Monday, May 30, 2011

Triple Quake Bars

Have you ever realized that ice cream desserts have gotten smaller as the years have passed?  Maybe its because you have grown up, but some things just are not what they used to be.  I remember an ice cream treat from Dairy Queen called Buster Bars.

These treats were shaped like a big upside down Dixie cup.  It was all covered in chocolate and inside was stacked layers: one of ice cream, one of fudge and one of salted caramel peanuts.  The bottom was bigger around than the inside of a standard coffee cup and the top was the size of a full roll of scotch tape.

Well, I have not had a Buster Bar in quite a while.  Probably because the last time I got one the size was a little disappointing.  I am not even sure they make them anymore.

Anyhow, I thought I would make some sort of ice cream treat with layers.  This one is sure to please-it is a rich chocolate brownie with pecans topped with one layer of vanilla bean ice cream.  If that was not enough, there is a third layer on top of rich, chocolate fudge.  It would satisfy any ravenous chocoholic and, of course, you can choose to cut whatever size piece you want.

Triple Quake Bars
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ Brownie Cake layer
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa (I used Hersheys special dark)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
3/4 cup butter

Ingredients/Ice Cream layer
1quart vanilla bean or homemade vanilla ice cream -softened

Ingredients/Fudge Layer
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) and 2 tbs butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cocoa
2 oz (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
2 cups confectioners sugar

To make the cake layer, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the inside of a 9X13 inch pan and dust with flour.

Using a medium size saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Then whisk in sugar and cocoa until smooth.  Remove from heat and empty into a mixing bowl.   Add each egg to the sugar batter, beating about 30 seconds before adding the next egg.  Once all four eggs are blended into the batter, stir in the vanilla extract.  Then set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt.  Fold these dry ingredients into the chocolate batter until no dry flour spots remain.  Then stir in the pecans.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until tester indicates done. Then remove cake from the oven and place pan on a cooling rack.  Once pan is cool to the touch, place it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Take out the softened ice cream. It should have the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  You do not want it too watery because it will soak into the cake.  Remove the cake from the freezer and spread the ice cream evenly on top.  Place back in freezer.

Now to make the top layer, you will need another saucepan.  Place it over low heat and put in the butter and the chocolate squares.  Stir constantly until all is melted and blended to a smooth consistency.  Add the cocoa and continue to stir.  Then pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated into batter.  Remove from heat and transfer batter to a mixing bowl.

Sift confectioners sugar into the chocolate batter and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes.  Fudge batter should be shiny and smooth.  Set aside to cool for about 1 hour.

Once fudge batter is cool, take out cake and put 1/2 of fudge on top.  If  ice cream shows through, do not worry, the second layer will cover.  Place cake in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.  Remove and smooth on 2nd layer of fudge and place back in freezer until top is no longer sticky.  About 1 hour.

You can serve after the hour is up or leave cake in freezer for another time.  Should it be frozen for a long time, soften at room temp for 20-30 minutes or more before serving.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife and place each on a plate and serve.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cajun Chicken Carter

I like a little bit of spice, but not to the point of eating habanero peppers. Sweating and eating at the same time is just is not my thing.

I was in the mood for Cajun but did not want all the cayenne heat that it usually has.  I found this recipe for Chicken Carter that foot the bill.  It is flavorful but on the mild side.

The cookbook, Fork in the Road, offers up recipes that are a bit healthier than traditional Cajun cuisine. The first thing I noticed was that this recipe had quite a number of spices in it but it did not include cayenne.  Also, the roux (typically made with oil) is replaced with flour that is browned in a pan.  While being more healthy, the absence of roux makes this dish easier to prepare.

Cajun Chicken Carter
courtesy of  A Fork in the Road Cookbook

1 whole chicken ( skin removed and cut up but skip this for the wings)
3 cups cooked long grain rice
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups sliced, chopped mushrooms
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbs flour

Seasoning Ingredients
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried majoram
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika

After all your prep work of chopping the vegetables is done, take out a heavy, non-stick skillet and preheat over high heat (350 degrees) for about 3 minutes.  Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to get out the lumps.  Once the flour starts to brown, turn down the heat to low-stirring constantly.  In about 4 minutes, you should have a toasty, brown looking flour.  It should be about the same hue as chocolate milk. Flour has a tendency to reach a point where it can burn easily, so you must be careful in this process.  Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk all the seasoning together so it is evenly dispersed.  Then take out a 5 quart pot (preferably non stick)and place over 350 degree heat to for about 4 minutes.

For the seasoning, measure out half and rub on all the chicken pieces..  Place the chicken in the pot to brown.  Let each side cook for about 3 minutes without moving and then turn.  Remove and set aside chicken.

Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the pot and scrape up all the brown bits from the side and bottom of pan.  Measure out half of the chopped onions and place in the pot.  Then add the celery, garlic and the rest of the seasoning mix.  Continue to stir a few times while the mixture is cooking.  Cook until  there is no more liquid in the pan. That should take about 4 minutes.

Pour in another 1/2 cup of the stock and let it come to a boil.  Add the browned flour and keep stirring until the flour turns into a paste.  Then cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot.  Add another 1/2 cup of stock and stir until there are not any clumps sitting on the bottom inside of the pot.

Add the rest of the vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, remaining onions) and the last half cup of the chicken stock.  Mix together.  Lastly, put the chicken pieces back in the pot and cover.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cooking for at least 4 minutes.  Reduce heat and simmer for an another 15-25 minutes.  Once done, plate servings by putting chicken pieces on a bed of rice and ladle with the vegetables and sauce.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Romany Creams

Well, yesterday was quite a busy day, I am now halfway to my 12 dz cookies for donation.  I always strive to make something a little different so the recipients will have more variety. These cookies, called Romany Creams, are not very well known in the US.  However, they have been a long time favorite in South Africa.  Not only is the  recipe all across the internet (Baking101, ifoodtv,, but this cookie is actually packaged and sold in several grocery stores in Africa.

The most unique thing about these treats are the texture.  One bite and they quickly melt into several tiny crumbs to reveal the chewy taste of coconut and a rich chocolate center.  Since the cookie part is very lightly sweetened, the chocolate filling really pulls the flavors together. Also, the filling is not a thick cream like most sandwich cookies, but just pure chocolate.

I know, some 10 flavors-in-one dessert may be all the rage now, but there are some simple flavors that will always endure. Chocolate and coconut are two that are on that flavor list.

Come back home to classic, simple flavor by experiencing the taste of Romany Creams.  And they say you can never go home again. What a sad mistake.

Romany Creams

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs (room temp)
9 oz or 2 sticks and 2 tbs of butter (room temp)
1 1/2 cups dessicated or unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp of baking powder
2 tbs cocoa
2 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz or more of chocolate (chips or chopped)

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.  Sift a second time and set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, oil and sugar together until fluffy.  This should take about 3 minutes, depending on how soft the butter is.  Add the vanilla extract. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. 

Using a light touch, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter in three increments until no dry areas remain.  Stir in the coconut .

The dough will be softer and lighter than most, so it will need to be formed and chilled.  For sliced cookies, place the dough in plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder or log, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  If using a cookie cutter, roll out the dough between two pieces of  wax paper.  It should be about 1/4-5/8 inch thick.  Place the wrapped dough on a cookie sheet and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place wax paper on a smooth surface for the cooled sandwiched cookies. The cookies will rest on the wax paper as the chocolate filling hardens.

Once the dough is cold enough to work with, pull out and slice or cut into cookies. Place on a baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly toasted.

Transfer cookies from baking sheet to rack to cool. Once cooled, match cookies (since they all will not be perfectly sized) together in pairs facing upside down with bottom part of sandwich cookie in one row and top cookie in the next row.

Take out a double boiler and fill bottom with water (making sure that water will not touch bottom of top pan when stacked).  Put chocolate in top pan and stack on top of water pan.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally as chocolate melts.  Remove from heat once all is melted.

With one hand, grab a cookie from the bottom chosen row   In the other hand, use a spoon and scoop out some melted chocolate and drizzle it on to the bottom side of the cookie.  Place cookie back on cooling rack and then put the corresponding chosen cookie on top.  Put cookie on wax paper for filling to harden. Continue until all cookies are filled and sandwiched together.

This recipe makes about 32-36 sandwich cookies.

Tip:  I froze sheets of dough until hard and then cut with the cookie cutter.  It is easier to handle and you can peel the frozen dough off the wax paper and place it on the cookie sheet.  Also, it is a good fix if your are in a humid climate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

50/50 Biscuits

It has been about 10 months since I started my blog.  I started out privately blogging and have been making use of the Internet as well as cookbooks for my recipes.  Now, it is time I put my own creativity to work and make some recipes that I can call my own.

This one I created some time ago because my husband needed a breakfast to carry to work due to his long commute.  We usually split these in half and fill with egg and sausage to make a breakfast sandwich. 

The texture of the biscuits are a little bit different from the standard.  Perhaps because they have 2 types of leavening ingredients, baking powder as well as yeast.  They hold together quite well and are not as crumbly as regular biscuits.   Another unusual thing is that they do not rise in warmth, they are actually refrigerated overnight prior to baking. This recipe makes about 10-12 biscuits, but the amount will vary depending on the size of the cutter and how thick you roll the dough.

50/50 Biscuits
by Flourtrader

3/4 to 1 cup of buttermilk
1 package of rapid rise yeast
2 tbs cold butter
3-4 tbs melted butter (for dipping dough prior to baking)
1/4 cup cold shortening
1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups self rising flour

The night before:
 In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water and set aside.

Sift together flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening and 2 tbs of cold butter.  Once the mixture becomes crumbly, add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon or a large fork, toss mixture together forming a soft dough.  If mixture is too dry, add additional buttermilk, blending until the right consistency is achieved.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill overnight.

The next day:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees farenheit.  Prepare a few baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Also, have your bowl of melted butter ready.

Dust a smooth surface with flour and roll out the dough to 3/4-1 inch thickness.  Cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or squares with a knife.  Once all the dough has been cut, dip each piece into the bowl of butter and flip, coating all sides.  Then place on baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake in oven until lightly browned, about 10-20 minutes.  They usually take about 15 minutes in my oven.  Remove from oven and place each biscuit on a wire rack to cool.  Should you want a toastier looking biscuit, put oven on broil and place pan back in oven.  Watch closely and remove when desired color is met. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coconut Banana Coffee Cake

Coffeecakes are good, but sometimes the basic cake part with cinnamon or streusel just does not have the depth of flavor that I am looking for. However, this tropical treat really satisfied my craving. The bold, yet complimentary, flavors of rum, bananas and coconut are all tied together in this 9 inch cake.  It has a moist texture with a wonderful little bit of crunch from the topping of macadamia nuts and cinnamon sugar.

Coconut Banana Coffee Cake
courtesy of Coffee Cake Cookbook by Lou Pappas 

2 large eggs (room temp)
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large)
1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs dark rum or amaretto
1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup sweet coconut flakes
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
mixture of 1 tbs sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

Prepare a 9 inch springform pan by greasing the inside with butter and dusting with flour.  Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees (farenheit) or 175 degrees centigrade.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar and set bowl aside.

With a food processor, pulse together the wet ingredients (bananas, oil, rum or amaretto, sour cream, vanilla and eggs).  Then sprinkle in the coconut into the batter.  Make sure that there are no big lumps dropped into the batter.  Stir to combine.

Fold batter into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until it has a smooth consistency and no dry spots remain.  Pour batter evenly into pan.  Then cover the top with the chopped nuts.  Lastly, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Place pan in the oven.  Baking time should be about 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when tester inserted into center comes out clean and top is golden brown.

Remove cake from the oven and place pan on rack to cool.  Once pan is cool to the touch, remove the pan sides.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Foggy City Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those comfort foods, but it is not something I really crave for or order at a restaurant.  Yet, there is something very special about this particular slab of ground beef and pork. Look closely at the picture above and you will see a pink smoke ring on the edge of this slice, indicating that this meatloaf was smoked.

Smoked meatloaf may sound weird, but after one bite I was hooked.  The meat includes a combination of spices and a tomato/onion saute.  It would probably be good enough baked in the oven, but it is the smoking process that really imparts a wonderful dimension of flavor to this hearty loaf.

Preparing the meatloaf was an easy task, so the only real time involved is the smoking process. So, take some time to celebrate summer. Get outside and smoke up the backyard by preparing this unusual and tasty main course.

Foggy City Meatloaf
courtesy of Barbecue America:A Pilgrimage Cookbook 

1 dash hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 1/2 cups Ritz or Waverly crackers
1/4 cup red wine
1 egg
3 tbs barbecue sauce (additional for brushing on meatloaf)
1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1 minced, medium size onion
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 lb ground pork
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
non stick cooking spray

Prepare your smoker and let it preheat up to 220 degrees.

Fill a small bowl with the sun dried tomatoes and cover with hot water.  Set timer for 10 minutes for tomatoes to soften.  Once the timer goes off, drain water.  Then mince the tomatoes, either pulsing in a food processor or by hand. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Place minced tomatoes and onions in the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes or until all vegetables have become soft.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, place all other ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Then take out pan or rack that has holes in the bottom.  This can be a perforated pizza pan, cooling rack or screened pan designed for the grill.  I used a pan made for grilling fish.  Spray pan with non stick spray.

Take meat mixture out of bowl and place on pan, forming into a loaf shape.  Place the pan of meatloaf in the center of grill over a water pan.

Then cover and cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until meat thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  The cover should stay on as much as possible during this process and meat should not be moved.  Once done, open the cover and brush with barbecue sauce. Cover again and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove from the grill and transfer to large heat proof serving platter.  Cover with foil and let meat rest for 10-15 minutes.  Then slice and serve with additional barbecue sauce as needed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Armenian Dinner Rolls

Dinner rolls can change in texture and size, depending on where they originate from.  The typical dinner roll in the US is usually as high or higher than its width.  This particular recipe stems from Armenia and the recipe turns out rolls that are three times wider than their height.

As you can see by the picture, even though made with white flour, they have a tan exterior.  The rolls have a light crust with a soft,chewy inside. They have a taste similar to Portuguese sweet rolls. Quite a delicious change of pace from the standard dinner rolls.

If you do make these, be aware that the dough is very gloppy and sticky.  The dough is not kneaded, so it will not be close to the standard dough that you may be used to.  This recipe makes 2 dz rolls.

Armenian Dinner Rolls
courtesy of 

1 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 beaten eggs
1 beaten egg with 1 tsp water (for egg wash)
1 stick or 1/2 cup butter
6 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 packets of yeast
2 tbs bread topping or sesame seeds

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water and mix until blended.  Set aside for 15 minutes to form bubbles.

Whisk (do not sift) the flour, salt and baking powder together.  Set this aside also.

Take a large bowl or Pyrex measuring cup (must be able to hold 4 cups), add the stick of butter and microwave for 45 seconds or until completely melted.  Grab another bowl and pour in milk.  Place bowl of milk inside the microwave and heat until lukewarm.  Then pour milk into melted butter and whisk together.  Blend the sugar in with the butter mixture.

 Mix the beaten eggs into the batter, continuing to whisk. Pour the yeast liquid into the batter.  After all has been blended together, add the flour mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until no more flour remains at the bottom of the bowl.

Cover bowl of dough and put in a warm place to rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled. During the rising time, oil the surface of 2 baking sheets.

Once rising time is complete, uncover dough.  Then, with greased/oiled hands, carefully scoop out about 1/4 of a cup of batter and place on cookie sheet.  As stated before, dough will be very wet, gloppy and sticky.  Continue to fill up baking sheet, placing each ball 2-4 inches apart from the other.

After all the dough has been placed on the sheets, let rise for another hour to 1 1/2 hours (or until doubled in size).  This is the last rising session. At the halfway point in rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Note that the size of the rolls (after rising) will be about 3 inches across and 1 inch tall.

At the end of the second session of rising, take out the egg wash and bread topping.  Lightly brush on the egg mixture, covering the tops of the rolls.  Then sprinkle with topping.  Place each pan in oven to bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove baking sheets from oven and transfer rolls to rolls to cooling rack.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Espresso Cream Cake

I have been looking at this recipe for quite awhile now and am glad I finally did make the cake.  Let me mention, however, that this is a "semi homemade" cake- it requires a boxed cake mix and melted ice cream.  I suppose you could make your own ice cream for this recipe, but I did not.

Semi homemade is a devil/angel concept.  Sometimes the chemical preservatives used in mixes can be drawn out in the baking process and ruin the final taste.  Other times it can improve an otherwise so, so dessert.  One particular thing that I do steer away from and that is cake "enhancers"- it seems as if they enhance the shelf life of the cake, but add a chemical taste.

This cake was very light in texture, not like most bundt cakes which are closer to a pound cake.  The chocolate chips with the melted espresso ice cream is a classic flavor combination that most coffee drinkers cannot ignore. Again, I posed as the purist and did not frost this cake.  You can click over to Dozen Flours if you are interested in making the chocolate marshmallow frosting.

Also, if you want to create your own flavor combination with the ice cream, just be sure that you get a plain flavored ice cream.  Do not use ice cream that is already laden with a secondary flavor (fudge swirl, caramel swirl, rocky road, etc)  Strawberry or pistachio would be good, adding chopped white chocolate.

Espresso Cream Cake
courtesy of Dozen Flours 

2/3 cup mini choc chips
2 cups melted ice cream (I used Hagen Dazs coffee)
1 package white cake mix (make sure no pudding in mix)
1 tbs instant coffee or espresso powder
3 eggs

Prepare 12 cup bundt pan or tube pan by greasing all of the inside and dusting with flour.  Make sure that all crevasses are covered. As shown by the picture, my cake top has places where you can see the flour, however, I would rather have the floured edges than a cake that sticks to the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together all ingredients except chocolate chips.  The first session should be on low for one minute and then second session (after scraping down sides) should be on medium speed for 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix 1 tbs of flour with the mini chocolate chips.  This will make sure that your chips do not sink to the bottom of the pan.  Fold chips into batter.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and place in oven.  I used a 10 cup pan and the cake took exactly 30 minutes.  The original recipe stated 38-42 minutes, but bake for 30 and then use toothpick test, adding an additional 5 minutes after each test if needed.

Once the cake is finished baking, set pan on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, you should see that the edges have separated from the pan.  If not, run a knife around edges and then invert pan on cooling rack so the cake is right side up. It should take 30 minutes to completely cool.

You can leave the cake plain or, if  desired frost or dust with confectioners sugar. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strawberry Kuchen

There are some foods that I would say I am a purist about.  For instance, I do not put butter on brioche or biscuits that are already buttery.  Also, if a steak is good, I do not want to slather steak sauce on it, I would like to actually taste the meat.

Which brings me to my father.  He loves strawberries and is very particular about them.  Buy the smallest you can get, he says, they are the sweetest.  Funny thing, because it is obvious that the farmers are trying to grow bigger strawberries.

The most popular strawberry pie is actually a cold one with a transparent red glaze.  Not being real keen on the glaze or cold part, I opted to find something different.  This particular recipe hit the spot.  It is served slightly warm and the strawberries cook in their own juices.

There are few recipes that celebrate the pure flavor of strawberries.  Strawberry shortcake is one for a cold dessert and this Kuchen is the other for a warm dessert.  The simple ingredients combine to make a juicy concoction of strawberries surrounded by a buttery crust.

Strawberry Kuchen
courtesy of

Lemon zest from 1 lemon
5 cups of halved strawberries
1/2 cup butter (cubed)
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbs
1 cup flour plus 2 tbs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbs white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Take out a 9 inch springform pan.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  With a pastry cutter, cut in the butter cubes until no dry spots remain.  Mixture should be crumby without any dusty flour at the bottom of your bowl.  Pour in the vinegar and shape into dough form.

Place dough in sprinform pan and flour hands and fingers.  Press on the dough to form a 1/4 inch bottom with 1 inch high sides.  Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of flour and the rest of the sugar.  Then add the lemon zest and vanilla extract, stirring until evenly combined.  Fold in 3 cups of the strawberries, making sure that sugar mixture evenly coats pieces and there is no loose sugar in the bottom of the bowl.  Spoon strawberry mixture into prepared springform pan.

Place pan on center rack in oven and set timer to 40 minutes.  After timer goes off, check and see if strawberry juices have thickened up.  It should be like syrup.  If not place back in oven to cook for an additional 5 minutes and check again.  Original recipe states that baking time will be 40-50 minutes.

Once the juices have reached the correct consistency, remove pan from oven and place on cooling rack.  Let cool in pan for at least 30 minutes. After cooling, run a small knife around the inside of the pan, between the inside crust and pan.  Remove the sides of springform pan by opening the side latch.

Take the remaining strawberry halves and place them on top of the filling.  Serve while warm and (if desired) add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jalapeno Cheese Squares

This appetizer is like a mini quiche without the crust.  A fluffy egg texture with onions and jalapenos, all topped with crispy toasted cheese.  According to my husband, an avid egg and jalapeno lover, these squares are acceptable for any meal and for a snack.

The recipe does not advise if you are to leave the seeds in when you are mincing the jalapenos. I guess that is personal preference. You are welcome to take the seeds out if you want a more mild tasting dish.

While baking, the cheese will puff up in the pan.  However, do not be alarmed when it deflates upon cooling, that is normal. 

When preparing a dish with hot peppers, it is best to use metal utensils.  Plastic may absorb some of the oils in the peppers.  Also, when mincing or grinding fresh or dry peppers with a machine, use one that can be taken apart and cleaned.  For example, a mini food chopper is better than a coffee grinder.

This recipe makes 36 squares.  You can double the recipe and bake in 2 nine inch square glass baking pans.  If using metal or a dark pan, the baking time will need to be adjusted.

Jalapeno Cheese Squares
courtesy of Bon Appetit/ prior to 2005

2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese
1 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs chili powder
2 tbs of minced jalapeno peppers (I used 2 peppers)
5 large eggs

Butter a 9 inch square glass baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the last 4 ingredients on the above list.  With a wire whisk, blend all the ingredients until evenly
distributed.  Then blend in milk.  With a metal spoon, mix in the onions and monterey jack cheese.

Pour mixture into baking dish.  Sprinkle all of the cheddar cheese evenly on top.  Place pan in oven and bake for about 45 minutes. The appearance should indicate when the squares are done. The top should be brown and puffy. In addition, the batter will be pulling away from the inside of the pan.

Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Cut and serve.  If not serving right away, place the squares on a cookie sheet and cover.  Store in fridge and rewarm at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes to serve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lemon Lattice White Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe was originally for a 3 layer white cake.  There have been several comments that this is a good recipe for a wedding cake.  The assembly of the cake is cake layer, then curd, then frosting.  The top of my cupcakes is the same as the cake would be and, of course, the cake sides would need to be frosted.

The texture of the cake is like a pound cake.  Even though it is dense, it is quite moist. If my actions are any indication how good the cake is, note that I greased the inside of the cupcake papers prior to baking. I just wanted to make sure that very little of the cake was wasted by being stuck to the paper!

The frosting and curd do require a minimum of 6 hours for chilling prior to putting on cupcakes.  I found it best to make the frosting and curd one day before.  The next day you can bake and decorate the cupcakes.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Lemon Lattice White Chocolate Cupcakes
courtesy of Bon Appetit /Feb 1991

Ingredients/Lemon Curd
2 tbs grated lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbs cornstarch
1 cup and 2 tbs sugar
3 eggs
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) and 2 tbs butter (room temp/cut into cubes)

3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups whipping cream
4.5 oz imported white chocolate, chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs milk
1 cup whipping cream
4 oz imported white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (room temp)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (separated)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour

Due to the required chilling time, the curd and frosting will be made first.  For the curd, take out a medium size saucepan.  Fill with cornstarch and lemon juice and blend until cornstarch dissolves.  Add all the other ingredients and whisk together.  Then place saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk and cook until mixture just comes to a boil. This should take about seven minutes, resulting in a thick smooth texture.  Remove saucepan from heat and pour into strainer over a heat proof bowl.  Once all is strained, cover curd and bowl with plastic wrap.  The wrap will need to be touching all of the surface of the curd, so none of it will dry out.  It is important for the piping that there are no lumps to clog the tip.  Place bowl in fridge to chill for 6 hours or more.

Now, the frosting will need to be mixed and heated.  Take out a small saucepan and fill with only 1/2 cup of the cream and the 4.5 oz of white chocolate.  Place over a low burner and stir until all chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.  Pour the chocolate cream into a large heat proof bowl.  Add the vanilla and rest of the cream, stirring until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 6 hours or more.

Prepare your pans by greasing the top edge of the muffin inserts and place cupcake papers inside muffin holders. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a medium size bowl, sift together salt, baking powder and flour.  Then sift ingredients a second time. Set aside.

Fill a medium size saucepan with 1/2 cup of cream and 4 oz of chocolate and place over low heat.  This will need to be stirred until chocolate has melted.  Stir in the remaining amount of cream, vanilla and milk until blended.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and 1 cup of sugar together in a large bowl. Once the mixture has a fluffy texture, add the yolks and continue to beat.  Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, then mix in 1/2 of the cream chocolate batter.  As you are stirring, continue to add the remaining sifted ingredients and cream chocolate batter in increments, ending with dry.  Set aside this bowl of cake batter.

Find the bowl of egg whites and beat with an electric mixer until the eggs turn into a glossy white mixture that holds soft peaks. Continuing to beat, slowly add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. The egg whites should be beaten until they hold stiff peaks without being dry.  Then fold 1/2 of the whites into the cake batter, repeat until all whites are blended.

Pour batter into each muffin cavity, filling about 3/4 full. There is not a lot of rise in the batter during baking. Place filled pan in oven and bake for 18-24 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when edges are toasty and tester comes out clean.  Remove pan and let cool for 4 minutes, then remove cupcakes and place on racks to finish cooling.

Once cupcakes have cooled as well as frosting and lemon curd, a cone should be cut out of the center of each cupcake.  Discard cone.  Then prepare a pastry bag with a large decorating tip or you can use a plastic freezer bag with the corner cut off.  Add the lemon curd to the bag.  Using the bag, fill each cupcake cavity with the lemon curd.  After filling, smooth top of curd so it is flush with the top of the cupcake.

Take out the frosting and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  The consistency should be glossy and thick, not dry.  With a butter knife, frost the tops of the cupcakes.  This will be the bottom layer of the cupcake topping, so just use enough frosting to cover the cupcake (see above picture).

If not serving right away, refrigerate cupcakes.  Let come to room temperature 1/2 hour before serving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

This loaf cake has a wonderful springtime flavor of two fruits.  It is a blueberry cake that is offset by the tang of lemon.  There is only a cup of sugar in the cake (which is really tame for the amount of blueberries) but the tart lemon syrup drizzled on top upgrades the flavor to a whole new level. I believe the lemon is a crucial ingredient in the recipe.

There are certain tricks that bakers have when it comes to creating a moist cake. The addition of some type of dairy product is the favorite method. You can use buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. Some people also use mayonnaise.  This particular recipe uses yogurt.  It did as expected, making the cake exceptionally moist and tender.

Lemon Blueberry Loaf
courtesy of Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen 

1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen/thawed and rinsed)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 eggs (room temp)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup plus 1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs flour

Prepare a loaf pan (8 1/2 X 4 1/2) by greasing all the insides.  Then line the bottom and two long sides with parchment paper, letting the parchment overhang on the long sides of pan. Grease top side of parchment.  Lastly, flour all the parchment on the inside of pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups of flour with the salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a second bowl, add the eggs, yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and oil.  Whisk together until ingredients are evenly distributed and a smooth batter is formed.  Then, with a wooden spoon, fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Continue folding in the dry ingredients by 1/3  cup increments until no flour streaks remain in the batter.

In another small bowl, mix together 1 tbs of flour and the blueberries (making sure that they are well drained). Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Do not stir too much or you will have a blue batter.  You actually want to keep the batter color yellow so the blueberries stand out in the cake's appearance.

Pour batter into pan, smoothing the top so all is even.  Bake until cake tester comes out clean, which should take about 50 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze.  Place the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir and cook until the mixture is no longer grainy, then remove from heat.

Once the cake is done, remove from oven and let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.  Then pull on parchment handles of long sides and lift cake out of pan.  Flip and remove parchment paper and flip again, placing cake on cooling rack.  Then set rack over a rimmed baking sheet. 

Using a toothpick, poke several small holes in the cake.  Brush lemon sugar glaze over cake, allowing it to soak in before adding more.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting.