Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

The cold weather here has had me craving a rich and spicy dessert.  Gingerbread was definitely in order.  In scanning several recipes, it became clear that there are many different variations on this classic favorite.  Some recipes had pepper and espresso powder, while others had candied ginger.

I settled on a recipe that produced a deeply spiced cake, but only reflected the traditional flavor.  The unique thing about this recipe is the use of stout beer.  The cakes turned out crispy on the edges and very moist.  Perhaps it was the beer, but I believe that the oil was actually the main factor for the texture.  The filling may be a basic cream cheese frosting, but I could not think of a better pairing.

The recipe is actually one for a 2 layer, 7 inch cake but the batter turned out to be the perfect amount for 12 whoopie pies.  So dig out all those ground spices from your cabinet for this recipe, you will be glad you did.

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies
adapted from Miette

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs stout beer (Guiness is recommended)
3/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cardamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs and 2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup flour

Ingredients/ Filling

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) and 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Mini Honey Teddy Grahams
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the cavities of 2-12 cavity non stick whoopie pie pans.

Stir together the molasses and stout in a small saucepan.  Place over medium heat and continue to stir as the mixture comes to a boil.  While still stirring after the boil stage, sprinkle in the baking soda.  This will cause the consistency to become very foamy.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  Mixture is ready to use once it reached room temperature.

In a medium bowl sift together the dry ingredients: 5 different spices as listed above, salt, baking powder and flour.  Also put this aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 types of sugars and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until light in color, about 3 minutes.  Keep the mixer running and slowly pour in the oil.  Once the oil has been blended into the batter, change mixer speed to low.  Pour a steady stream of the molasses mixture into the batter.  Once blended, remove bowl from mixer stand.

Fold the sifted ingredients into the batter.  Once there are no streaks of flour, strain mixture into a bowl.  Then fill each pan cavity with 2 tbs of batter.  Place pans in oven and bake for 4 minutes, then rotate and switch racks with each pan.  Bake for an additional 4-6 minutes.  The cakes are done when they spring back when lightly touched in the center.

Remove pans and let cakes cool for about 10 minutes.  Then take a plastic fork and go around the edges of each cake and slip underneath to remove cake from cavity.  Place cakes on rack to cool.

Once completely cool, place 12 cakes on individual squares of wax paper.  Cakes will need to be refrigerated for at least one hour before filling.

To make the filling, beat together butter and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  This should take about 3 minutes on medium speed.  Then remove cream cheese from package and place in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 2 intervals of 10 seconds each.  Add cream cheese to butter mixture and beat for 2 minutes. 

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling on top of the cakes on the wax papers.  Smooth the filling evenly over the cake.  Repeat process until all cakes are filled.  Then place one cake on top, creating a sandwich.

Then beat the cream and sugar together until it becomes very thick and holds its shape.  Using a star tip, pipe the whipped cream in the seam of where the edges of the two cakes meet.  Then pipe a rosette on top and place 1 mini honey graham bear on top.

Tips and Notes:

1. These cakes are very moist and stick to parchment.  I served each of them on the square of wax paper and they did not stick.
2. The pans I used were non stick and the recipes with them stated grease and flour the pans. I did not want flour residue on cakes, so I just used grease in pans.
3. Use caution when removing cakes from pan, they are delicate and moist.
4. The cakes, without filling, can be stored tightly wrapped for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
5. The filling, tightly covered, will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  However, it will need to be beaten for about 2 minutes prior to using.
6. The amount of filling for these cakes is based on personal preference, so feel free to increase it if you want more. 
                              **LAST YEAR: Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake**

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Creme Bruleed Chocolate Bundt

Devils food cake is something that most of us can hardly turn down.  It is always one that is guaranteed to take care of any chocolate craving.  It is such a wonderful cake, trying to make it even better can pose a bit of a challenge.

It seems as if this particular recipe did succeed in that respect.  In addition to a rich fudgy cake, you have raspberries filling the center hole that are mixed with raspberry liqueur.  Then a thick cream brulee covers the top which sprinkled with sugar and then caramelized with a blow torch to form a shell.

My only issue with the preparation was the caramelizing of the cream on top.  I have a welders blow torch, so it was difficult.  Even though the sugar was heavily sprinkled on top, all the torch seemed to do was melt the cream off of the cake.  I am sure with practice and an actual kitchen torch, the caramelizing of the sugar would be a easier task. 

However, the blow torch problem did nothing to impair the great taste of this cake.  I do love wine and dark chocolate, but after this, the raspberry liqueur is my first choice. Also, the cream brulee on top brings in the third flavor which comes directly from a vanilla bean, creating one tasty trifecta of a dessert.  Please note that this recipe is for a 10 cup capacity bundt pan.

Cream Bruleed Chocolate Bundt
adapted from Baking with Julia

Ingredients/Creme Brulee
3 tbs sugar
5 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup heavy cream

4 eggs, separated
2 egg whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour

Ingredients/Filling and Topping
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
1 1/2 cups raspberries
3-4 tbs sugar

For the cream brulee, start by filling a saucepan with the heavy cream.  Then split the vanilla bean and scrape out all the seeds into the cream and put the pod in the cream as well.  Place the saucepan over low heat and mix.  Once the mixture comes to a boil remove saucepan from heat and set aside.

Set up a double boiler and let water come to a simmer in the bottom pot.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks.  Pour mixture into the top pot of the double boiler that has already been placed over the simmering water.  Let the mixture cook while continuously whisking.  Once the mixture turns pale yellow and is very hot, remove the top pot from the simmering water and turn off the heat. Leave the pot of simmering water on top of the original heat source.

Then slowly blend the warm cream mixture into the yolks in intervals.  Pour in some of the cream and whisk until mixed and continue with this process until all the cream is blended.  Place this pot back on top of the one filled with warm water.  Let mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. In the meantime, fill a large bowl with ice.  Once the custard is very thick, place the pot of cream in the bowl with the ice.  After the mixture cools, remove the vanilla pod and strain into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

As the brulee is cooling, the cake can be made.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the bundt pan by buttering the inside and dusting with flour.  Take care to make sure all cracks and crevasses are covered.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium size bowl.  Then mix in 1 cup of sugar.  In another bowl, blend together egg yolks, vanilla extract, water and oil.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture, stirring until no dry streaks remain.  Mixture will be very thick.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the 6 egg whites.  Beat at low speed until they reach a foamy consistency and barely hold a peak.  Continue to run the mixer, but increase the speed to medium.  Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of sugar, beating the whole time.  As the mixer is running the consistency of the whites will change.  They will become glossy and hold their shape as stiff  peaks.

Take 1/3 of the whites and blend with the chocolate mixture.  Then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites.  Once blended, pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Place cake pan on a baking sheet or jelly roll pan and put in oven.  Set timer for 35 minutes.  Check cake at the end of this time to see if a tester comes out clean.  The cake should already have started to pull from the edges of the pan and there should be some small cracks on the surface.  If the tester does not come out clean, bake for another few minutes until tester indicates done.

Remove and place on rack to cool for 25 minutes.  Then invert onto rack and let cool completely.  Invert again onto cake plate so decorative side is face up.

Once the cake is cooled, place raspberries in a small bowl and toss with the raspberry liqueur.  Then fill the center hole of the cake with the raspberries and pour all excess liqueur from the bowl on top of the berries.

Spoon the cold custard over the center and top of cake, making sure the raspberries are completely covered.  Sprinkle on the sugar and take a blow torch to the custard and let the sugar brown and  caramelize to form a shell over the top of the cake.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cake by itself can be made a day ahead and kept at room temperature. However, if filled and covered in custard, it must be served immediately.
2. The custard can also be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated.
3. The recipe states to spoon the custard over the top and drizzle down the sides.  The drizzling effect is hard to achieve with cold custard, but piping the custard down the sides is an option.
4. If I was to make this again, I would probably increase the custard recipe by 1/2 to insure that there is enough to drizzle down the sides.
                                      **LAST YEAR:Aristocrat Cookies**


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kiwi Pomegranate Angel Pies

Ok, so now that most of the holiday cookie season has passed us, time to move on to something a little more different.  Time for winter fruit, but not apples or pears.  Looking at the list of seasonal fruits, kiwi and pomegranate jumped out at me.  Then the hunt was on for a dessert that incorporated both of these delicious lovely fruits.

Not only did I find a recipe, but it also put me to the challenge of making something fairly new.  I have made a few things with meringue, but never like this.  The meringues were not as fragile as expected.  Also, regarding the pastry cream, I found the instructions particularly easy. Unlike this recipe, others involve standing and whisking at the stove for up to 20 minutes in order for the pastry cream to thicken.  Even though this recipe takes time, it is actually wait time, not working time.

This tri-texture dessert does please the palate as well as the eye. The combo of juicy fruit, thick rich pastry cream and the crunchy meringue makes for a wonderful way to end a meal. This dessert is one that will make an impression and be remembered long after your the dinner party is over.

Kiwi Pomegranate Angel Pies
adapted from Gourmet Magazine/Nov 2006

1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs powdered sugar

Ingredients/Pastry Cream
2 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 tbs flour or 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
4 egg yolks (reserved from meringue)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole milk

Ingredients/Fruit Topping
1/2 cup pomegranate(fruit from one whole peeled pomegranate)
8-10 kiwi fruit

The first part of this dessert is the meringue.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Separate eggs by putting yolks in a small bowl, cover and place in refrigerator to reserve for pastry cream.  Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat the eggs whites at medium speed until they reach the foamy stage.  With the mixer still running, add the cream of tartar and salt and continue to beat until you reach the soft peak stage.  Then start beating in the sugar in one tablespoon increments until a total of 8 tbs or 1/2 cup has been added.

Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for 5 minutes.  The end result should be meringue with a stiff glossy consistency.  Using a wooden spoon, fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.

To form the meringues, you can use a pastry tip.  Make a circle of meringue (about 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter and then form another layer with a circle on top.  Then put a little meringue in the center and smooth it out so it forms a bottom, like an empty pool.  This creates a nice base to put your pastry cream into.  The other method is to spoon out the meringue and use the back of the spoon to make an indention. Continue to form the meringues, making a total of 10 meringues, 5 on each baking sheet.

Using a sieve, fill with powdered sugar and lightly dust the surface of each meringue.  Place each pan in the oven and leave door propped open about a 1/2 an inch.  A wooden spoon is a good item to use for this purpose.  Let meringues cook for about 2 1/2 hours.  They should be very dry and crisp.  Turn the oven off and allow for an additional hour in the oven to dry completely. During the last 15 minutes, remove the egg yolks from the refrigerator to get to room temperature. After the baking process, remove pans from the oven and carefully peel meringues off the parchment paper.  Place each meringue on a cooling rack.

To make the pastry cream, start by sifting together the flour, cornstarch and salt.  Then whisk in only 2 tbs of sugar and set aside.  in a medium size bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork or wire whisk.  Add the dry ingredients and beat again until all is blended.

In a small saucepan, pour in milk and add 2 tbs of sugar.  Place over medium heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil and all sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Working quickly, pour half of the milk mixture into the egg/flour blend and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a batter.  Pour this batter back into the remaining milk in saucepan.  Place saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until custard comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and mix in vanilla extract and butter.

Push all the custard mixture through a sieve, using a spatula or wooden spoon. Cover bowl of custard with wax paper and place in refrigerator to chill for 2 hours.

During the last hour of the chilling process, peel and slice the kiwi into 1/4 thick slices. Also, whisk or beat the whipping cream until it reaches the stiff peak stage.  Once the custard cream is completely chilled, remove it from the refrigerator.  Using a wire whisk, mix up the custard to make sure there is nothing sticking to the edges of the bowl.  Fold the whipped cream into the custard and blend until smooth.  Again, cover and place in refrigerator for 1/2 hour.

To assemble the angel pies, remove the chilled custard from the refrigerator.  Spoon about 3 tbs of pastry cream into each meringue shell and smooth the top.  Place slices of kiwi decoratively on top of the pastry cream center.  Then sprinkle on the pomegranate and lightly press with a spoon to adhere.
Tips and Notes;
1. Dessert should be served as soon as possible, otherwise the meringue will lose their crunchy texture.
2. When forming the meringues, make that the interior of your meringue has a thick enough bottom
3. The meringue itself is very sweet, feel free to omit the powder sugar dusting
4.  The tartness of the fruit is what offsets the sweet meringue so a liberal use of fruit topping is fine
                                         **LAST YEAR:Spice Donuts**                            

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Evergreen Shortbread Cookies

Like me, I am sure you are wondering about the word "evergreen" in the title of this post.  The name comes from a special ingredient.  That ingredient would be Douglas Fir Tea.

Like the Earl Grey cookies made before, the measurement of the tea leaves is questionable.  The recipe states one packet.  Based on that, I used the amount found in 1 tea bag.  The end result was just a plain butter shortbread cookie - no tea flavor. This recipe is for 2 dz and the Earl Grey recipe for 3 dz indicated to use anywhere from 1-2 tbs of tea leaves.  Needless to say, this recipe will require more tweaking to get a more prominent flavor of the tea in the cookies.

However, everybody does favor plain shortbread cookies, so it was not a big issue.  Also, I have plenty of tea left for tweaking.  The recipe is versatile, so you can add any type of tea leaves that you want, according to your preference.

I still have to try the tea as a drink, so being able to actually taste the flavor is not going to be too difficult.  It is described as slightly bitter with notes of citrus.

Evergreen Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Organic and Chic
Douglas Fir Tea (measure to your preference)
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg white
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
green sanding sugar

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cream together on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl at 1 minute intervals.

In another bowl, sift together flour and sugar. Using a wooden spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.  Then mix in the tea leaves.

Shape dough into a log and roll up in plastic wrap and fit inside a cardboard paper towel holder.  To create my shape, I buttered the inside of an ice cream mold and lined the long sides with parchment, leaving some overhang. Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from fridge. Take dough out of holder and remove plastic wrap.  Take the egg white and beat with a fork for a few minutes.  Then coat the dough log with the egg white and roll in sanding sugar.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the dough log into 1/4 inch circles, yielding about 2 dozen cookies.  Place each circle on prepared cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  After cookies are all formed and on baking sheets, put in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Remove and bake about 18-20 minutes.  Take pans out of oven and let cookies cool on pans for 2 minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Tiger Tea Cakes**