Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chocolate Tres Leche Cake

Well the holiday is here.  It seems as if everyone has their "specialty" when it comes to food for the holiday table.  However, when it comes to bloggers, we always like to dazzle guests with something new.  However, I was advised that someone else was in charge of the baked goods this year and there would only be one dessert.

This did not bother me because of my co-workers.  Such as the guy that apologized for having to eat all the time at his desk, but as skinny as a rail. Others eat what they want and put on the tennis shoes shortly thereafter for a workout.  Then their are the bland eaters, who have ramen noodles every day for lunch.  All of them are always ready with a fork when it comes to dessert.

This recipe is a spin on the traditional tres leche cake.  I have never had the original, but when I came upon a chocolate version, it gave me the right incentive to try a tres leche cake.   Like most tres leches cakes this one was oozing with flavor.  The blend of chocolate, rum and dairy soaked into this chocolate sponge type cake made this cake a memorable one.  Also, the light whipped cream frosting was the perfect topper.

Chocolate Tres Leche Cake
adapted from website

8 egg whites
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
butter for greasing pans
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp instant coffee crystals
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp plus 1 pinch salt
1 3/4 cup cake flour and some for dusting pans
1/2 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa

Ingredients/Tres Leche
1-12 oz can evaporated milk
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup dark rum
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
pinch of salt

Ingredients/ Topping
3 cups heavy cold cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-two to four oz chocolate bar for garnish with curls or grated on top

To make the cake, prepare 2- 9 inch cake pans by buttering the interior.  Then line the bottom of each with parchment paper and butter the face up side.  Then dust the interior with flour and empty out excess.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Fill a small heatproof bowl with the cocoa.  Then put the water in a microwave bowl, or a saucepan bring to a boil.  Remove and stir in coffee crystals until dissolved.  Pour into the bowl of cocoa and whisk until there are no lumps.  Let mixture cool 15-20 minutes.

In one bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Then stir in only 1/2 cup and 2 tbs of the sugar.  In the next bowl (which should be large) whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and the oil. Pour the cooled cocoa mixture into the eggs and whisk, until evenly blended.  Then pour this batter into the sifted, dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

For the egg white mixture, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt.  Beat at medium high speed for 2 minutes.   Add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup and 2 tbs) slowly into the egg whites as you continue to beat.  This should take about a minute to blend and then continue to whip for an additional two minutes until the mixture has stiff, glossy peaks.

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, being careful with the blending so as to retain the consistency of the whites.  Once no white streaks remain, add the rest in two increments, following the same process for each addition.  Pour an equal amount of batter into each pan.

Place pans in oven side by side.  Bake for 40-45 minutes and rotate at the halfway mark.  Cakes are done when tester comes out clean.  Cakes should cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes.  Invert and peel off parchment paper and let cool completely.  Then invert again.  Using a serrated edge knife, cut a thin layer off the top of each cake.  This exposes the sponge for the soak and also gives you an opportunity to even out the layers.

Wash and dry the cake pans and place each cooled layer back into a clean cake pan.

Then prepare the soak.  Fill a heat proof bowl with the chocolate.  Then bring the half and half to a boil, either in a saucepan or in the microwave.  Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute and then whisk to make sure it is blended and all chocolate is melted.  Stir in the rum, evaporated milk, condensed milk and salt.

Using one third of the soak, divide evenly and pour onto each cake.  Let sit for 1/2 hour.  Continue with the process until all soak has been poured on the cakes and 30 minutes has passed between each session.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or freeze for 1 1/2 hour.   After the chilling time, invert each onto a plate over the sink.  There still may be some of the soak mixture that drips off and was not absorbed.

For the filling/topping, beat the whipped cream on medium high for about 2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.  Put one layer of the cake onto a cake plate.  Top with 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Then divide the remaining whipped cream in half.  Place the other cake layer on top of the cream topped layer.  Then smooth one portion of the whipped cream over the top and the rest on the sides.  Refrigerate at least 20 minutes for whipped cream to set.  Then garnish the top with grated or curled chocolate prior to serving.

Notes and tips:
1. The longer the soak the stronger the rum, so use the chilling time as a guideline indicating the minimum amount of time required.
2. if you have issues releasing the cake from the pans after the soak & chill time, take a sponge that is rinsed with hot water and squeezed out and wipe over the bottom of the pans.  This make take 2-4 passes but it does help with the release.
3. I used whipped cream stabilizer and followed directions on the label to figure out the amount to
add to the topping.
4. I always measure batter before filling pans for more even layers.  The split batter worked out to
about 3 2/3 cup for each pan.
                         **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Banana Slices***

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

I am a big fan of cinnamon and nuts, especially when it comes to pastry.  However, the idea of having a special pastry every time I crave the flavor combination would be excessive indulgence.  So what is a person to do?  Looking around for the solution, I landed on the perfect item- a cookie with all the flavor of a cinnamon roll.

This cookie is thick and packed with pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Also, the creams cheese icing is a must when it comes to cinnamon rolls and it was not left out of this recipe. The good thing here is that the icing is put on right before serving.  However, and even more convenient idea is to serve the cookies on a plate with the icing in a bowl for dipping.

Please allow plenty of advance time to make these, the dough does require a lot of chilling time.  The first session is for 1 hour but the second states 1 hour or overnight, noting that overnight is preferred.  Also, leave your cookie sheet in the cabinet, these are actually baked in muffin pans. The recipe makes 2 dz cookies. 

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
adapted from The Cravory in San Diego via

Ingredients/Cookie Dough
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup or 2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups plus 1 tsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 tbs cinnamon
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Ingredients/ Icing Drizzle
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tbs milk
2 oz softened cream cheese
2 oz softened butter
1 vanilla bean (scraped)
Zest of 1/2 orange (optional)

To make the dough, cream together the butter and the three types of sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once smooth, add one egg and beat for about 30 seconds.  Continue with the process on the rest of the eggs, adding each one by one.  Then beat in the vanilla extract.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the cornstarch, flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the egg batter and mix on low speed until no streaks remain. Add the additional flour in two increments, blending after each addition.  Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

While that is chilling, you can prepare the filling.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Lastly, mix in the pecans until evenly distributed.

After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to form a 10X10 square. Spread the filling over the dough evenly.  Then roll it up and wrap with plastic wrap and chill again at least one hour or overnight, preferably overnight.

Once the chilling time has completed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the cavities of 2 one dozen muffin tins.  Remove the dough roll from the refrigerator and slice evenly into 24 pieces.  Place each piece into one of the muffin cavities.

Put pans in oven and bake until lightly golden, which should take about 15 minutes.  At the 7.5 minute mark, rotate pans for even baking. Remove the muffin tins and place on rack to cool. Cool cookies completely in pan before removing.

Once you are ready to serve these, prepare the icing by beating together the cream cheese and the butter until smooth.  Then beat in the powdered sugar in 3 increments, scraping down bowl after each time.  Then beat in the vanilla bean and the orange zest (optional).  Lastly whisk in the milk until the icing reaches a smooth consistency.  Drizzle the icing on top and enjoy.
                            **LAST YEAR: Coconut Apple Walnut Bread***  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crisp Apple Kolachy

I can remember the day when a salesman brought kolachy to a girl at work who had requested that he bring some by.  The salesman did bring some but they were prune filled.  Not exactly what she had wanted.  Prune filled as well as poppy seed are the traditional fillings of this Czech pastry.  Those fillings did not appeal to me either, so kolachy pastries were forgotten about.

However, as I was skimming through a cookbook, I found a recipe for apple kolachy.  With fall here, the apple filliing was a perfect choice. Concerning the dough, my first thought was that the process of making it would involve overnight refrigeration.  In this recipe, the dough chills in less than an hour.  The other thing I was worried about was all the sticky runny syrup that the apples are cooked in.  Then I read that the syrup was only to be used to cook the apples, not baked with the pastry.

Besides the chore of peeling, slicing and coring the apples, the whole process of making these was fairly easy.  It is great when something gives the impression that a lot of effort was made and in reality it was not.  The word "pastry" and "easy" rarely come together, but this time they did.

The cottage cheese in the dough did make the pastries quite flaky.  I had my doubts, seeing the white curds showing in the dough. I have never used cottage cheese in dough and was surprised at the wonderful results. This recipe makes about 16 pastries and is the perfect way to serve up some apple pie flavor to a group without the all the trouble of a traditional pie.

Crisp Apple Kolachy
adapted from Classic Home Desserts

1 cup creamed style cottage cheese (I just used small curd)
1 cup or 2 sticks cold butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg or ground mace
ice water, if needed
pearl or sparkling sugar (for topping)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 medium sized apples (peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 an inch thick)***
***feel free to use more if you prefer a really packed kolachy
1 egg beaten with 2 tbs milk (for egg wash)

To make the pastry dough, place flour and butter in the bowl.  Use a pastry cutter to blend the two ingredients together until it becomes the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Then stir in the mace or nutmeg.  Add the cottage cheese and mix until it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Your dough should be able to be formed into a big ball.  If not, add 1-2 tbs of ice water so the ball can be formed with the dough.

This particular dough will be slightly sticky, but take care that you do not "over flour" the dough when rolling out or it will make the dough dense.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour along with the ball of dough.  Pound the dough into a disc and then roll out, forming a 16 inch square. Fold it up like you would fold a business letter.  Then pound it out again and roll. into a 12X7 inch rectangle.  Repeat the same business letter fold and tuck in the uneven edges.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium size skillet.  Put the sliced apples in the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle sugar on top of apples.  Let cool.  Once the apples are back to room temperature, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Take pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface.  The dough should be rolled into a 16 inch square again.  Then cut the dough into 16 four inch squares.  Place each piece on a flat cutting board or platter and put back in fridge for 10 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the pastry squares out and place a few tablespoons of apple slices on the center of each.  The syrup mixture that formed while cooking the apples should remain in the skillet. Once all the pastry squares are filled, discard the syrup mixture.    For each square, take two opposite corners and overlap ( about 1/2 an inch) in the center and pinch the dough to seal.

Place each pastry on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl or sparkling sugar.  Bake each pan of kolachy for about 15-20 minutes.  They will be lightly golden on the edges when done.

Remove baking sheets from the oven and place pastries on a rack to cool.  These can be served slightly warm or room temperature.  Also, to really indulge you can add a small scoop of ice cream on top.
                  **LAST YEAR: Sinbads Basra Treats***

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Looking in the pantry the other day I noticed that I had two big containers of hazelnut spread, which did inspire me to make use of it.  It has been some time since I actually baked with it or actually eaten any for that matter!

I like the singular aspect of these cupcakes.  Lots of things I bake or make usually are combinations of more than one flavor.  Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you crave just one flavor.  After baking these and having the aroma of nutella fill my kitchen, you can be I was craving one of these.

The cupcakes actually are crisp on the outside and light on the inside.  The airy texture and subtle flavor of the cupcake goes well with the thick rich taste of the spread on top.  Yes, that strip on top is not some mixed up frosting, it is purely the hazelnut spread. This recipe makes about 16 cupcakes.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcakes Galore

1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3 eggs

Grease the top edge of the cupcake cavities and fill with cupcake liners.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  In another bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in one egg at a time until blended.  Mix in 3/4 cup of the hazelnut spread until  incorporated.

Fold in half of the sifted ingredients so no dry streaks remain.  Mix in the milk and then add the rest of the sifted ingredients.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with the batter.  The batter was thick, so I tapped the pan on the counter to level it out.  You do not want any peaks or uneven batter, for it will reflect in the shape of the cupcake after baked.  Place pan(s) in the oven and bake until tester comes out clean 20-25 minutes.

Place pan on rack and let cool for 3 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan cavities.  Place on rack and let cool completely before frosting.

After the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the rest of the hazelnut spread onto the cupcake and place a few nuts on top or you can grind the nuts and sprinkle on top.

Tips and Notes:
1. You can leave to spread off and serve these plain with your morning coffee.
2. The flavor really stands out when these are slightly warmed in the microwave
              **LAST YEAR: Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins**                  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I have always thought that bananas were one of those fruits you either really liked or hated.  I think it is because they do have a strong distinctive taste. It seems that a lot of people will eat banana bread yet you will not find them eating a banana.  Recently, someone told me that a convenience store here in Texas makes more money on selling bananas than anything else.  I find that strange because I have yet to see any bananas at the local convenience stores.

Since bananas are a healthy fruit and are not acidic, I decided to bake with them.  The only issue was that I wanted to find something different from banana bread.  I have made banana cookies before but the particular recipe I landed on included oats in the ingredients.  The other unique thing was the banana chip on top.  Even though it gets baked on, it still remains crunchy and makes a good topper.

These cookies were shared yesterday. There was one eater in the group that declared they did not like bananas. However, just like bananas vs banana bread, this person kept asking where the cookie jar was.  These cookies are cake-like and have all the great flavor of banana bread. There are some additional add ins for variations, however, do not skip on the banana chips! This recipe makes about 24-30 cookies 

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Crazy About Cookies Cookbook

1/2 cup mashed bananas
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned, not instant)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried banana chips

For add ins and variations
3/4 cup melted chocolate chips or
3/4 cup chocolate chips or
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Grease or butter the inside of two cookie sheets and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Then stir in the oats.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Once it has a fluffy consistency, beat in the egg, vanilla extract and banana. Fold in the dry oatmeal/flour blend.

At this time, you can mix in the chocolate chips or the pecans, if you decided to include.  Then drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared cookie sheets, placing about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 5 minutes then remove and press one banana chip lightly into the center of each cookie.  Put the pan back in the oven and bake until golden, about 5-6 minutes.

Let cookies cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

If you opted to drizzle chocolate, do so and let sit for about 30 minutes for chocolate to harden.

Tips and notes:
1. if I were to put chocolate chips in these cookies, I would use mini chips.  That way you do not have any chance of a big pocket of melted chocolate oozing over your banana chip.
2. if you are including the pecans, they will be better if toasted and cooled prior to mixing in the batter.
                          **LAST YEAR:Coconut Custard Bars***

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Well I guess my posting schedule has changed, instead of Monday I will now be posting on Tuesday of every week.  Life does seem to be about a long series of changes these days.

Anyhow, I was looking for something with pumpkin and full of spices for the season and I came across this recipe.  For some reason I see a lot of pumpkin bread out there but not much in the way of cakes.

This cake does have a lot of flavor to offer.  The mellow spicy pumpkin batter does make for a great cake, but the wonderful add ins of chocolate and pecans move it up to a tastier rank.  Also, what better to slather it with than a dark cocoa frosting?

Should you decide to make this, please be sure all your guests get their own piece.  Otherwise, you will find out months later someone felt cheated because they shared their piece. I am sure a lot of you have had this experience. However, the fact does remain that if they are still thinking about it months later, the taste must have been well worth remembering.

Please note that I did not use the frosting recipe below, instead I used the recipe on the back of  the Nestle Dark Cocoa can, which eliminated the need to melt unsweetened chocolate.

Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake
adapted from John Down at Christopher Norman Chocolates

3 eggs
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks of softened butter (more for greasing pans)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi sweet choc chips
10 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temp
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 nine inch round cake pans by brushing the interior with melted butter.  Place a liner of parchment in the bottom and butter the face up side.  Then dust the parchment with flour.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg into a large bowl.

Using a mixer, cream together 1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter and the granulated sugar until it has a fluffy consistency.  This should take about 3 minutes at medium speed. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process with each of the remaining eggs.

Mix in the pumpkin puree to the batter with a wooden spoon.  It will have a slightly curdled look.  Then fold in the sifted ingredients in half cup intervals.  Once the mixture is smooth and has no dry streaks, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Pour half of the batter into each of the pans.  Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 35 minutes.  Remove and let cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and invert cakes onto rack.  Discard parchment paper and let cakes cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat the remaining butter in a medium size bowl until fluffy.  Then add the confectioners sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds.  Repeat that process until all confectioners sugar is blended into the butter.   Pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract and  beat until frosting is smooth.

Frost cake by frosting top of bottom layer.  Then stack with other layer and frost top and sides.
                           **LAST YEAR: Hawaiian Zephyr Cupcakes**

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Streusel Topped Babka

I am a little late with this post, but this past week has been hectic.  I decided I would rather wait until I could post without being rushed.

Since the last few posts have been very rich and indulgent, I decided I would go with something lighter and more in the cake family for this week.  This particular recipe is for a breakfast or coffee cake.  The bread part made from a wonderful brioche dough.  Brioche loaves are a favorite around here just simply served with butter.

However, I have no aversion to the additions to this bread.  Cocoa, cinnamon, pecans and walnuts swirl through the middle of the dough.  They are actually made like cinnamon rolls but the swirled dough slices are put in a loaf pan and shaped slightly.  The rising and egg wash is what actually brings the dough slices together.  Also, if that was not enough to hold the loaf together, it has been topped with quite a bit streusel.

The slices of this cake went over well at work and actually drew out a few introductions from some of the people.  I am glad the recipe made 3 loaves. Please note that the dough has to rest overnight prior to baking, so plan in advance.

Streusel Topped Babka
adapted from Great Coffeecakes

Ingredients/Babka dough
3/4 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter ( in between temp/consistency, not soft and not hard)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp or 1 1/2 pkgs yeast
3/4 tsp salt
3 3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 tbs plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 cup very soft butter
1 large egg beaten with 2 tsp water for egg wash

3 tbs finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6-7 tbs butter

To make the dough, warm a small bowl by rinsing in warm water.  Then fill with 1 tsp of sugar and warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast on top-do not stir.  Cover the bowl with a saucer and let sit for 2 minutes. After it sets, uncover and swirl the bowl.  Repeat again with the time being 2 minutes. Cover for an additional minute, then uncover and stir.  Cover for one last interval of 3 minutes for yeast to get bubbly and foamy.

Using a stand mixer, blend the flour, sugar and salt.  Once mixed, add the butter and run mixer on low for about 3 minutes.

Take out a separate bowl and blend sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  Then add the dissolved yeast.  Take this mixture and pour it into the butter flour blend in the stand mixer.  Turn the mixer on low and let run for about 3-4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead a few times until it is no longer sticky.  Divide into 3 pieces and place each in a small plastic bag and seal.  There should be enough room in the bag to allow for dough to expand and rise.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next day. prepare 3 of the 8X3 3/4 inch loaf pans by brushing the interior with some of the butter.  Then place a strip of parchment 3 inches wide by 15 inches long in each pan, making sure the long length hangs outside of the long sides of each pan.  It should be like a cross. Also line a baking sheet (with a slight lip on it) with parchment paper.

To make the filling, stir together the cinnamon, cocoa, bread crumbs and both type of sugars.  Set aside. 

Take one piece of dough out of refrigerator.  Place on floured surface and knead a few times.  Add 1/3 of the pecans.  Knead them into the dough evenly until the dough is no longer sticky.  Roll the dough into a rectangle.  It should be 12 inches and parallel to the counter with the left and right sides measuring 9 inches.

Spread surface of the dough with 1/3 of the remaining butter, leaving a 1 1/2 border at the top of the 12 inch length.  Sprinkle top with  1//3 cup of the cinnamon cocoa blend, leaving the top border blank.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.  Press filling slightly into the dough.  Brush the 1 1/2 inch border with the egg wash.

Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up toward the egg wash side.  Once a log has formed, pinch the egg wash edge against the log. After the initial roll up, roll a few more times on a floured board to tighten the dough and keep it sealed.  The log should be the same length as the original dough length of 12 inches.

Cut the log into eight pieces.  Then brush egg wash on the uncut outside dough of each piece, leaving one side without the egg wash to put up against the pan.  Place the pieces ,with the cut side down, in two rows of four going down the length of the pan.  Then push down slightly.  Also push from the sides inward to make it into a loaf mound.  Repeat the steps in this is paragraph as well as the 3 prior for the other two mounds of dough in the refrigerator. Once completed, cover each loaf with a clean towel and place in a warm area to rise.  Rising time should be about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

To make the streusel place the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat until almost all is melted. Remove and let cool.   In another bowl, mix together all the rest of the ingredients.  Stir dry ingredients into melted butter.  Stir until mixture has coarse crumbs and can clump in your hand.

Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the tops of the loaves (that have completed rising) with egg wash and sprinkle the streusel on top. Place the loaf pans evenly on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake until done about 30-35 minutes.  Check at the mid point to make sure loaves are not browning to fast.  You can slow down browning process by placing foil over the areas that  are toasting too fast.

Remove pans and let loaves cool.  When cooled, lift out by using the parchment paper in pans.  Slice and serve.
                      **LAST YEAR: Renegade Cookies***

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cappuccino Torte

Since I have been baking things and bringing them to work there has been one person that has not been able to enjoy any of them and that is someone that is allergic to nuts.  There are tons of desserts with nuts but I had a hard time finding something without.  Most of them I ran across were very plain.  However, I ran across this particular delectable recipe that I could not pass up.

I changed the crust recipe to just a graham crust because the original did have nuts in it.  The recipe below does include the original for the crust.

The rich confection below is made up of two layers, one of fudgy chocolate and the other of a creamy cappuccino blend.  Then the torte is laden with whipped cream and grated chocolate.  This one is sure to impress family and friends.

Cappuccino Torte
adapted from Bon Appetit

5 tbs melted cooled butter
4 whole graham crackers
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Fudge Layer
1/2 cup or one stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes at room temp
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 lb of semi sweet chocolate ( finely chopped)
2 tbs light corn syrup

Cappuccino Buttercream Layer
1 tbs instant espresso powder
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp hot water
1/2 cup water
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks butter, room temp

Coffee Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs powdered sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
2 oz semisweet chocolate, grated

Prepare a 10 inch springform pan by buttering all the interior.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grind the graham crackers into a powder using a food processor.  Add the nuts, sugar and salt and pulse on and off until the mixture turns into coarse crumbs.  Put the butter in and continue to process until all is evenly distributed.

Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the spring form pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until edges start turn a darker hue.  Remove and let cool.  Turn off oven.

To make the first layer, which is the fudge layer,  pour cream in a heavy saucepan and let come to a boil. Then turn the temperature down low.  Mix in the chocolate until all is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup.  Taking one cube of butter and stir.  Continue to add butter, one piece at a time until all is mixed in.  Remove from heat and let cool 20 min. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and place in refrigerator to cool for 2 hours. After the two hours, start on the next layer.

In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the tsp of hot water.  Also, melt the unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler.  Set both aside.

For the cappuccino layer, place sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and avoid scraping sides of the pan.  Then turn the temperature up to medium and  let come to a boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks at high speed for 3 minutes.  Yolks should be lighter in color and thicker than the original.  Leave the mixer running and pour a slow, steady stream of the sugar water into the egg yolks. Do not scrape sides of bowl.  Run mixer for about 12-15 minutes.  Then change to medium speed and add one tablespoon of butter.  Continue to mix as each single tablespoon is tossed into the batter one at a time.

With the mixer on low, stir in the espresso mixture as well as the melted chocolate until blended.

Take the torte from the refrigerator and pour the cappuccino layer on top.  Lay a piece of wax paper on top and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the torte.  Release the pan sides.  Place back in the fridge.

Prepare the coffee whipped cream by mixing 1 tbs of whipping cream into a bowl with the espresso powder and the vanilla extract. Stir until the powder dissolves.  Pour the rest of the cream into a separate bowl and beat for 30 seconds. Add the espresso mixture and powdered sugar.  Beat until it forms firm peaks.

Take torte out of the refrigerator and cover sides and surface with 2/3 of the whipping cream.  Press grated chocolate around the sides.  Then use the remaining whipped cream to pipe rosettes around the top edge.  Feel free to garnish the top with chocolate curls and/or chocolate covered coffee beans.
                           **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Yam Cake*

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bourbon Maple Bars

I have had this recipe tucked away for some time now.  It was actually one of the recipes I got when I first started in G+.   Since then I have pulled a couple more from the site.  The recipes are from Micheal Recchiuti, that has a lot of talent when it comes to confections.  His site has a lot to offer in the way of treats as well as recipes.

As far as this recipe, I am glad I found something a little bit upscale and unique in comparison to all the blondie and brownie recipes floating around out there.  The moist maple and bourbon cake along with the crunchy toasted walnuts turned out to be a pretty tasty bar.  The only change I made to the recipe was making 1/2 a batch more of the glaze.  The original recipe amount left too much of the bar showing through, so it was not enough in my opinion.  

Due to the fact it was late and I was unable to get in touch with Micheal prior to this post for permission to post the recipe details here, I have provided a direct link to his site for the recipe:
Dad's Bourbon Maple Bars

Outside of the fantastic recipes, I am thinking that I may splurge for Halloween and try some of his chocolate candy. However, for right now I am splurging on these maple bars!
                             **LAST YEAR: Chestnut Chocolate Muffins***

Monday, October 15, 2012

Strawberry Mousse with Joconde Cake

This particular week I felt the need to make something tasty, but be a new project as well.  The mood does not strike all the time, so I did take some time to decide.  This particular recipe has something called stencil paste. In this recipe a design is done on parchment and then a cake batter is spread over the top.

Since this was the first time dealing with this type of medium, I kept it very simple with the stripes.  I am sure with practice designs can become more intricate.  Also, the end result was actually three different assemblies from the same recipe.

Regarding the taste, I really did like the combo of the cold strawberry mousse with the chocolate almond cake.  The ratio of mousse to cake was just right.

Please be sure to read all the recipe completely before starting, especially the tips and notes.  One note is crucial to making your decision on the form of your dessert. If making round cakes, you will need 8 stainless steel 3 inch pastry rings.

Strawberry Mousse with Joconde Cake
adapted from the book Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients/Chocolate stencil paste
1 1/2 tbs cocoa powder
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup flour
3 egg whites, room temp
4 tbs butter, room temp

Ingredients Joconde Sheet Cake
2 tbs melted butter
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Strawberry Mousse
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 cups strawberry puree
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbs unflavored powdered gelatin
3/4 cup sugar
8 extra whole strawberries for garnish

The stencil paste will need to be made first.  Prepare a jelly roll pan by greasing the interior and then lining with parchment.  Also, grease the face up side of the parchment.

Using a stand mixer, beat together the confectioners sugar with the butter.  Scrape down the sides occasionally and beat until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Then beat in the egg whites.  The batter may look lumpy at first, but continue to beat until the lumps disappear.

With a wooden spoon, fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just combined.  Take the paste and spread thinly over the parchment paper, covering all corners and sides.  Once all is spread evenly, take the tip of a spatula and remove long strips of chocolate, moving down the shortest length of the pan.  Clean the spatula after every stripe, before starting another.

Once all the stripes are complete, place  pan in the freezer. Then preheat the oven to 450 degrees

For the cake, fill a stand mixer bowl with whole eggs, egg yolk, confectioners sugar and both types of flour. Beat together until smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Set aside
when all is blended.

Fill another bowl with the egg whites and beat until they reach a foamy consistency.  Continue to beat, adding the sugar slowly.  The mixture should turn into a shiny meringue.  Fold this into the almond flour batter until no streaks remain.  Then stir in the melted butter.  Take care not to deflate the egg whites.

Take the pan out of freezer and smooth the batter on top of the stripes, making sure all is even.  Place in oven and bake until top springs back when lightly touched, which is about 5-8 minutes.  Put a sheet of parchment paper ( slightly longer than the jelly roll pan) on a flat, heat tolerant surface. Remove cake and let cool for 3 minutes and then invert onto parchment paper.  Remove top sheet of parchment and let cool completely.

For the strawberry mousse, start by sprinkling and mixing gelatin powder in a bowl with the cold water.  Let stand for about 5 minutes.  It will become spongy.  Set aside.

Blend the strawberry puree with the sugar.  Then heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 15 seconds.  Stir and then pour into the puree.  Let sit for 20 minutes to thicken.

While that is thickening, pour the whipping cream in a bowl and whip until thick and fluffy.  Give the puree a stir at the 20 minute mark.  Blend in 3 tbs of whipping cream. Then fold in the rest of the cream until pink hue is consistent throughout.

To assemble, place pastry rings on a flat plate and line with parchment paper.  Then cut cake strips that are the same inside diameter and about 1 1/2 inch wide.  Be sure to cut so stripes are parallel to the 1/1/2 inch width.  Line the inside of the rings with the cake, stripes facing outward.  Then fill with about 1/2 cup of mousse, which should bring it to a height of about 1/2 inch beyond top edge of cake.
Refrigerate for about an hour.

To serve place cake ring on a small plate, remove steel ring and parchment paper.  Then garnish with one sliced strawberry on top and serve immediately.

Tips and Notes:
1. Cake was not very flexible, so it broke upon trying to line the rings.  I pieced it around but it was more of a box. Based on that, I tried the assembly as a sandwich, which turned out quite nicely.  If I had to do over again, I would make entire sandwich cakes by making two pans of cake and putting mousse between the layers.
2. Getting the thick stencil paste on the parchment was a difficult task, the parchment slid around while I was trying to smooth it out.  This does take some patience.  Also, I used the handle straight end of a measuring spoon to scrape the chocolate off to make stripes.
3. My cake had more of a milky look to the chocolate stripes, next time for a darker contrast I may use a darker cocoa. The recipe never stated which to use.
4. If making sandwiches, leave a overhang of parchment when preparing the bottom layer of cake.  It will need to be lifted out and placed in a cool jelly roll pan instead of being inverted.  Then you can put the mousse on top.  Let set up in fridge before placing cake layer on top.  Then cut in squares, perhaps it can be frozen first before adding the top layer so there is a clean sharp cut.
                          **LAST YEAR: Cinnagrog Pie***

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I finally decided it was time to take advantage of all the fall flavors that are hitting the market right now.  I had pretty much narrowed down the choice between butternut squash or pumpkin.  However, once I landed on this particular recipe-the decision was made.

This dessert starts with pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Once I made the bread, I had some serious thoughts about not moving forward with the bread pudding.  Luckily I have ample pumpkin left to make another loaf of bread.

The bread pudding really does have a deep spicy taste which goes quite well with the pumpkin and chocolate.   This is the first time I have used cayenne in a baked good but that little bit of heat in there turned out to be a bonus in this dessert.  This definitely delivered when it came to fall flavor and I can't wait to share this with some of my friends.

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding
adapted from Baked Elements

Ingredients/Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2  tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs pumpkin puree
2/3 cup water
6 oz dark chocolate (60-72% cacao)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs flour
1 tbs melted butter

Ingredients/Pumpkin Custard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups half and half (room temp)
4.5 oz of unsalted butter (1 stick plus 1tbs), melted and cooled
2 large eggs & 4 egg yolks
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree

For the chocolate chunk pumpkin bread, preheat the oven  to 350 degrees.  Using a pastry brush or paper towel, dip into melted butter and coat the inside of a a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan.  Then dust the inside with flour.

Sift together, into a large bowl, the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree and the oil until completely blended.  Then stir in the sugar.  Add one egg and mix into the pumpkin batter.  Continue and add second egg, mixing after each addition.  Do the same for each egg then mix in the water and vanilla extract.  Lastly, stir in all the chocolate pieces.

Using a wooden spoon, mix all the sifted ingredients into the liquid batter.  Empty the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake 65-85 minutes or until tester comes out clean, stopping and rotating pan half way through baking time.

Place pan on rack and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then invert loaf onto the rack and let cool completely. This should take about 45 minutes.

Once cooled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the pumpkin loaf into 1 inch cubes.  Place each cube on the parchment paper, spacing evenly.  Let bake for 10 minutes.  Remove pan and turn cubes over and let bake an additional 10 minutes. Continue with the process until all cubes are toasted.  Let cubes sit and cool for about 20 minutes.

To make the custard, stir together the eggs, egg yolks and brown sugar until blended.  Mix in the half and half, pumpkin puree and only 5 tbs of the melted butter.  Once well combined, stir in the 5 different spices listed on the ingredient list as well as salt and vanilla extract.  Fold in all but one cup of toasted pumpkin bread cubes.  Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring at 10 minute intervals, to allow the bread cubes to absorb the custard.

During the last 10 minute interval, butter the inside of a 9X13 inch glass pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toss the reserved cup of the bread cubes into the remaining melted butter.  

Pour the custard mixture into the pan and make sure all the lumps are distributed evenly.  Then toss the buttered bread cubes on top.  Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, which should be about 45-55 minutes.

Remove and place pan on wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes, then serve warm.  For an extra special treat, you can top the dessert with whatever you prefer.  The recipe suggests: powdered sugar, whipped cream or caramel. Enjoy!
                         **LAST YEAR:Midnight Tropic Cupcakes**

Monday, October 1, 2012

Red Velvet Cake Roll

I have made many cakes but this would be the first time that I have actually made a cake roll.  My hesitation has always been that it would crack and the filling seep out.  However, when I read through this particular recipe, it stated that the compression of the roll would take care of the cracks- if any exisited.

Also, the blend of cake, fruit and cream quickly got my attention. In looking at my photo, I realize that the omission of the raspberries would have given it a more distinctive white swirl.  Since you cannot eat a perfect picture of food, I chose to include the raspberries and forgo the stunning picture.

There were a few methods/tips in the recipe that were new to me.  One was beating the egg before adding it to the batter.  The method of tenting the cake with foil while cooling is something I have never come across. It is a great way to keep the cake from drying out in the cooling process, so I will use this method on all layer cakes in the future.

Red Velvet Cake Roll
adapted from Baking for All Occassions


1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider or white vinegar
1 tbs liquid red food coloring
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter plus 1 tbs, room temp
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup of flour
2 tbs cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt

Ingredients/ Filling
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 cup red raspberries
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter
5 oz melted white chocolate (see tip below)

Optional for decorating
powdered sugar
red raspberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  The spray non stick spray in the center of a jelly roll pan (15 1/2 X 10 1/2).  Line with foil creating a 2 inch overhang on the short sides.  Then melt one tbs of butter and brush all of the inside with the melted butter.  Dust with flour and tap out excess.

Take a small bowl and whisk together the vanilla extract, milk and vinegar (or cider-whichever you are using).  Set aside.  Then lay out a sheet of wax paper and sift cocoa, flour, salt and baking soda onto the wax paper.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the remaining 1/2 cup butter.  Beat for one minute until smooth and then increase the speed to medium.  As the mixer is running, slowly pour in the sugar.  Beat for about two minutes, scraping down the sides every 30 seconds.  Continue to beat and add the egg slowly.

On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, then 1/2 of the milk mixture.  Repeat the process and end with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl.  Then continue to beat and add the food coloring.  Once all is an even hue, spread batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, this should take about 10 minutes.  Place pan on a rack and run a knife around the two long sides if needed.  Then take out of the pan using the excess foil on the sides and place on rack. Let cool for 45 minutes before assembly.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the filling.  Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth and creamy.  Then add 1/2 of the white chocolate and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and then add the rest and beat for another 30 seconds.  Add the butter,  powdered sugar and almond extract and continue to beat until it has a smooth and creamy consistency.

The  length of the cake should run from the left to the right.Using a small offset spatula or a knife,  smooth 1 cup and 2 tbs (you will have a small amount remaining) of the filling over the cake.  Leave a half inch border on the top edge of the length of the cake. 

Then place raspberries randomly along the length of the cake.  Take the edge of the cake closest to you and roll it over.  Using the aid of the foil (the cake will stick to your hands) roll the cake into a log.  Then place it on the bottom third of a 24 inch long piece of parchment paper.  Fold the paper over the top of the roll and use a baking sheet at a 45 degree angle over the top.  Pull on the parchment and push down with the baking sheet.  This will help compress the cake and also get rid of any cracks that may have formed. 

Then lift the aluminum covered cake log and place it, seam down, on a clean sheet of wax paper. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.  Lift out of foil and if using, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices and serve with raspberries on the side.

Tips and notes:
1. Use good quality white chocolate and be careful when melting. The water in the double boiler should not exceed 110 degrees or the chocolate will seize and form lumps.  The smaller you chop the chocolate the easier it should melt.  Let the chocolate start to melt on its own without stirring.  Then remove from bottom double boiler pan and stir, the residual heat will help finish the melting process.  If your chocolate seizes, there is no recovery.

2. I have found that chilling the cake for 2 hours creates a more stable filling.

3. Using whole raspberries does give quite a juicy pop to the cake when you bite into it, however, halving them may help your rolling process go smoother. 
                               **LAST YEAR: Banana Crunch Cookies***

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rum Raisin Almond Tart

The other day I had a craving for Rum Raisin ice cream.  I am not a big fan of raisins but for some reason I really like the ice cream.  Off I went to the store to get some to squelch the craving. Nowhere to be found, so I asked around.  No one had ever heard of the stuff.  You would have thought I was asking for a piece of the moon with sprinkles on top!

Now I had to head back home, still carrying the same craving as I had started with.  Well, that just would not do.  So I went about looking for recipes and landed on this particular one.  It was not ice cream, but it sure did get rid of the craving.  Also, it had just enough raisins to add some flavor but not be overwhelming.

To me, the recipe is really something unique.  It is almost like a almond pie but with an occasional pop of flavor from the rum soaked raisins.  Also, the sweet pastry dough could just as well be sugar cookie batter.  The recipe does have a few components. Yet once those are made, the dessert comes together quickly and easily. The first component does require that this recipe should be started the night before to serve the next day.

Rum Raisin Almond Tart
adapted from Simply Sensational Desserts

Sweet Tart Dough (actually enough for two tarts)
9 tbs butter, softened
1 3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 cup plus 1 tbs powdered sugar
1 large egg

Almond Cream Filling
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dark rum
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup and 1 tbs butter, softened
1 egg yolk
2 large eggs
1 tbs flour

1/3 cup apricot preserves
2 tbs rum
3 tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp water

Place the raisins and 1/4 cup rum in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let soak overnight.

The next day, start on the dough by placing sugar, flour and salt in a sifter.  Sift ingredients into a medium size bowl and set aside.  Take out a food processor and fill with the butter.  Process butter for about 20 seconds or until smooth.  Pour in the sifted ingredients and add the egg.  Process mixture again until it turns into a dough and lumps up into a ball inside the bowl.  Divide the dough in half and flatten each into a disk.  Cover in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 2 hours.

During the chilling time, the filling can be prepared.  Use the food processor again, grind the almonds with 1/4 cup of sugar.  It should take about a minute to grind the almonds into fine bits. Set aside.

Fill a bowl of a stand mixer with the remaining cup of sugar and add the butter.  Beat for about one minute on high.  Pour in the ground almonds and beat for another minute on low.  Then add the egg yolk and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat the same process for each egg.  After this, beat the mixture for 3 more minutes and scrape down sides of bowl at one minute intervals.   Lastly, sprinkle the flour on top of the batter and use a wooden spoon to fold it in.  Once all is blended, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  After the dough has chilled, take out one disc and roll out on a floured surface. You can seal and freeze the other dough disk for future use. The rolled disk should be 1/8 inch thick and the size of a 10X20 inch rectangle. Using a 9 inch tart ring or 9 inch ring from a springform pan, place on the dough and cut around to form a circle.  Make two circles.  Place one on a baking sheet by itself.  Place the ring on the other baking sheet and put the dough circle inside the bottom.

Take the almond cream mixture from the fridge.  Then drain the raisins from the rum and fold the raisins into the almond cream batter. Spoon the mixture into the dough lined ring and smooth the top so all is even.

Place baking sheet with dough disk on top rack in oven and tart filled one on the next lower rack.  Once the dough disk has a golden brown edge, it is done baking.  This should take about 15-17 minutes.  Remove and place pan on cooling rack.  The tart round should continue to bake until tester comes out clean.  This should take 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place it on a cooling rack as well.

Brush the two tablespoons of rum over the top with a pastry brush while still hot out of the oven.  Then take the apricot preserves and microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Remove and pour into a sieve placed over a small bowl.  Use the pastry brush again and brush the strained apricot over the top of the tart.

Place the plain tart round over the top.  Should it not fit correctly into the pan, shave the edges with a paring knife until it fits inside the pan on top of the tart.

Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and add the water, mixing until all is smooth.  In order to get the correct consistency, you may have to add additional water.  Pour glaze over the top of the tart and smooth out evenly by using the back of a spoon.  Then  place back in the oven for about 5 minutes.  This should result in an opaque center and clear edges on the top.

Cool and remove the tart ring when ready to cut and serve.
                                  **LAST YEAR: B52 Cookies***

Monday, September 17, 2012

Peach Tarte Tatin & Lemon Ice Cream

Recently I was struck by the fact that I have nearly missed out on peach season.  They are almost gone at the market and I have not made a thing with them.  That is until now.

Thumbing through some magazines I landed on a recipe for Peach Tarte Tatins.  What really got my interest was the fact that the recipe was so easy to put together and that they were made in individual servings.

These little desserts are a great alternative to a big pie.  The layers all come together for something tasty and unique.  The base is puff pastry, then it has a caramelized peach sitting atop of it. To create t those layers, the assembly is the opposite in a ramekin because the dessert is inverted onto a plate.

While they are satisfying enough by themselves, a dollop of ice cream makes them even better.  Vanilla a la mode may be tradition, but the dessert really pops with a homemade lemon ice cream topping.  The complimentary flavor blend really does make you question the traditional.

The equipment needed to make the complete dessert  is 8 ramekins that hold 3/4 cup and an ice cream maker. It is best to prepare the ice cream the day before, the recipe makes about 6 cups.

Lemon Ice Cream
adapted from Bon Appetit

8 egg yolks
5 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest (packed)
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup sugar (divided)
3 cups heavy whipping cream

Fill a large saucepan with 1 cup sugar, whipping cream, lemon zest and milk.  Place over medium heat and stir.  The mixture should come to a simmer and the sugar dissolve. One it reaches that point, remove from heat.

In a medium heatproof bowl add egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and lemon juice.  Whisk until blended.  Take the saucepan of warm cream mixture and pour a slow stream into the egg yolks and stir together.

Pour custard back into saucepan and place over medium heat.  Let mixture cook, while stirring constantly.  The custard should become thicker and reach a temperature of about 170 to 175 degrees. This process should take about 5 minutes.  Take caution to make sure the mixture does not boil.

Pour custard into a heat proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator for 3 hours. Then pour into a ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions.  Place ice cream in a bowl and cover and freeze until firm.

Peach Tarte Tatins
adapted from Bon Appetit
1 17.3  oz package of puff pastry (thawed)
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tbs
4 ripe peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
1/4 cup water
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water for glaze
6 tbs butter

Put sugar and water in a saucepan and place over medium heat.  Stir mixture until all the sugar has dissolved.  Prepare a cup of water along with a pastry brush to occasionally wash down the sides of the mixture from the pan while it cooks.  Increase the heat and let mixture boil without stirring.  In about 7-10 minutes, it will turn a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and add the butter. Wait a few minutes for the butter to melt.

Place pan back on low heat and stir, making sure all the caramel chunks dissolve.  Once the correct consistency, pour caramel in equal increments into each of the 8 ramekins.  The place 1 peach half on top of the caramel, with cut side facing up. Complete the process until all peach halves are in the ramekins.  Set ramekins aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Then take out puff pastry and cut into 8 rounds that are the same diameter as the ramekins.  Put one round on top of each of the peach halves and tuck in the edges.

Brush the dough tops with egg glaze and sprinkle some sugar on top.  Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, spacing evenly.  Put in oven and bake about 25 minutes.  Pastry should have a golden color when done. 

Remove pan from oven when done. Using oven mitts, invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Then top with a scoop of ice cream and serve.
                         **LAST YEAR: Cranberry Invasion Cake**

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apple Butterscotch Bundt Cake

Well the Texas weather has finally cooled down, giving me thoughts about all the fall baking that is coming up and the great holidays.

This particular cake is a tasty way to welcome fall.  Anything that has cinnamon and nutmeg does the trick for me every time.  Not only does this cake have spices but also walnuts and apples, which add great taste and texture.

It is not difficult to make and does not require a lot of fancy ingredients, so it is a perfect recipe to go to when you are in a bind for time.

In my mind, bundt cakes have such great flavor that they really do not require any icing.  While I did not make the icing as stated in the recipe below, I did use a caramel drizzle. I will be serving the cake with the drizzle on the side, so people can make their own choice.  Some of the crowd is dieting and some have a big sweet tooth, so I think this was a good solution.

Apple Butterscotch Bundt Cake
adapted from Cake Simple

Ingredients/ Cake
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
4 cups chopped and peeled apples (I used Granny Smith)
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/ Butterscotch Icing
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter /cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt

Prepare a 12 cup bundt pan by greasing the inside with melted butter, you can use a pastry brush or dip a paper towel into the butter and coating the pan.  Then dust the interior with flour and tap out the excess.  Set aside and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Then fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the canola oil and both sugars.  Using the whisk attachment, blend for 30 seconds on medium speed.  Add one egg and whisk for another 30 seconds.  Continue with the same process for each egg addition.  Once all the eggs are blended, whisk in the vanilla extract.

Add the sifted ingredient to the batter and stir with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain.  Then add the walnuts and apples, folding in until all is evenly distributed.

Then spoon batter evenly into prepared bundt pan.  Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean.  With my oven it took about 55 minutes.  The recommended baking time with the recipe is one hour and 15 minutes.  Remove cake from oven and place on a wire rack.  Let cool for 20 minutes and then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely before icing.

For the icing, fill a saucepan with the heavy cream, brown sugar, butter and salt.  Place pan over medium low heat and let cook, stirring constantly.  When the sugar and salt have completely dissolved, remove pan from heat and let cool.   Once mixture reaches room temperature, sift the confectioners sugar over the top, then whisk until smooth.

Take the icing and drizzle over the top of the cake, now it is ready to serve!
                    **LAST YEAR: Big Brahman Rolls** 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trucker Cookies

The best thing about cookies is that no one ever complains that there are too many add ins.  I can't even imagine anyone saying: "There is too many chocolate chips in these cookies..".  Based on that there are so many varieties out there-the possibilities are endless.

Due to the age of this recipe I am unable to link directly back to it.  Actually if you search on "trucker" cookie in the net it pulls up several different recipes, so the name is far from being unique.

Along with all the tasty add ins, I think that grains in a cookie does add a little touch of healthiness as well as texture.  These particular cookies actually have rice crispies in the batter along with the oats. The recipe also calls for butter flavored crisco.  I rarely use this ingredient, but it does seem to give the cookie batter an extra rich flavor.

These cookies prove to be a pretty tasty snack for all ages, so do not just limit them to the kids lunchboxes!   Another benefit is that they do not require a lot of time in the kitchen to make. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Trucker Cookies
adapted from

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup shredded sweet coconut
1 tbs milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare pans by lining with parchment paper or greasing lightly.

Sift together the baking soda, salt and flour.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening with the two sugars.  Once it reaches a fluffy consistency, beat in each egg.  Then add the milk and vanilla extract.  Beat again until all ingredients are thoroughly blended.

Using a wooden spoon, mix in the rice krispies and rolled oats.  Then stir in the sifted ingredients. Once no more dry streaks remain, fold in the chocolate chips, nuts and coconut.

Place tablespoon sized scoops of batter onto baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges have turned golden and toasty.  Remove from oven and place baking sheet on rack to cool.  After 2 minutes, transfer cookies to rack to finish cooling.
                        **LAST YEAR: Harvest Spice Bites**

Monday, August 27, 2012

Banana Whipped Cream Pie

I was looking for a cream pie recipe and this particular one caught my eye.  Mainly it was the assembly of the custard with the layers of banana slices dipped in syrup.  However, the recipe makes for a tall deep dish pie.  Since I did not have a deep dish pie pan and I was not too keen on 6 inches of whipped cream on the pie, I opted to reduce the whipped cream topping to half.  The recipe below reflects 3/4 of the original amount stated for the whipped cream topping.  Also I used 5 bananas instead of the suggested 8.

For anyone that likes bananas, this pie is definitely for you.  The flavors and textures come together in one great piece of pie. With the fluffy whipped cream, syrupy layers of bananas, rich custard and flaky crust you would think this came directly from a bakery.

Banana Whipped Cream Pie
adapted from Juniors Dessert Cookbook

1 fully baked 9 inch pie crust
2 tbs butter
1tbs vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs flour

Ingredients/Banana layer and topping
4 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp  confectioners sugar
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 plus 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
5 bananas

Start with making the banana custard. In a small bowl sift the cornstarch and flour together.  Then whisk in the sugar and the salt.  Set aside.

Place a saucepan over medium high heat and fill with cream and milk.  Heat until simmer, when small bubbles appear on the outer edge of the liquid.  Then remove from heat.

Using a stand mixer, beat egg yolks for 1 minute on high.  Then add the flour mixture and beat for and additional 3 minutes.  Change to low speed and pour in 1 cup of cream milk blend and beat for 30 seconds.  Then empty ingredients into the saucepan that contains the remaining cream/milk mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly until the liquid turns to a thick custard.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and both extracts.

Pour into a heatproof container and place plastic over the surface of the custard.  Refrigerate for about one hour.  Custard should be thick but not set.

In the meatime, the bananas need to be prepared.  Fill a saucepan with the sugar and water.  Then boil the mixture until it transforms into a syrup.  Then remove from heat.  Take 4 bananas and slice them about 1/2 inch thick.  Using a fork, dip each slice into the syrup and set the slice on a paper towel to cool.  Continue until all the rounds have been dipped.  For the  other banana, slice in half horizontally or lengthwise. Place a cooling rack over a piece of waxed paper.  Dip the long slices in the syrup and place on rack to drain.

To make the topping, place the cream in a bowl and whip on high for 2 minutes.  In a small bowl, mix together the cream of tartar and the confectioners sugar.  Then turn on the mixer again to beat the cream and add the tartar/sugar mixture.  Lastly, add the vanilla and continue to beat.  It should fluff up to be smooth and still flow some.  Over beating will cause it to curdle.

Fold 1 cup of the cream into the custard.  Put the filling in the pie shell, smoothing the surface to where it is even. Cover the custard with a layer of whipped cream, about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Then place the small slices of bananas on top in circles from outside in. Chill the pie for about 2 hours to set .

After chilling, pipe the cream with sweeping swirls, going around from the outer edge to the center. When finished swirling, all the bananas should be covered and the whipped cream about 2 inches high.  Cut the long slices of the bananas in half and place them vertically from the top to the crust edge of the pie.  Think of it like a tee-pee.

Refrigerate again for about 2 hours before serving.  The pie is best served the same day but can be leftover for 1 day and served as well. Do not freeze.
                              **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Parthenons**

Monday, August 20, 2012

Delicious Recall #3::Chocolate Italian Wedding Cupcakes

This is another item which has that wonderful trio of flavors that I find hard to resist.  There is one method in this recipe that I will be using more than once.  It is the toasting of the pecans with the coconut.  I always have issues when toasting coconut, having some pieces remain white while others burn.  I am not sure if it is the mixture of the nuts or the measurement that causes the toasting to be more even.

The cupcakes do offer a lot of texture to the bite with having both pecans and coconut in them.  Also, the frosting has an unusual tang to it since it is made with sour cream.  The tang goes well with the dark chocolate..

This particular recipe had some additional suggestions for preparation, so be sure to read the tips at the end. This recipe makes 2 dz cupcakes.

Chocolate Italian Wedding Cakes
adapted from Evil Shenanigans

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1.5 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted & cooled)
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (yolks separated from whites)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

1 2/3 cup flour
3 tbs dutch processed cocoa
2 tbs crushed cocoa nibs
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet choc chips
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 cups powdered sugar

For the cupcakes, grease the top edge of the cavities of two 1 dozen cupcake pans.  Line with paper liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and both sugars until smooth.  Then add the melted chocolate along with the egg yolks.  Stir until all is smooth. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the five dry ingredients listed after the eggs on the ingredient list. Using a wooden spoon, fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter.  Then stir in 1/4 cup of buttermilk.
Repeat that process and add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring until no dry streaks remain.

Add the cocoa nibs, vanilla, coconut and pecans and mix until evenly distributed.

Pour the egg whites into a medium size bowl and beat with mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the chocolate batter, mixing so no white streaks show.  Repeat that process.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake cavities with the batter.  All 24 should be filled equally.  Also make sure that the batter is even so they will bake even. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway mark.  Doneness is indicated by the cupcake springing back when lightly pressed in the center.  Cool cupcakes in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

As the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting.  The oven will be left on 350 for the frosting as well.  Mix the coconut and pecans together.  Then spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove, stir and place pan back in oven for an additional 5 minutes.  The mixture should be a golden brown when done.  Let coconut mixuture cool to room temperature before using.  Take 1/3 cup of the  mixture and set aside.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Slice butter into 1/4 inch thickness and place slices on top of the chocolate chips.  Microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Then microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring after each internal until it is all melted and blended smoothly.  Let cool for 5 minutes before using. Transfer the mixture to a larger bowl.

Stir in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.  Then sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into the chocolate frosting and stir.  Repeat with another cup of the powdered sugar.  There is now 1 cup of powdered sugar left, but you will gradually add and mix it into the frosting until you reach the desired consistency.  Keep in mind that the frosting will thicken upon standing, so gauge the amount of powdered sugar according to preference.  Stir in all but the 1/3 reserved mixture of coconut and pecans.

Put the frosting on the cupcakes, either with a knife or piping method.  Then sprinkle with the reserved coconut/pecan mixture. 

Tips and Notes:
1. since the frosting has coconut and nuts in it,  should you chose to pipe it make sure it is a large tip.
2. In addition to the 1/3 reserved coconut/nut mixture for sprinkling on top, I made another half batch because I found that pressing the cupcake upside down into the topping had better adhesion.
3. you can make this into a cake with two 8 inch round pans, just double the frosting amount.
4. For extra flavor, you can soak the cupcakes lightly with white rum.  2 or 3 tbs should be enough.
              **LAST YEAR: Tequila Sunrise Bars**

Monday, August 13, 2012

Strawberry Shortcakes

Well, at long last,  here is the follow up in which the scones I made last week get incorporated into a tasty dessert.

I know that all of you have had strawberry shortcake a time or two, but this particular recipe I found to be a new version of and old classic.  First is a base of a sweet scone with chunks of almonds baked in.  Then you have the chocolate which really makes the dessert extra special.  The uniqueness to the chocolate ganache can be attributed to orange pekoe tea as well as Grand Marnier.  Also, shortcake is not shortcake without fluffy whipped cream.

Put all that together with some sweet strawberries and you have a pretty awesome combination.  A bite with a burst of strawberry juice and the rich, slightly orangey flavored chocolate enveloped in whipped cream was enough to win me over.

The good thing about this dessert is that you really have more than just one plating if you make all the components.  The scones are great on their own.  Should you not want to make the scones, break out two bowls, one with the whipped cream and one with the ganache and start dipping your strawberries! Also, feel free to put your own spin on this, such as passing on the tea and adding Amaretto and chopped almonds to the ganache. This recipe makes 8-10 shortcakes.

Strawberry Shortcakes
adapted from Dessert Circus at Home

8-10 Almond Breakfast scones (for recipe click here)
2 tbs of Grand Marnier
1 1/3 cups heavy cream (for ganache)
3 tbs orange pekoe tea
11 oz of bittersweet chocolate (chopped fine)
about 3 cups fresh strawberries
2 cups heavy cream (for whipped cream)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Prepare your scones as directed in the recipe and let cool completely.  Then slice each into 2 layers.  Set aside.

To make the ganache, heat 1 1/3 cups of whipped cream with the tea in a small saucepan.  Stir and let the mixture cook until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium size bowl.   Place a sieve over the bowl and pour in the cream/tea mixture.  Let the ingredients set for about 30 seconds and then stir until smooth and the chocolate is well blended with the cream.  You should have a thick, shiny and smooth ganache.  Add the Grand Marnier and mix until incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for at least 4 hours at room temperature.  Once the mixture has reached the consistency of a thick frosting, is is ready to use.

Then hull and halve the strawberries and place in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the whipped cream,  mix the 2 cups of heavy cream with the powdered sugar.  Then beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until thick and fluffy.  Take a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip at the end and fill it with the whipped cream.

Place the bottom half of each scone on a plate. Spread ganache over the bottom halves, making a 1/4 inch layer. Then cover the ganache with a layer of strawberry halves. Top the halves with the whipped cream and cover with the top half of the scones.  Pipe a swirl of whipped cream on top and  lightly press 2 strawberry halves in the whipped cream.  Now it is ready to serve!

Tips and notes
1. If you are short on time you can cool the ganache by placing it in the fridge, check it periodically for the right consistency.  Mine took about 45 minutes to set up.
2. I put my chocolate bars in a food processor fitted with a grating blade, this aids in getting the chocolate to melt quickly and smoothly.

                        **LAST YEAR: Blue Cheese Crisps