on this beauty.  A few factors helped me make this choice.

1.  My Mom was coming home from Dubai so I needed a  non-chocolate treat to welcome her home.
2.  Meyer Lemons are still ready available and my Dad just bought me a bag to play with.  If you haven't tried these yet, try them!  My sister made lemon bars with them and OH MY GOODNESS!!!
3.  I have always wanted to make Lady Fingers from scratch.

So with all these reasons backing me, I started the process.  The Lady Fingers were a snap.  I don't know why I was so intimidated.  I know I could use a little more practice piping them but I thought they looked decent.  I baked two sheets at a time and one of them got a little darker but they did not burn so I used them.  Then I moved on to the lemon curd.  I used the double boiler method and the result was a creamy curd with not a curdle in sight.  I added a little extra zest (because I really like it).  Then I cooled the curd over ice and mixed it into the whipped cream.  I poured the cream into my prepared Lady Finger lined mold and into the freezer it went.  The next day, I topped the cake with meringue and torched it with my mini blow torch.

This cake was a pleasure from start to finish.  It was easy to assemble and one of my sisters said that this was her favorite dessert I have ever made!!  I have to admit that I was a little flattered.  I have great cheerleaders!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Baking Extravaganza


Let me start by stating my deep love for all things Valentine.  I think a day full of hearts, chocolate, pink and red is just about perfection.  This year I wanted to bake something special and since I was going to share my Valentine's baking with six youngsters, I selected kid friendly desserts. 



I started with Whoopie Pies.  Which child (or adult for that matter) can't enjoy a chocolate-y and marshmallow cream confection?  I wanted to try ATK's version and it was perfection.  The cake part was moist and super chocolate-y and the cream - oh that cream!!!  What a delight!  It was sweet and slightly salty.  It was creamy but still fluffy.  It was WONDERFUL!!!



Then I decided to make a red dessert so I went with Amy's Bread Red Velvet Cake.  The cake called for dark brown sugar which I happen to already have.  I was a little concerned about this (I was afraid the cake would be like a red brick) but I persevered through it and followed the recipe.  Much to my delight, the cake was great.  I loved the slightly dense texture and the moist crumb.  It was light and heavy all at the same time.  My only regret with the cake portion was my over use of red food coloring.  I think I could have halved the amount and been just fine.  I used Christmas Red instead of No-Taste Red and next time I will not do that.  The Christmas Red left a slight after taste in my mouth that I didn't care for.

Overall, my Valentine's Day was a complete delight.  Work had been challenging that day but my guests made up for it.  They were wonderful!  The best part for me was my niece's adoration of my Red Velvet.  Nothing says I love you like "I love your cake!"  I sent her home with several pieces to enjoy in the days to come.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Brownie

Brownies are a tough thing.  Some have the most perfect texture but are not chocolate-y enough.  Some are cake-y. Some are so moist you can't even pick them up.  The list goes on and on.  And so... in my desperate search for the absolute perfect brownie, I tried these.




These were good and for once in my life I understood why some people like the edges.  The center of these were extremely moist, but the edges-THEY WERE CHEWY.  Oh how I love a chewy brownie!  Next time I make these (and I think I will make them again) I will definitely add pecans because a chewy brownie with pecans might be one of the best things ever.

Sadly, I have a terrible confession to make, I did not use the chocolate that the recipe required.  I used what ever I found in my chocolate hoarder's pantry.  I wanted to get rid of some of the older stuff and so I really mixed it up.  Next time I will stick to the unsweetened chocolate, but this time - well, the deed is done.

Chewy Brownies (ATK)

Ingredients

1/3cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped (see note and related illustration)
4tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2large eggs
2large egg yolks
2teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4teaspoon table salt
6ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see note)

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Referring to directions in Making a Foil Sling (related), make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cinnamon Buns


Last week I was watching TV and I came across a show where the host was making cinnamon buns.  Immediately I thought: yuuummmmm!  I love a moist, sticky, sweet bun.  My sister makes a pretty mean one but I wanted to try this recipe because the dough contained cornstarch.  The host explained that the starch helped make a very tender crumb as opposed to a chewy dough.  Well, that was all I needed.  I bought the few items that I needed and dove right in. 

As I confessed in the past, I have a thing for dough.  I could stick my face in it.  I love the smell, the feel, the everything!  As I started this dough, I was a little disappointed.  It didn't come together as the recipe explained it would until I started adding the butter.  At this point, 10 minutes of kneading is necessary for the dough to really get the gluten going.  As I pulled the dough out of my mixer, I realized how soft it was.  This dough takes some tender loving care.  I gently placed it into a bowl and let the yeast get to work.  Rising time took considerable longer because my house was a bit chilly but boy did this dough grow!  Then I rolled it out and filled it.  I wanted to play with the size of the buns because the recipe recommended making really big rolls.  (They were right.  The big rolls tasted better and looked better.)  After a second rising, I baked these babies up and before I even thought about it, we all dove in!  So...sorry about the bad pictures.  These were too good to waste time thinking about staging. 

P.S.  This frosting is almost too good!


Cinnamon Buns (thanks Cook's Country)

Dough
3/4cup whole milk , heated to 110 degrees
1envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
3large eggs , room temperature
4 1/4cups all-purpose flour
1/2cup cornstarch
1/2cup granulated sugar
1 1/2teaspoons salt
12tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 12 pieces and softened
Filling
1 1/2cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4teaspoon salt
4tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
Glaze
4ounces cream cheese , softened
1tablespoon whole milk
1teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2cups confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  1. 1. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, shut off. Line 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess foil to hang over pan edges. Grease foil and medium bowl.
  2. 2. Whisk milk and yeast in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  3. 3. For the filling: Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Following photos 1 and 2 in the related step-by-step, roll dough into 18-inch square, spread with butter, and sprinkle evenly with filling. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll dough into tight cylinder, pinch lightly to seal seam, and, following photo 3, cut into 8 pieces. Transfer pieces, cut-side up, to prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. 4. For the glaze and to bake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Discard plastic wrap and bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and top buns with ½ cup glaze; cool 30 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze. Serve.
  5. Make Ahead: After transferring pieces to prepared pan in step 3, buns can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 24 hours. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Remove plastic wrap and continue with step 4 as directed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Genoise Tres Cafe

Life has a way of changing plans and surprising us when we don't expect it.  I am sorry for being absent for so long.  First I was sick (with croup!!???!!!) and then I was dealing with our sick dog.  I know this is a food blog but I want to dedicate this post to our dear dog Bruzer and my sweet brother-in-law G (who did what the rest of us couldn't do).  Bruzer - thanks for being a great part of the family for nine years.  I love you buddy.


When I was making this cake, every part of it reminded me of the flavors my brother-in-law appreciates.  The cake was light and soaked in the most delicious coffee/liqueur syrup, the ganache was creamy and not overly sweet and in the end, I decided to top it with G's favorite french truffles (from Costco-they totally rock).  So G, this one was for you.  You are a special man - Thanks.

Monday, January 10, 2011

White Velvet Cake with Chocolate Frosting


This week's Heavenly Cake challenge was a simple cake but it brought with it plenty of possibilities.  The cake itself was a simple white cake that was not very flavorful but had a great crumb and a sturdy structure.  I am sure that I will use this cake as a base for other cakes in the future.  The chocolate frosting was simple to prepare and had a great shine to it.  I didn't have milk chocolate so I used double chocolate chips instead and this too tasted great.  I didn't mind the stronger chocolate flavor that Rose was trying to avoid.  I also loved the slow lava-like swoopiness of this frosting.  It spoke to my deep admiration for all things creamy and dreamy.  All in all the taste and textures were very good.

I have to admit that I am still not use to Rose's batter assemblies.  I agree that they  produce wonderful textures but I still feel like I haven't read the instructions correctly.  If you are a Rose newbie, push past the strange steps and welcome to the world of cakes with great structure.

Yum!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cookie Time!


Who doesn't love a great cookie?!?  I love chocolate chip cookies with nuts.  My favorite recipe is the one on the back of Nestle Chocolate Chip bags.  I always add a handful of rolled oats and they turn out great every time.  Well, I was watching Top Chef Just Desserts and one of the contestants made a Chunky Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie that the judges raved about.  So... obviously I had to try them.  I switched it up a little but not much.  I swapped pecans for the walnuts and I added mini Reese's Cups along with dark chocolate chips.  I baked half of them and shaped and froze the rest.  Both batches turned out great!  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Are we all ready??  Here it is again!  A brand new year to praise the Lord, make new memories, and eat great food!!  I am not usually a big fan of new year's eve so this year, since I am home, I decided to spend the day doing what I dream about almost every day.  I baked!!!  I baked all afternoon.  I wanted to make something really special for my cousin's birthday as well as the last day of 2010 so I made Croquembouche and a Meyer Lemon Curd Raspberry Pavlova.

Croquembouche, for those of you that don't know, is cream puffs dipped in caramel and stacked into a cone.  I searched and searched for the right recipe and I finally came across one by Gale Gand.  She is really a great baker.  I started with the custard filling.  This one is straight forward and hard to mess up.  To speed up the cooling process I poured the custard into a Pyrex and covered it tightly with plastic wrap to prevent a beautiful custard skin (which I love to eat).  Then it was time to lick the spatula.  Whoa baby!!  This is great custard!  So... Amy darling this one is for you!  Pudding is love and I love you!
I did make the cream puffs a little too big.  Next time I will make them smaller and bake them a little longer then I would for plain cream puffs.  I also opened the oven to rotate the baking sheets and some puffs deflated and lost their shape.  Then I moved on to the caramel that only took three tries.  The recipe says take the sugar syrup to a LIGHT golden and now I know Gale means a LIGHT golden brown.  Live and learn!!


Pavlova.  I used Nigella Lawson's recipe which calls for passion fruit and lychee (which I don't care for) so I switched it to raspberry and Meyer Lemon curd.  I was hoping for a crispy exterior and a marshmallow-y interior.  The problem  was that I didn't take the weather into account.  The rain and humidity prevented the crust from forming on the pavlova.  In the end, the pavlova was soft but still fluffy.


Happy New Year dear readers!  Thanks for all your comments and encouragements!

Croquembouche -thank you Gale

  • 2 cups water
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 8 to 10 eggs
  • Filling, recipe follows
  • Caramel, recipe follows

Filling:

  • 4 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Caramel:

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to evaporate some of the moisture.
Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, and working 1 egg at a time, add 6 of the eggs, stopping after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add 1 or 2 more eggs, and mix until incorporated.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough in big kisses onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Whisk 2 eggs with 3 teaspoons of water. Brush the surface of the dough with the egg wash to knock down the points (do not use all the egg wash.) Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375-degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. The recipe can be made up to this point and frozen in plastic bags. Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.
Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and any flavorings if you want to make a different flavor like chocolate or coffee. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Poke a hole with a plain pastry tip in the bottom of each cream puff and pipe it full of the custard.
Caramel: Dissolve the sugar in a saucepan with the water, making an "X" through the sugar with your finger to allow the water to slowly soak into the sugar. Boil to make a light golden caramel then dip the bottom of the pan in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Dip the sides of the puffs in the caramel and stick them together (approximately 20 cream puffs) in a circle, tops facing out. Make a second row on top of the first but a bit smaller to draw the circle in and create a tower of cream puffs. Check it from all sides occasionally to make sure it's straight. When it's finished, drizzle it with caramel all over. You can also stick on decorative elements with the caramel in the crevices, like candied violets, gold balls, gum paste flowers, sugar covered almonds, etc.