Monday, January 30, 2012

Lower East Side Nut Cake

This recipe is one that I have had for quite some time and just now got around to making it.  The two things that drew me to it was the inclusion of matzo meal as well as the raspberry filling.

Before I made this, I wanted to be sure I did everything to insure that this was a success. I got a buttercream icing recipe and scaled it down to make the crumb crust, I did not want this thing tearing as it was iced.  However, it needed very little crumb coating since the cake was only  1 1/2 inch in height and had a layer of raspberry on top underneath the icing.  Also, instead of just purchasing raspberry jam, I got raspberry filling (I used Solo brand) and I used the whole can instead of 1/4 cup as stated in the recipe.

I really did like how it turned out.  It was a dainty, nutty cake and the raspberry was a great pairing of flavor.  The only issues I had was that I should have ground the hazelnuts more and the chocolate ganache frosting took a long time to set up.  Next time, I may use chocolate instead of chocolate chips, which may help with the consistency. Also, note that this recipe recommends using two 9 inch square baking pans.

Lower East Side Nut Cake
adapted from Food Network

1/4 cup cream
2 tbs hazelnut liqueur
2 tbs melted butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, separated
1 cup finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp salt and one pinch for egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup raspberry cake filling or seedless jam (see note above)

Ingredients/Ganache Frosting
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
chocolate buttercream crumb coat (optional)
1 pint raspberries for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare pans by spraying with non stick coating.  Then line the inside bottom of each pan with parchment paper.

Place flour, salt, baking powder and 1/2 cup of sugar in a sifter and sift all into a large bowl. Then sift again for 2 more times.  Then whisk in the chopped nuts and the matzo meal.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add egg yolks, oil, liqueur, cream and butter.  Stir with a wooden spoon until all is blended.

In a separate bowl add egg whites, salt and cream of tartar.  Beat with electric mixer until foamy and just starting to form peaks.  Add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat for 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk batter.  Then fold in the rest of the whites until no white streaks remain.  Divide batter evenly and pour into each pan, spreading until even.  My batter was a little over 2 cups for each pan.

Bake cakes until lightly tan on top and top springs back when lightly touched.  This should take about 20 minutes.  Remove pans and place on cooling racks until completely cool.  Cake should pull away from edges while cooling.  Once cool invert pans and let layer release from pan.  Then place one layer on a cake plate, parchment side up.

Remove parchment and trim top to level if needed.  Then spread with half of the raspberry mixture.  Remove parchment on other layer of cake and flip over on top of the other layer.  Trim to level if needed. Spread the remaining raspberry on top of the cake, leaving a small border to insure raspberry does not drip down sides.  If using a crumb coat, smooth it on the exposed sides of the cake and the top edge then place in fridge for 30 minutes to set.  If no crumb coat, still place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To make frosting, place chopped chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl. Then pour cream into a small sauce pan and place over medium high heat.  Once it reaches scalding, remove and pour cream over chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Let cool for 30 minutes or until it is thick enough to spread.

Remove cake from fridge, frost the sides and top of the cake with the ganache frosting.  Then place raspberries on top for decoration.  Place in fridge for another 30 minutes to have it all completely set.  Then run a knife under hot water, wipe off and cut cake into pieces for serving.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Smoking Gun Scones

The so called "smoking gun" predicament is definitely one that you cannot talk your way out of.  You have been caught red handed.  The child's answer when they are caught is usually "I do not know how it happened" or the other method is just to start crying because there is no way out.  I think the funniest response from an adult being caught was them simply stating  "it is what it is"!

Anyhow, I did not get into a predicament when making these, but I did include some very smoky tasting ingredients. I would say that the bacon, smoked gouda and smoked paprika definitely changes the standard thought as to what a scone is.  My first thought is that they are sweet and should be served at tea or breakfast.  However, my second thought was that I needed to come up with a savory scone!

The gouda does give these scones a wonderful texture as well as flavor.   Also, just because this does have bacon in it, do not restrict them to breakfast.  I paired these with soup for dinner last night and they quickly disappeared.  Yes, I know the picture I took does not show much bacon, but it is in there!

Smoking Gun Scones
by flourtrader

1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (about 8-10 cooked slices)
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda
1 tsp paprika
2 eggs (lightly beaten with a fork)
egg wash (2 eggs whites beaten with 2 tsp water)
1 cup of milk
3 cups flour
1/2 cup or 1 stick of cold butter, cubed
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, salt, paprika, baking soda and baking powder in a medium size bowl.  Then, use a pastry cutter and cut in butter until it becomes coarse crumbs. Then sprinkle in 3/4 cup of the gouda and all of the bacon pieces. You do not want clumps of bacon nor clumps of cheese so take care when sprinkling.  Then using a wooden spoon to stir in until all is evenly distributed.

Make a well in the center of the batter and add eggs and milk.  Mix with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain.  To dough will be sticky and shaggy at this point.  Lay a piece of waxed paper on a flat surface and sprinkle with flour.  Take dough out and knead, adding flour until dough is no longer sticky.  Knead process should be done quickly, about 10-15 seconds.

Shape the dough into a 2 disks, about one inch in height. Then cut disks into 4-6 pieces, like cutting a pie.  Place the pieces on baking sheet.  Bake for about 6 minutes and remove from oven.

Brush tops of scones with egg wash and then sprinkle on the remaining cheese.  Press slightly to make sure cheese adheres to scone.  Place back in oven and cook for an additional 6-12 minutes.  Scones are done when the edges and bottom are golden brown..

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Celebrity Factor Cookies

There are actually two main factors that celebrities have to deal with when it comes to the public.  One is all the people that adore or love them.  The other is the people that want to be them.  These cookies are about those two factors.  They have cranberries for the love and pistachios for the green with envy!

Yes, today I have taken a trip away from chocolate to bring you something a little bit different.  As I explained before, I am not a big fan of raisins, but if it is to be dried fruit give me cranberries, pineapple or dates!  Cranberries was also chosen since we are on the eve of Valentine's.

Outside of the two factors, this cakey cookie offers hints of cinnamon and orange. The end result is one tasty cookie.  Delicious with a healthy slant.  I said no to thoughts of drizzling with white chocolate.  So here you have it, healthy bits in this cookie and no chocolate.  This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Celebrity Factor Cookies
by flourtrader

1/3 cup plus 2 tbs orange juice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temp
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp grated orange peel
3/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

Prepare cranberries by soaking in orange juice for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Also, butter 3 cookie sheets.

Sift together salt, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium size bowl.  Set aside. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Add egg, orange zest and vanilla extract to the butter sugar mixture.  Beat for about 2 minutes until all is blended and evenly distributed.

Fold in the sifted ingredients with a wooden spoon.  Once there are no dry streaks remaining, stir in the cranberries as well as the orange juice that they soaked in.  Lastly, add the pistachios and mix until evenly distributed.

Then cover and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.  My butter was real soft, so I let the cookie batter cool for about 30 minutes to firm up.  While the batter is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove batter from fridge.  Using a spoon or cookie scoop, drop batter by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheet.  Cookies should be spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Place cookies in oven and bake until outside edges have turned golden, about 10-15 minutes.  Mine took about 12 minutes.  Remove cookie sheet and let cookies cool on sheet about 5 minutes.  Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Monday, January 23, 2012

High Octane Mini Pies & A Shout out

There are certain foods that when ate just seem to taste good, but they do not keep you full for very long.  Perhaps it may be that scrumptious donut you had for breakfast or that chicken egg roll for lunch.  While you taste buds may be happy, you are looking for something to fill the void a few hours later.  The resolve to this situation is grains.  Whole grains do have some staying power so incorporating more of them in your diet can keep you from snacking in between meals.

Which brings me to the name of this pie.  High octane is a factor that can increase the horsepower of your car.  Now considering the first paragraph here, I decided that a high octane pie must have some whole grain in it.  The mini pie contains oatmeal, so it does give you some fuel to keep going.

Outside of oats, I have included some chocolate chips, coconut and macadamia nuts.  The combo is does make for a tasty pie and you get a myriad of texture in one bite.   This pie is delicious at any temperature, but I have to say it is very rich when served warm.  If that is not enough, you can always top it with whipped cream or serve a small piece with ice cream on the side!

Speaking of sides,  I have a side note here to give a special shout out to some very nice blogger friends who gave me some awards recently.  One is Becky over at Baking and Cooking.  She has been blogging since April of 2010 and does have some power in the kitchen.  She is also not lacking in versatility either! The other is Sudha at Wit wok and wisdom. Sudha has been blogging since February of 2010.  As you go through her blog, you notice that she does temper the sinfully sweet posts by following them with a very healthy dish.  We all need a little more balance to our diet!  If you do not know of either of these bloggers, today it is a great time to get to know them, so pop on over.  I am sure you will be inspired and find something that suits your taste! 
Now on to this recipe....

High Octane Mini Pies
by flourtrader

six 4 inch mini pies shells par baked (plain pie pastry recipe can be found here )
3/4 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup of coconut
1 cup of chopped salted macadamia nuts
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars.  Then beat in the eggs for about 30 seconds.  Then add the corn syrup and milk, beating for another 30 seconds.

Then using a wooden spoon, fold in the oatmeal, coconut, choc chips and nuts until evenly distributed.   Then pour the filling into each pie crust, making sure each is filled evenly.  The filling should be just below the lip of each pie crust.

Place mini pies on cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until top outer edges of filling are browned. A knife should come out clean when inserted into the center of one of the pies.  Let cool completely before removing from pies from each pan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Zinfandel Pear Tart/First Guest Post

I am so delighted to say that I am doing my first guest post over on Chef Dennis's blog!  It is a special priviledge as well as an honor that he extended the invitation.

I am not a bombastic person.  In other words, I am someone who wades into the water.  There are some people that just jump into things.  Some new bloggers jumped in and did everything that there was to be done in the first week (ie guest post, blog hops, etc).  Not me.

Early in my days of blogging publicly, I would panic when I would see Chef Dennis' comment on my blog.  I would think..please, please do not ask me to guest post, I am so not ready!  I knew that he would only ask once and if I said no that it would be my one and only invitation.   So time now has passed, I am not such a newbie and the invitation has arrived.  I was so ecstatic when it did arrive and then my mind started reeling about what I was going to post!

I decided to step out of the box and make something I had never tried before.  I never have made poached pears and had really not dabbled that much in pastry, so the recipe I found was definitely different-a Zinfandel Pear Tart.  I was kind of leery wondering if  I could pull it off or I would be stuck making something simple just to have something to present.  However after making and tasting the tart, I did not one, but two happy dances around the kitchen.  One for the fact that is was a success in my kitchen and the second for that fact that it was going to be for a guest post on Chef Dennis' blog!

So without anymore delay, pop on over to A Culinary Journey With Chef Dennis  to see all the details!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet Pastry Project

One of the things I wanted to do different this year in blogging was to step more out of my comfort zone and try my skills at things that are more challenging.  Pastry is one of those things.

In making this recipe, I learned quite a bit.  Even though this creation is not perfect, with time it will become easier.  I am sure I will get more practice since I am committed not to buy any more pre-made pastry dough at the grocers!

Below is all the details on this project.

Sweet Pastry
adapted from Desserts by Nancy Silverton

Equipment-1 flan pan, 10 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep

1 1/4 plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbs heavy cream
4 oz or one stick of cold butter, cut into cubes

Sift the flour into a medium bowl and then stir in the sugar.  Toss the butter cubes into the mixture, coating all sides.  Then using your fingertips, mash each cube into pieces and let drop back into the dry ingredients and toss.  Continue with this process until the consistency is like coarse crumbs.

In another bowl, scramble the yolk with the cream.  Then pour into batter and mix with clean hands until the dough can form a ball.  You may have to add some cream to reach the correct consistency.

Then take a sheet of wax paper and place on a flat surface.  Dust lightly with flour and place ball of dough in the middle.  Also, dust the inside of your hands with flour. Using the heel of your hand, press on the dough and smear outward.  Continue with this process until all of dough has been smeared flat on the wax paper.  This is a french process for working in the butter.

Gather the dough back into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge to chill for 2 hours.

Then take dough out of fridge, place it back on the wax paper and cut into fourths.  Then pound each piece with rolling pin to flatten.  Then use your fingertips to work the dough into a pliable but not sticky ball.

At this time, brush melted butter on the inside base and ring of your flan pan.

Roll your dough out on the wax paper, using a little flour to keep it from sticking.  Begin rolling from the center, turning pin clockwise.  Also, use short strokes because you do not want the outer edges to get too thin.  Lift and turn the dough every so often to make sure it is not sticking.  The final size of the dough should be 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick.

To get the dough into the pan, you can fold it into quarters and put point in center and unfold or you can roll dough over rolling pin and unroll over flan pan.  Then use the knuckle of your index finger (dusted with flour) and go all around the pan putting some pressure to get the dough to adhere to the pan and even out.  Use your fingertips to do the same on the sides of the pan.

As a final step, use a paring knife to cut off the top excess even with the top of the pan.  After that , chill the dough in the fridge for one hour.  During this time, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Remove pan and line the dough with parchment paper, covering all the bottom and sides.  Then fill the pan with metal pie weights or beans.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Remove pan and let cool completely.  Then spoon off beans or remove pie weights.  Take out parchment lining.  If crust looks underdone in places, preheat oven again to 325 and place back in oven for a few minutes to finish baking.  Let cool and then fill as desired.

Pitfalls to watch out for:

-uneven thickness in crust will cause uneven baking
-using too much flour will cause the dough to be dry and crumbly
-overworking the dough can cause it to be tough
-not having a 90 degree angle of even thickness where the side of the dough meets the bottom will cause shrinkage of dough when baked.
-this dough is not forgiving if you have to patch it, it has a tendency to split on patched edges when baked.

 Things that I think help:

-I did not wait for the crust to cool before removing pie weights, beans or parchment paper.  My determination of crust doneness was in a hot state so I could pop it back in the oven if needed.  You have to be careful when removing the hot items out of the pan!

-I am toying with the ideal of laying a perfectly sized dough disk in the bottom of the pan and cutting a strip of dough to go around the sides to keep the 90 degree edge.  I will have to work on making sure the edges meet and are sealed well though.

-a rolling pin with measurement rings is a great way to insure that you get your dough an even height.  This type of pin comes in handy when making cut out cookies too!

-another type of paper liner you can use is coffee filters (the flat ones). Along with laying them on the bottom, the sides can be covered with filters and overlap the pan.  I made the mistake of thinking that the parchment paper had to fit tightly against the dough on the sides.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mudslide Brownies

I know that these brownies look kind of like layered fudge, but do not let that fool you.  Between the espresso, vodka, coffee liqueur and chocolate covered coffee beans-they are far from that!

Let me tell you now, this is ultra rich and fudgey, so dieters beware.  Also, if you are an insomniac, this will only promote your problem.  The coffee and chocolate is sure to keep you up for hours.

Overall I was well pleased with the recipe.  The only issue I had was that the chocolate covered coffee beans were not that easy to grind and then they did not stick to the frosting, even though I did press down on the top after sprinkling.

Mudslide Brownies
adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients/Brownie Layer
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
2 tsp espresso powder
2 tbs coffee liqueur
4 (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 tsp salt

2  1 ounce squares of unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tbs butter
2 tsp espresso powder
2 tbs vodka
2 tbs whipping cream or half and half
2 tbs coffee liqueur
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup of chopped chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9X13 inch pan.  Then line pan with aluminum foil and grease the face up side of the foil inside the pan.

Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.  In another bowl beat eggs and then add both sugars, stirring until blended.

Take a small saucepan and place over low heat.  Add butter and chocolate squares, stirring until all is melted and blended.  Remove from heat and stir into the sugar/egg mixture.  Once that has been blended, mix in the coffee liqueur and the espresso powder.

Fold in the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain and then stir in the pecans.  Fill prepared pan with batter and smooth the top, making sure that it is all even.  Place pan in oven and bake until brownies are set on top, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove pan and place on rack, brownies should remain in pan to completely cool.

To make the frosting, place chocolate squares and butter in small saucepan over low heat.  Stir periodically until the mixture is completely melted.  Pour mixture into a medium size bowl.  Add all vodka.,whipping cream, chocolate liqueur and espresso powder, stir until all is blended.  Lastly, place a sifter over the bowl and sift in powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments, beating mixture after each addition.

Once you have come to the desired consistency of your frosting, spread evenly over the cooled brownies. If desired, sprinkle chopped chocolate covered espresso beans over the top and press lightly to adhere to frosting.  Once frosting is set, remove brownies from pan using the aluminum foil lining.  Then cut with a sharp knife to serve.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nokota Sweet Bread

As I was cutting into this sweet bread, I was looking at all the specks of color running through it.  My mind wandered to the lovely speckled horses that the Native Indians used to ride.  Today you may see many paint horses and appaloosas, but nothing like the beautiful speckled Nokota horses.

After searching the net, I found an organization that is devoted to keeping this beautiful and rare breed of horse alive.  It is called the Nokota Horse Conservatory. It is nice to see that there is something out there that supports this magnificent breed that used to roam the Northern Plains.

Now onto this bread recipe!  The bread has a batter that reminds me of a chocolate chip cookie muffin.  However, even though it has chocolate chips and nuts, the inclusion of the shredded apple and cinnamon and nutmeg does make for a very unique taste.  I hardly ever see apples with chocolate in baked goods, but we do see chocolate dipped apples around the Halloween season, so I wanted to try it.  I am glad I did.

The slices turned out moist and tasty.  It makes for a great afternoon snack.  However, if you want to indulge a little bit more, serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream on top.

Nokota Sweet Bread
by flourtrader

1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of chopped toasted pecans
1 large Granny Smith apple**
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

** 1/16/12-due to one reader's issue with the amount of moisture in this recipe, I will now say that the green Granny Smith apple is the required ingredient.  Other types of apples have a higher moisture content.  I only bake with Granny Smith, so I did not know what the result would have been with another apple, but now I do.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease one 9X5 inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper and grease face up side.

Beat egg and egg yolk together until fluffy.  Then beat in the sugar and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt,  nutmeg and cinnamon.  Then peel the apple and grate in a food processor with a fitted blade.  Your grated apple should yield about one cup.

Stir the apple into the sugar/egg batter.  Then add the vegetable oil, pecans, vanilla and chocolate chips.  Once that is all blended fold in the sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.

Bake until tester comes out clean.  Mine took about 35 minutes and I used a dark pan, a lighter or glass pan will take a little longer.

Remove pan from oven and let bread cool for about 5 minutes.  Then invert onto rack and turn face up to let cool completely.  Due to its moist texture, the bread should be covered and refrigerated about one hour before slicing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ruby Puddle Cookies

These cookies are pretty much like lace or Florentine cookies.  I have seen a lot all around the net but I wanted mine to have their own unique flavor.  After some careful thinking, I decided to incorporate chocolate nibs and maraschino cherries together.  The nibs would hold most of their shape with the heat, unlike chocolate chips.  Also, when it comes to fruit and chocolate-cherries are my first pick.

After making these I then thought of shaping them into a cylinder and not using the cherries in the cookies.  Then the door opens up to tons of variations with different fillings-with cherry being one of them!  This recipe makes about 25 cookies.

Ruby Puddle Cookies
by flourtrader

1 cup of cocoa nibs
1/2 cup of maraschino cherries chopped
2 tbs plus 1 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 2 baking sheets.

Fill a medium size saucepan with brown sugar, maraschino juice, butter and corn syrup.  Place over medium high heat and stir constantly.  Let the mixture come to a boil and then boil for about 5 minutes, still stirring all during the cooking process.  Be careful that the mixture does not boil over.

Remove from heat.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in cocoa nibs, flour and cherry pieces until evenly distributed.  Then scoop out in heaping teaspoons and place on baking sheets about 3 inches apart.  Then place about a 2 foot piece of wax paper on a flat surface.  That will be the final cooling place for your cookies.

Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes.  Remove pan and let cookies rest on sheets for about 2-3 minutes.  Test one cookie to see if it tears when you try to remove.  If so they need to cool a minute longer.  Place cookies on wax paper to finish cooling.

Also, a note to thank you all for voting me in top 9 today!   After the hassle of getting my business done yesterday and today it was a very welcome sight to see.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cinnamon Topped Immortality Bars

The name of these particular bars are based on Chinese mythology that the consumption of peaches will give you longevity.  The legendary effects were depicted in a novel called "The Journey to the West" in which the protector of the peaches learned that a single peach would add 1000 years to your life.  1000 years is a long time...makes you wonder what a thousand year old person would even look like.  The youthful thing would have be included with the 1000 years to make it even worth while to me!

These particular bars are a cakey bar.  The base is made of a blend of peaches and peach schnapps.  Toasted pecans were included to add texture as well as another level of taste.  It is all topped off with cinnamon powdered sugar.  The peach flavor is more evident if eaten the second day.

Cinnamon Topped Immortality Bars
by flourtrader

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen peaches (thawed)
1/4 cup peach schnapps
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the inside of a 10 inch springform pan.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a food processor, add peaches and peach schnapps and puree together.

In a separate bowl, cream together shortening and brown sugar.  Stir in peach puree mix and vanilla extract, beating until all is blended well.  Then fold in sifted ingredients until no dry streaks remain.  Then fold in nuts.

Spoon batter into springform pan.  Using a spatula, smooth the batter evenly on top.  Then place pan in oven.  My pan was dark so baking time was 20 minutes, if you use a clear or light pan the baking time may be more.  Bars are done when tester comes out clean.

While bars are baking, put powdered sugar and cinnamon in a zip lock bag and seal.  Shake well to mix.  Set aside.

Once the bars are done, remove the pan and let cool about 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture over the top and remove ring.  Let bars cool completely and then cut to serve.

Just a note to say that I will be away tomorrow taking care of some business that I have been putting off for some time now.  I should be back sometime on Wednesday to post, hopefully before noon.  I will be positive and say things should be back to normal by Thursday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Baked Lemon Cake Puddings

I had bookmarked these several months ago, but the book somehow got put back on the shelf with the bookmark still in it.  I just came across it recently.  Now I am wondering,what else has a bookmark.  At least I came across it now, so I was happy to make these.

This recipe is a concoction which allows the cake part to float to the top and the custard part to float to the bottom.  While there was not a big distinction between the cake and pudding layer, I did find these to be tasty.  They were a nice change from the chocolatey cake I made earlier this week.

I love all things citrus-my favorite fruit drink is lemonade.  You will not see me drinking tea or soda if lemonade is around, regardless of the weather.  When I took of spoonful of this cross between a cake and a pudding, I was quite taken.  Fluffy in some areas and silky smooth in others, the texture was pleasing to the palate.  Also, the tart lemony flavor was pretty addicting, so it was very difficult not to eat the whole thing.  It had just the right amount of tartness, not mouth puckering but enough for you to notice the zing. 

I filled two 16 ounce ramekins to make mine.  The recipe below is for six 6 ounce custard cups or ramekins.  Also, you can use a 1 quart casserole dish.  The cooking time should be about 55-65 minutes for the casserole dish.

Baked Lemon Cake Puddings
adapted from Good Housekeeping Book of Desserts

3 tbs flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 tbs melted butter
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 medium sized lemons

Grease all the inside of the ramekins or custard cups.  Set aside.

Zest the lemons to make 1 tablespoon.  Then squeeze out 1/3 cup of lemon juice.

Fill a small bowl with the egg whites and salt.  Beat until soft peaks form and continue to beat, slowly adding 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat at high speed until the mixture reaches the stiff peak stage.

Take out another bowl and beat egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  Then add all the other ingredients and beat until well blended.  Fold the egg white mixture into the batter with a whisk or spatula, folding until no white streaks remain.

Then boil about 6 or 7 cups of water in a saucepan.  While this is coming to a boil, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Evenly fill the custard cups with the batter and place in a 9X13 inch pan and place on oven rack.  Fill the pan with the boiling water so it comes halfway up the sides of the custard cups.  Slide rack with pan back into oven and bake until tops are golden and firm.  This should take about 40-45 minutes.  Remove and let custard cups cool on wire rack before serving.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Double Nut Drenched Chocolate Cake

I am so excited about this layer cake.  This is actually the first one I have made in a long time and I was able to cut the recipe down to make a 6 inch round cake.  The size is just perfect for small gatherings.

I found the taste of this cake to be unforgettably delicious!  Between the Frangelico liqueur, hazelnuts, two flavor layers and the fudgy pecan topping, I decided that this is one of my favorites.  While I usually prefer the Bundt style cakes, the cake layers in this one are so flavorful it has changed my general thoughts in  regards to layer cakes.  This is one I will be making again.

The recipe below is as originally stated for 3 round 8 inch cake layers.  While the cake is not supposed to be frosted on the sides, but 1/3 of the topping between the layers were to much in my opinion.  I cut it back and had extra to frost the sides.  Also, the cooling time in the pan of 10 minutes was not enough.  It released better after it cooled for about 17 minutes, but my cakes were only 6 inches instead of 8.  Cooling time in the pan on an 8 inch layer cake may take more time.

Double Nut Drenched Chocolate Cake
adapted from Southern Living

1/4 cup of vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnut liqueur (I used frangelico)
2 eggs
3/4 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup cocoa (I used Dutch)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

Ingredients/Chocolate Topping
1 lb of butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 four ounce dark chocolate bars, chopped or 3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Prepare 3 eight inch cake pans by greasing all the inside and line the bottom with wax paper.  Grease top side of paper and dust all of the inside with flour.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In one bowl, sift together baking soda, flour and salt.  In a second bowl, mix water and vinegar.  Place the butter in a third bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add the brown sugar to the butter in three increments, beating  30 seconds after each addition.  Beat in 1 egg until evenly distributed and add the last egg, beating again.

Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the butter batter.  Pour in half of the vinegar water mixture and stir until all is blended into the batter.  Continue with the same process, ending with the sifted mixture.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla and hazelnuts.

Measure out batter and divide into thirds.  This process will insure that your layers will be even.  Fill 1 pan with 1/3 of the batter and smooth the top.  Fill another one, smoothing the top also.  On the last of the batter, fold in the cocoa until evenly distributed.  Then fill the last prepared cake pan with the cocoa batter and smooth the top..

Bake until tester comes out clean, which should be about 19-21 minutes.  Remove pans from the oven and let cool on rack for 15-20 minutes.  Then invert onto rack and peel wax paper off of the layers.  Let layers cool completely.

Brush the top surface of all layers with hazelnut liqueur.

To make the topping, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then stir in chocolate until all is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Blend in the nuts and extract until evenly distributed.  Let mixture cool and set up to frosting consistency.  This should take about 45-60 minutes.  I placed mine in the fridge and it went from runny to thick in about 20 minutes. If you do refrigerate, keep a close eye on it because you do not want it too thick for you will tear the cake while trying to frost.

To assemble, one white cake layer should be placed face down on cake round or surface.  Then frost only the center,not the sides, with 1/3 of the topping. If you find that 1/3 is too thick for your preference, cut it back some and then after you do the layers you can frost the sides with the remaining topping.  Place the chocolate layer on top and frost the surface with another 1/3 of the topping.  Then place the last layer on top and frost the surface with the last third of the topping.

Let cake set for about 3-4 hours before slicing. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sicilian Wine Cookies

In late 2010, I was looking at all the cookie contests on the net.  One of the largest postings was the one for the LA Times.  I believe they actually posted not just the winners but quite a number of the entrants, because they wanted the people to vote.  I was busy saving a lot of them.  Some of the recipes were good and others not so much.  This is actually one I had not tried yet, but the list of ingredients was interesting, so I went ahead and made them.

The cookies are a mix of wine, lemon zest, orange zest and chocolate which is rolled in white sugar and shaped into crescents before baking.  The two things I changed about the recipe was to substitute vanilla extract for anise and I used mini chocolate chips instead of chopping up a block of chocolate.  The recipe below is the original.

These are a crisp cookie that tastes of orange and chocolate.  The wine may be a key factor in creating the texture of the cookie, but the flavor did not come through.  However, for those that like the mix of orange and chocolate, this is the cookie for you. I was happy with the results, but I would probably include chopped nuts in place of the chocolate chips next time and dip half the cookie in chocolate after baking.  That would add another flavor and also improve the look of these.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen crescent cookies.

Sicilian Wine Cookies
adapted from LA Times 2010 Cookie Contest

1/4 cup Chianti or Marsala Wine
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp Anise extract
1 egg
2/3 cup chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 tsp fresh orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small size bowl, beat egg for a minute at medium speed.  Then add the sugar and beat for another minute.  Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the cinnamon, baking powder and flour.

Place both zests into the sugar/egg batter and beat for one minute.  Add the extract and oil, beating mixture until all is smooth and well blended.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the wine.  Once all wine is added beat at medium speed for 30 seconds.

Pour half of the sifted ingredients into the batter and mix using a wooden spoon.  Make sure no dry streaks remain.  Then stir in the chocolate.  Add half of the remaining flour and mix until smooth.  Add the rest of the flour, stirring until all is evenly distributed.

Shape dough into balls about 1 1/4 inch in diameter and roll in sugar.  Then shape into a thin, 3 inch long crescent and place on cookie sheet.  Cookies do not spread during baking so you should be able to place them about 1/2 inch apart.  I got a dozen cookies on one baking sheet.

Bake until edges turn golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.  Rotate pans at the halfway point to cook evenly. Let cookies rest on pan for at least a minute or so before transferring to rack to cool.