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.