Foodbuzz

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies


Sometimes a person is in the mood for cookies. Today's wishes are not for chocolate chip cookies or buttery shortbread, but something a little bit more healthy. Something more along the lines of oatmeal cookies would squelch my craving.

Not just any oatmeal cookies will do. Seasonal flavors would have to be included with this cookie recipe. I came across a recipe that included pumpkin puree and spices-which just what I was looking for. For even more seasonal flavor, I tweaked the recipe a bit to include dried cranberries and walnuts.

The cookies turned out to be chewy in texture with a bit of crunch from the walnuts. Also, they are a very hearty cookie full of fall flavor. As you know, oatmeal cookies fall under comfort food-so for that special category I consider this recipe a keeper. Another bonus is that the time it takes to create these cookies is minimal. The recipe makes about 2 dozen.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar (extra for sprinkling)
2/3 cup of oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts (chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, allspice and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in the oats and set aside. Take out another bowl and fill with both types of sugars, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir until thoroughly combined together. Then fold in the sifted ingredients in 1/3 increments. Mix just until no more dry streaks remain.

Lastly, add the dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. Stir together until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Using a scoop, place mounds of the dough on one of the baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Dip the bottom of a glass in water and flatten each mound, creating a 2 inch diameter with the dough. Then sprinkle on some of the raw sugar.

Bake each pan of cookies in the oven separately until done. Cookies should be firm and lightly browned on the edges when done, approximate baking time is 17-20 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and transfer cookies to a rack and let cool.
                             **LAST YEAR: Triple Caramel Mudcake**

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake


The end of this month marks the day of Halloween. For a lot of countries it is a day of remembrance for those that have passed. There are several different traditions across the world, however, in the US a lot of us will be creating jack-o-lanterns. If you are unfamiliar with the US tradition of making jack-o-lanterns, the pumpkin is scraped out or removed of all the seeds and then the shell is cut and carved into a design (usually a scary face) and then a candle is put inside and lit to have a glow.

The jack-o-lantern originated from a story about of a man named jack who passed away but never went to heaven or hell. The devil gave him a burning coal to light his way and Jack carved out a turnip to place it inside to use for a lantern. Even though the story started with a carved turnip, things eventually evolved into using a pumpkin for the carving. However, outside of Halloween, today there are quite a number of fruits and vegetables that are used in the art of food carving.

You might not be an artist, but you can still have a successful pumpkin carving session this year by bringing out a delicious pumpkin cheesecake for the grand finale. The silky spicy filling topped with a maple sauce and crunchy nuts will have your guests wanting seconds - even if they have to carve another pumpkin for it!

This recipe makes one 9 inch cheesecake or 16 individual ramekin servings.

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients/Crust 
1 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbs butter, melted

Ingredients/ Filling
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
3 tbs maple syrup
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
24 oz of cream cheese (room temp)
3 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp gnd cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Ingredients/Topping
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Then pour in butter and mix again until it reaches a sandy texture with no dry streaks. Empty into a spring form pan and press evenly in the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the cream cheese. Beat on high speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl until the mixture becomes smooth and silky. This should take about 2 minutes. Add one egg and beat for about 30 seconds, or until incorporated into the cream cheese. Repeat the same process with the remaining eggs. Then pour in the syrup and sweetened condensed milk and beat for 30 seconds.

Add the pumpkin puree and beat for another 3 seconds. Lastly, beat in the salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour the filling into the pan, it should be the consistency of cake batter. To remove large air bubbles, tap the pan lightly on the counter.

Place in oven and let bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Cheesecake is done when it is no longer glossy on top and is solid in mass with the exception of a slight jiggly center. Remove from oven and let cool completely and then cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

The topping, used only at the time of serving, can be made in advance and refrigerated. Pour the cream and syrup in a saucepan and stir together. Then place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. The end result will be a thick sauce. Mix in the pecans. Pour into a heat proof bowl and let cool for about 20 minutes. Then cover and place in refrigerator to get cold.

Once you are ready to ladle the topping over the cheesecake, take a moment to mix together again.

Tips and Notes:
1. I found that due to the mixing, this yields a lot of batter. When using rings or ramekins, fill each leaving only 1/4 of an inch from the top edge.

2. The spices are just right for my tastes, however, feel free to add more to filling or add spices to graham crumb mixture.

3. For a more pourable topping, cut down on the cook time and test for the right consistency.
                                      **TWO YEARS AGO: Caramel Apple Nut Pie**

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Butterscotch Walnut Cupcakes

Fall has arrived and with it comes the change in the leaves. Some people head up north to witness the change, the locals call them "leaf peepers". Around here in central Texas there is the dreaded thought of raking all those leaves. The people that do not have trees in their front yard will be looking to pass blame for all the leaves in their yard.

As for me, I am looking forward to fall baking. Gingerbread, pumpkin pie are only a few things that come to mind. The heavier, bold flavors are going to be more prominent in desserts, which brings me to these butterscotch walnut cupcakes. The textures and flavor combination makes this recipe a keeper. The moist texture comes from walnut oil which also adds a nutty flavor to each cupcake. The buttercream is made with gelatin and less sugar than most, giving it a lightness. The caramel on top with the walnut turns up the sweetness along with adding some more crunch.

The recipe below makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Butterscotch Walnut Cupcakes

Ingredients/Cupcake
By flourtrader

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup walnut oil
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/Caramel

Click on this link Caramel recipe

Ingredients/Buttercream
adapted from Cooking Channel

1 1/4 cup or 2 1/2 sticks butter
2 tbs plus 1/4 cup water
1 tsp powdered gelatin
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
24 whole walnuts for topping

Prepare 2 cupcake tins (12 cavity each) by filling each cavity with paper liners. Toss the walnuts in about 1/2 cup of flour and use sieve to remove excess flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the yolks from the eggs and place the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the whites until they reach soft peak stage. Continue to mix and slowly pour in the granulated sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside.

To make the cupcakes light, take out a large bowl and sift the cake flour first and then measure it out. Sift it a second time with the baking powder. Stir in the brown sugar until evenly distributed. Add the vanilla, egg yolks, half and half and walnut oil and stir together. Then mix in the chopped walnuts.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the batter and fold it in, continue in 1/3 increments until all is incorporated into the batter.

Using a scoop or spoon, fill each cupcake cavity about 3/4 full of batter. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Place pans on rack to cool about 2 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to rack to completely cool before frosting.

Make the caramel by following the link in the ingredient list above. Set aside to cool.

For the buttercream, start with the gelatin. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the 2 tablespoons of water and stir. Set aside to bloom for about 5 minutes.

Fill a saucepan with the remaining amount of water, brown sugar and half and half. Stir together and place over medium heat. Stir mixture until the sugar is dissolved. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture and change to low heat setting. Mix and let cook until gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until the butter becomes silky in texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour in gelatin mixture and beat on medium high speed. The beating time ranges from 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, there will be several texture changes, so do not be alarmed if it curdles or looks grainy. The end result will be a fluffy buttercream.

Once the buttercream is created, pipe decoratively onto cooled cupcakes. Then place a dollop of caramel in the center surface of the top. Lastly, finish with a walnut in the center.

Tips and notes:
1. Feel free to put your own spin on this recipe by variation of nut oil ingredient.

2. Some of the cupcakes will sink a little upon cooling but the buttercream will remedy the appearance.

3. The smaller the pieces of nuts in the batter, the less chance they will sink to the bottom of the cupcake. Dusting the walnut pieces with flour is an important step.
                             **LAST YEAR: Banana Rum Coffee Cake**
                                         








Sunday, September 24, 2017

Almond Frangipane Cookies

One of the things I have learned in baking is that there is a vast difference between the recipe favorites of the home baker versus the professional. Most home bakers prefer items that yield tasty results without a huge investment of time. The items created by professionals usually contain more than one component and require extra effort due to presentation. However, do not let the word professional deter you. There are lots of recipes created by professionals that can be made at home- as long as someone is willing to expend the time.

As you can see by the picture, these cookies are far from those big wonderful chocolate chip cookies you find in the cookie jar. They are made up of 2 components, buttery shortbread and frangipane. Once the two cookies are sandwiched together, they are topped with almond slices and a glaceed cherry half. Then the bottoms are coated with white chocolate and colored sugar. All of that flavor is packed into a cookie that is only about 1 1/2 inches around.

In summation, you have something bite sized with a flaky texture from the cookie and chewiness from the frangipane. Then there are all the "extras" that come from the bottom coating and the topping. If this recipe appeals to you, please read all the tips and notes at the end which will help you to be successful in the kitchen. This recipe makes 2-2 1/2 dozen and uses ounces as a unit of measure.

Almond Frangipane Cookies
adapted from Dessert Professional

Ingredients/Butter Cookie
2 egg yolks
4.3 oz powdered sugar
6 oz unsalted butter (cut into cubes at room temp)
11.8 oz cake flour

Ingredients/Frangipane Filling
1 egg
4 oz almond paste
2 oz butter
.42 oz or 1 1/2 tsp of sugar
.17 oz or 1 tsp cake flour

Ingredients/Top and Bottom Coating
2.1 oz water
1 oz honey
2.7 oz sugar
3.5 oz white chocolate
4 oz sliced almonds
24 glaceed cherries (cut in half)
2.4 oz colored sugar

The first component to create are the cookies. Start by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and sift in the powdered sugar. Beat on medium high speed until fluffy, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides. This should take about 3 minutes. Then beat in the egg yolks until fully blended, about 30 seconds. Fold in the flour in three increments.

Once the dough is created, take out plastic wrap and roll out onto a flat surface-about 2 feet long. Place the dough on the plastic wrap and form into a rectangle, cover and place in refrigerator to chill for about 1 hour.

During the chilling time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of 2 small/ 12 cavity mini muffin tins or use non stick or silicon pans. Take this time to form the other components of the cookies. For the filling, place butter, sugar and almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for a total of 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl every 5 minutes. Add the egg and blend in on low speed. Lastly, use a wooden spoon to blend in the flour. Set aside.

For the top coating, fill a saucepan with the honey, water and 2.7 oz sugar and place over medium high heat. Let the mixture come to a boil and let cook for about 1 minute. Let cool and pour in a small bowl and set this by the bowl of sliced almonds and the bowl of halved glaceed cherries.

Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and put in the oven and par-bake for about 4 minutes, or until edges have a golden hue. Remove the pan and start cutting out 1 1/2 inch rounds. Once all the dough has been cut, then the assembly can start. There should be a minimum of 48 rounds.

Stack the rounds together in pairs. Place one dough round from each pair into the muffin tin cavities. Spoon a dime sized amount of the frangipane filling on top. Then top with another round, pressing lightly to form a sandwich cookie. Place 3 or 4 almond slices decoratively on the surface of the cookie rounds and put a cherry half in the center (see picture). Brush lightly with honey glaze and place in oven to bake until golden. Cookies will take approximately 12-15 minutes to bake. Let cool in pans for about 2 minutes, then carefully use a spoon to scoop the cookie out. Place on cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat the process of forming/baking/cooling until all cookie rounds are baked sandwich cookies.

For the bottom coating, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Set up a bowl by filling with the colored sugar. Take each cookie and carefully dip the bottom into chocolate, using a small spatula to scrape off any excess. Then dip chocolate coated side into colored sugar and place on parchment paper. Continue until all cookies have a bottom coat. Once the chocolate has completely set up, the cookies are ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. There was too much filling left over, so try starting with half the recipe and then making more, if needed. The recipe suggests piping this onto the cookie, but I did not feel it was thick enough to be piped, so I used a spoon.

2. The glaze was too watery and did not add as much of a golden hue to the cookie when baked, so the recipe should be tweaked more-perhaps less water. Brushing on the glaze and keeping the almonds and cherry from moving was difficult, so I glazed the surface prior to adding the almonds and cherry. I just dipped the almonds in the glaze to put on top and did not due anything to coat the cherries.

3. I did not complete the bottom coating, so I have no comment on this component in regards to what it added to the cookie in flavor. I found the cookies without the bottom coating to be delicious without the added sweetness. Carefully consider the bottom coating. White chocolate is very sweet, so it may overpower the rest of the flavors of the cookie. The level of sweetness in any dessert is a personal preference.

4. Some of the frangipane filling ended up baking outside the edges of some of the cookies. If you notice this when removing the pans from the oven, use a butter knife to run around the outer edges of the cookies and then let cool.

5. The main idea for presentation is to make the top look like a flower with the almonds the petals and the cherry in the center. Due to the small size of the cookies and various sizes of sliced almonds, I chose just to do the three slices. How many slices you use is a personal preference.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies**

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Apricot Sweet Rolls


In today's world there are a special group of people that are always studying the exchange rate of money. As a result of the study, exchanges take place with the participants expecting to cash in on the conversion.

I feel that the non-monetary or barter system can be a little more interesting. Instead of money-let's consider exchanging sustainable items. Someone fixes your car and they receive 3 watermelon plants. Another example is that you receive 3 chickens a day in return for your work. I know, you are thinking that money is better, but exchanging that for chickens or watermelons requires you to depend on a store. If it was readily available right outside the door, it would not only be fresher but probably better for the environment.

Which brings me to a story about the main item in this recipe-apricots. Some time ago there was a doctor who declined to take any money from his patients. Instead he asked them to plant a apricot tree on his land. In the end, he had a large apricot orchard. This was not just because he liked the taste of apricots, he knew that he could capitalize on the medicinal qualities of the fruit.

So, if you are a blogger or baker remember that outside of the delicious taste of things- there are other factors that you can capitalize on with food. In the meantime, head for the kitchen and make a tasty batch of these sweet rolls. With almonds and apricots, you can enjoy all that wonderful flavor and also get the medicinal qualities found in the fruit as an extra bonus. This recipe makes 1 dozen rolls.

Apricot Sweet Rolls
adapted from Bake from Scratch Magazine

Ingredients/Filling
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs butter (quartered into pieces)

Ingredients/Glaze
vanilla bean/split and seeded
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup water

Ingredients/Sweet Rolls
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk (divided into 3/4 and 1/4 cups, heated to 110 degrees)
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup melted butter

Start on the filling by placing the apricots in a small saucepan. Add water, making sure that the dried apricots are under about 1 inch of water. Place over high heat and let come to a boil. Then change the temperature to low and let the apricots cook. Once the apricots are soft, remove from heat. It should take about 20 minutes of cooking time.

Place a colander or sieve over a small bowl and drain the apricots. Pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid into a small container and discard the rest. Set the apricots and the reserved liquid aside.

Add the remaining filling ingredients to a food processor or blender. Then add the apricots and reserved liquid. Pulse the mixture together, so that all the apricots are broken up into smaller pieces. The end result should be the consistency of jam. Let the jam cool completely and then cover and place in refrigerator.

The next step is to create and form the dough. Sprinkle the yeast into 3/4 cup of the warm milk and stir. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or until ready to use. Take out a medium sized bowl and sift together 3 2/3 cup of the flour and salt, set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar, butter, sour cream, remaining milk (1/4 cup), egg and almond extract. Add 1/2 of the sifted ingredients and mix on low speed. Continue beating and add in the yeast blend, stirring once again prior to adding. Once these elements are combined, blend in the remaining sifted dry ingredients.

Change out the beater blade on the mixer to a dough hook. Switch the speed to medium and beat for about 4 minutes. The end result should be a smooth dough. If it remains sticky, blend in the additional 1/3 cup flour.

Prepare a large bowl by oiling the interior, either using a oil-soaked pastry brush or cooking spray. Also, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the dough into a circle and place in the oiled bowl and then flip over so the other side is oiled as well. Cover and set aside to rise in a warm place. It should take about an hour to double in size.

As the dough is rising, prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the mixture come to a boil, take out the vanilla bean and remove the saucepan from heat. The seeds will remain as dark specks in the golden glaze. Let the glaze cool completely before using.

After the rising session, punch down dough and let stand for 5 minutes. Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Empty the dough out onto the surface and roll out into a rectangle. Keep rolling until it reaches a size of 21 x 13 inches. Take the jam out of the refrigerator. Using a small spatula, spread the jam evenly over the surface of the dough. Do not leave any border and spread the mixture out, covering all of the edges.

Starting from one of the short sides, fold the dough into a letter size rectangle, resulting in a 13 x 7 inch mass. Extend the dough another inch, making it 13 x 8 inches. Sharpen the short edges of the dough by slicing off a half inch from each 8 inch side. Then cut the dough into 12 one inch wide strips. Carefully twist each strip and curl around to form a loose knot, tucking the ends underneath. Place all the formed strips on each baking sheet. There should be six pastries evenly spaced on each baking sheet. Let the pastry dough rise again for about 30 minutes, covering and placing in a warm area. During this second rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the oven reaches the desired temperature, place one baking sheet in the oven and let the pastries bake until done. Let the pastries bake for about 7 minutes and check to see if they are getting to brown on top. If so, cover with foil at this time. Let the rolls bake an additional 8 minutes before using a tester to check if the pastries are done. Baking time could take up to a total of 20 minutes. The end result should be rolls that are golden brown on the surface. Remove from the oven and top with the brown sugar glaze. Follow the same instructions on the additional tray of rolls. Serve warm.

Tips and notes:
1. The additional rise time of the 2nd tray while the first is baking does not alter the end result. Both trays had the same texture and size.

2. The recipe states to add the sliced almonds after the filling is blended. However due to cutting and forming, I elected to add them prior to the blending.

3. The filling does not scorch when resting on the pan while baking.

4. The glaze does not add a lot of sugar to the surface, allowing the almond/apricot to be the primary flavor of the rolls.

                                                    **LAST YEAR:Hazelnut Praline Cakes**

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hibiscus Butter Cake


Things never seem to stay exactly the same. It is as if time is always redecorating. Sometimes the change happens quickly and sometimes they take time. Those shoes you loved in the store just were not the same at home and places you used to visit in the past are now unfamiliar.

In relationship to food, I have been told that your taste buds change with time. The things you once loved turn into a different flavor or your preferences change. However, I am happy to say that I still enjoy a good slice of cake-so time has not changed my taste buds that much. In addition, I still crave a taste of the unique and trendy flavors.

Which brings me to this recipe. I have been thinking about the taste of flowers; cherry blossom, geranium and hibiscus. I believe that the decision was locked in when I saw a jar of hibiscus flowers in syrup. The main use for the flowers were to drop into champagne filled glasses for an extra special occasion. I knew that syrupy flowers were not the right type of component for the cake. Then the idea of freeze dried came to mind, but the product was not easily found. What could be easily found was hibiscus tea leaves.

Then I went searching for methods of using tea in baking and landed on a recipe in which the methods were already tested and steeping the tea with melted butter was the winner.

This is a 3 layer six inch cake with lemon and the familiar berry/tart flavor of hibiscus. It is covered with a strawberry lemon buttercream and the layers are filled with both the buttercream and sweet strawberries. Nifty in size and deliciously unique in flavor- one slice is really worth trying.

Hibiscus Butter Cake
adapted from Oh Honey Bakes 

Ingredients/Cake
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter
5 tbs hibiscus tea
6 egg whites
3 1/4 cups flour

Ingredients/Jam
1 lb of strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs lemon juice

Ingredients/Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup strawberry jam (from above recipe)
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp lemon extract
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 or 3 sticks of butter (cubed)

In order to create the cake, start by infusing the tea with the butter. Place a saucepan over medium heat and fill with the butter. Then add the tea. As the butter melts in the pan, due to the tea leaves, it will turn a deep burgundy color. Let the mixture come to a boil and cover. Remove from the heat and let rest for about an hour for the hibiscus flavor to meld with the butter.

Once the resting interval is complete, place a sieve over a heat proof bowl. Pour the butter/tea mixture into the sieve and let the melted butter drain out while pressing into the tea leaves. Use a spatula to scrape any remaining amount of butter (clinging to the bottom of the sieve) into the bowl. Let the mixture come to room temperature before using.

As this cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the interior of three six inch cake pans and place parchment in the bottom of each pan. Grease the surface of the parchment paper as well. Fill each with about 1 tablespoon of flour and shake pan until the whole interior is covered and invert to empty out excess.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and butter/hibiscus mixture. Cream the mixture together, beating at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add each egg white (one at a time) and blend with the mixer for about 30 seconds. Continue with this same process until all 6 of the egg whites are blended into the batter. Fold in the lemon zest and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter. Then stir in 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Repeat the same process, starting with the dry blend and using all the remaining buttermilk. End by folding in the last amount of the sifted ingredients.

Measure out the batter and divide evenly into thirds. Fill each pan with a third, making sure the surface of the batter is even. To remove air bubbles in the batter, tap the bottom of the pan lightly on the counter. Place each in the oven and let bake for 20 minutes. After that interval, rotate and bake for about 5-10 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the interior edges of the pans and invert onto cooling racks. Once completely cooled, the layers can be assembled.

As the cake is cooling, start on the topping/icing. Core all the strawberries and set aside 4 whole strawberries for garnish. Chop the rest of the strawberries into 1/4 inch pieces. Separate out 1/2 cup of the chopped strawberries, empty into a bowl, and fold in 2 tbs of sugar. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator.

Fill a saucepan with the lemon juice, the remaining 1/2 of sugar and chopped strawberries. Place over medium heat and let cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. The end result should should be thick, like jam. Remove from heat and drain into a heatproof bowl with a sieve, using a spoon the press out all the liquids. Cover bowl and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream, set up a double boiler using a bottom pot an adding water, filling it 1/4 inch full. Let the water come to a simmer. Take out a metal bowl and fill with the egg whites and sugar. Place the filled metal bowl over the pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is no longer grainy and the sugar is dissolved or until it reaches 140 degrees. It should have a foamy consistency when ready.

Empty the egg white/sugar mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk attachment, blend the ingredients on high speed for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check the temperature of the outside of the bowl to determine if it has reached room temperature. If so, switch the mixer blade to the paddle attachment and low speed. As the icing continues to be mixed, start dropping in the cubes of butter until all is blended into an icing texture.

Take the strawberry jam out of the refrigerator and beat into the sugar/butter mixture. Once blended, stir in the lemon extract and lemon zest.

To assemble the cake, start by trimming the domed layers into a flat surface. Place one of the layers on a plate and cover sides and top surface with buttercream. Then divide the remaining mixture of strawberries and sugar in half. Spoon half of the mixture evenly onto the layer covered in buttercream. Then top with another layer of cake and repeat the process of covering the layer. Place the last layer on top, making sure the cake is level. Frost the sides and top with the remaining butter cream and slice the 4 strawberries vertically, leaving about 3 cm uncut at the bottom. The strawberries can be fanned out and placed on the center of the cake. 
  
Tips and notes:
1. This recipe yields a very tall cake. I kept one layer as a small cake and stacked and frosted only two layers.

2. The buttercream will curdle when blending, which is to be expected. It may take a while of mixing to get to the proper consistency, so be patient.

3. Bear in mind that butter cakes are more dense than regular cake. However, it still retains a moist texture.

4. If you are topping the cake with the berries, do that right before slicing and serving.

5. Even though the tea leaves have a rich berry tint to them, the cake layers have a white interior. 

6. The hibiscus flavor becomes more prominent after 1 day.
                              **LAST YEAR: Vanilla Bean Scones* 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sawmill Toffee


Today there is a cool breeze outside and the temperature is much cooler than what Texas normally has in August. Even though the temperature may switch back to 100 degrees and hotter in a few days, the thoughts of autumn and winter are on my mind.

Pumpkin, gingerbread and spices are definitely the foods for the cooler weather. Along with that are the special holiday treats that only seem to appear once a year. One of those treats is homemade fudge. My mother used to make fudge around the Christmas holidays. I recall my sister and I having to take turns to beat the fudge until it reaches the correct consistency. At the time, it seemed like it took an eternity for it to get to that point-especially when both of us were ready to eat when we were recruited for the task!

Unlike many fudge recipes, this one is quick and easy. You will not have to experience the task of "beating until it reaches the correct consistency". Instead, butter is creamed with sugar and the rest is simply mixed in.

Needless to say, the name of this recipe is very misleading. It should be named fudge instead of toffee. When served from a frozen state, it has that same silky texture that we expect when indulging in a piece of fudge. In addition, each piece has an occasional crunch from the pecans. Also, when flipped out of the pan, you have a thick dusting of graham cracker crumbs on top. Like most fudge, each bite packs in the big flavor we all love- rich, sweet chocolate.

Sawmill Toffee
adapted from Bon Appetit-Favorite Restaurant Recipes

Ingredients
2-3 tbs butter (melted)
3 eggs
1 tbs orange liqueur
8 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted/cooled)
1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 lb powdered sugar
Whipped cream (optional for serving)

Start by preparing a 10X15X1 inch pan by buttering the interior. Then take out a bowl and whisk together the melted butter and the graham cracker crumbs. Once all the crumbs have been damped by the butter, empty contents into pan. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan, using the back of a spoon or small spatula. Cover pan with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to cool for at least an hour.

Take out another bowl and fill with only 1 cup or 2 sticks of butter (kept at room temperature). Beat the butter until it is smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. This should take about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Using a sieve or sifter, empty the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Then add 1 cup of the sifted sugar to the butter mixture and beat on low. Once no more dry streaks remain, beat for about 30 seconds on medium speed. Repeat this process until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated into the butter. Set aside.

Then fill a saucepan with the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and place over medium heat. Once melted, pour in the pecan pieces. Stir the mixture until the pecans release a butter-nut aroma, indicating that they are completely toasted. This should take up to 5 minutes. Once toasted, empty the nuts into a small bowl to cool.

Go back to the butter/sugar mixture and add one egg. Beat for 30 seconds. Continue adding and beating each egg into the batter, one at a time. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk or stir until it is completely distributed throughout the mixture. Lastly, fold in the toasted pecans.

Remove the graham cracker lined pan from the refrigerator. Also, fill a small bowl with some cold water. Using a large ladle, scoop out chocolate fudge and drop into top right section of the pan. Continue with large scoops until all the fudge is in the pan. Then smooth out the fudge evenly by dipping a spatula or knife into the water and sliding over the surface.

To complete the process, take a pastry brush and dip it in the orange liqueur and brush over the surface. Then take a knife and make cuts in the surface to mix in the orange liqueur. Lastly, smooth out the surface again. Cover and place in freezer for about 3 hours to set.

Once set, it is ready to cut, flip and serve. Prior to serving you can top with a scoop of whipped cream if desired.

Tips and Notes:
1.The graham coating is very loose and powdery. In order to remedy that, add some additional melted butter until it clumps into a more solid mass. However, remember that this is to be more of a dusting and not a baked hard crust, like you would have with a cheesecake.

2. I am big on crunchy pecans, so if I was to make this again I would increase the amount used in this recipe.

3. The original recipe states to chill the fudge. Tasting the consistency of it chilled in the refrigerator vs chilled in the freezer, I much preferred the freezer. The refrigerator did not get the mixture to set up as firm as fudge.

4. The brushing of the liqueur on top did not lend any flavor to the fudge. Should you want to experience the taste of it in the fudge, try increasing the quantity and experimenting with mixing it in the batter. You can also separate the batter in half, making one layer and brushing it with the liqueur. Then cut it in with the knife, as instructed in the original recipe. Top with a second layer of fudge and follow the same instructions.

5. Bear in mind that the pieces of fudge are between 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick, they are not like the 1 inch cube size of most fudge pieces.


                                   **LAST YEAR:Polish Poundcake**