Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

This particular recipe turned out to be a lesson in texture.  Whole wheat used in a recipe equates to dense and heavy, in my mind.  However, these were 50 percent whole wheat pastry flour and 50 percent regular flour, so I thought that they would be lighter. The mixture did result in a dense cupcake.  I prefer a lighter cupcake, so a repeat of this recipe would be a change to using cake flour.

As far as the flavor, the special ingredient of dried coconut milk was not very evident in the cupcake. It turned out to be a better addition for the frosting, which did have a coconut taste.  I like the flavor combo of coconut and chocolate, but I still feel that this recipe could be tweaked some to improve the flavor intensity and the texture.

Also, the recipe states to let the cupcakes rest 10 minutes in the pan after baking.  My cupcakes came loose from the paper liners and had to be transferred to clean paper liners.  So there is some adjustments needed in this area as well. The cupcakes should not cool in the pans and the liners should have been filled more.

Below is the recipe in its original form without changes. It was a section in the magazine that was promoting the use of whole grains in recipes.  This particular recipe makes approximately 20 cupcakes.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
adapted from Bon Appetit / Feb 2008

Ingredients/ Cupcakes
5 eggs
2 tbs milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 drops coconut flavoring or 3/4 tsp coconut extract
1 1/4 cups butter
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups miniature  semis sweet chocolate chips (11 oz)

Ingredients/ Frosting
1/2 cup coconut milk powder
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 drops coconut flavoring or 1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbs or more of milk
flaked sweetened coconut (optional for topping)

Prepare muffin tins by lining 20 cavities with paper liners.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, sift together the powdered coconut milk, flour, pastry flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a second bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until there are no more lumps.  Beat in 1/2 cup of sugar and repeat 2 more times with the remaining sugar.  Then add the coconut flavoring and vanilla extract.

Pour in the dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process of adding and beating for each of the remaining eggs.  Once smooth,  beat in the milk.  Then fold in the chocolate chips until evenly disbursed through out the batter.  Then fill the prepared muffin cavities 2/3 full of batter.

Bake until tester comes out clean, which is about 22 minutes.  Let the cupcakes rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

As the cupcakes cool, create the frosting.  In a medium size bowl, add coconut milk powder, butter and salt.  Beat for about 45 seconds on medium speed, occassionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add vanilla extract and coconut flavor or extract.  Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds so the flavor is incorporated into the batter. 

Sift in 1 cup of powdered sugar to the butter mixture and beat until no dry streaks remain.  Repeat this process until all the powdered sugar has been mixed into the butter batter.  The beat in the milk in increments of 1 tablespoon until it reaches the desired consistency.

Spread frosting or pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.  If desired, sprinkle sweetened coconut on top.

Tips and Notes:
1. Even if using 2 pans, bake all at the same time so the batter does not sit and rise in the bowl while your first pan is baking.

2.  Also 20 is an odd number since muffin tins are in multiples of six and 12 cavity capacity.  Before baking, fill the empty muffin cavities with water. By filling with water, you have a more weight stable pan and it keeps your muffin tin cavities from discoloration.

3. If you are not using a scoop for the batter and use a spoon, tap your pan on the counter to get the air out of the batter before baking.
                                        **THREE YEARS AGO: Citrus Sri Lanka Cookies**


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Aunt Bills Brown Candy

The year was 1936. During this year: the Hoover Dam was finally completed, Joe DiMaggio made his baseball debut, the 40 hour work week law went into place and aviation gasoline was first produced commercially.  Along with all of this, was the creation of an unforgettable candy. The recipe was named after its creator, Aunt Bill, and is known as Aunt Bill's Brown Candy.

This candy falls mid-way between praline and fudge in consistency and flavor. However, it is not much until the pecans are added. Just imagine an 8 inch square that is 3/4 inch high that includes one pound of chopped toasted pecans. That makes the candy part more of just a coating to hold all those pecans together.  Also, it adds just enough sweetness to the pecans to have you craving for more than one piece.

We all have our own favorites we create for the holidays, but it is nice to add a little something different to the repertoire of desserts.  One bite and you will know why this recipe keeps popping up on the net and in magazines year after year.

Aunt Bills Brown Candy
adapted from Bon Appetit/ Dec 2008

1 lb or 4 cups of chopped toasted pecans
3 cups sugar, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup half and half
5 tbs butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup water
4 tsp baking soda

Prepare an 8X8 inch square pan by dotting the interior bottom with butter and buttering the interior sides.  Then line with parchment paper in the bottom and two sides, leaving a little overhang on each side.  Butter the face up side of parchment as well.

In one saucepan, add 2 cups of sugar and half and half.  Place over medium heat and stir constantly.  When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside.

In the second saucepan, fill with remaining 1 cup sugar and water.  Stir and then place over medium low heat.  Continue to stir until sugar is dissolved.  Cease stirring and turn heat up to medium or medium high.  As the mixture boils, use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides.  Within 8 minutes the sugar water will change to a deep amber color.  Remove caramel from heat and turn down heat to medium low.

Pour caramel into cream/sugar mixture and place over heat. Stir and cook until smooth. At the start the caramel will seize up, but this is fine.  After heating and stirring, the caramel will melt and meld with the sugar/cream.  

Once smooth, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Turn heat up to medium and continue to stir and let cook, until mixture reaches a temperature of 244 degrees.  This should take about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda.

Then stir in butter cubes until melted.  Once the butter is melted, leave mixture to rest undisturbed until the temperature drops to 160 degrees.  The cooling process takes about 20 minutes.  After the candy has cooled, stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer to a stand mixer bowl.  Using the batter blade, beat the candy on medium for about 4-5 minutes or until it becomes very thick and loses its gloss.  Stir in the nuts and then transfer to the prepared pan. Press lightly with wet hands until the candy evenly covers the bottom and all corners of the pan.  Let cool and cut into 30 squares with a sharp knife.
                              **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Orange Sweet Rolls*

Sunday, November 16, 2014

PBC Cookie Biscotti Sticks

There is something special about turning out something tasty from the kitchen in a short amount of time.  Yes, you can easily do that with a box mix, but creating it from scratch makes it so much better.  Recipes like these should be filed under "magic time". That way when you are in a pinch for time your resources are easy to get to. Outside of the two to three hours chilling time, these bars can be assembled and baked in a little over 30 minutes. That factor, as well as the taste, definitely qualifies for being special.

This particular recipe has 2 layers.  The bottom layer, much like a granola bar, is baked and consists of packed oats coated with a sweet mixture of brown sugar and peanut butter.  Topping it all off is sweet blend of butterscotch, chocolate and peanut butter.  The peanut butter and chocolate (PBC) combination does have quite a number of fans, so do not expect these to last long.

PBC Cookie Biscotti Sticks
adapted from Southern Living Christmas

Ingredients/ bottom layer
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3 1/2 cups oats (regular, not quick cooking)

Ingredients/ top layer
1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbs shortening
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil.

For the bottom layer, melt butter in a large saucepan placed over medium heat.  Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup.  Let cook and continue to stir until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove saucepan and add peanut butter and vanilla extract to mixture. Stir until peanut butter has melted and and is evenly dispersed through the batter.  Then stir in oats in 1/2 cup increments, making sure that there are no dry oats left, all are coated with the batter.

Empty mixture into prepared pan.  Using the back of a spoon or clean hands, press the mixture evenly in the pan covering all edges and corners.  Place pan in oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.  When done, it should be a golden brown hue and the oats more solid and crisp.     

The other layer starts by setting up a double boiler.   Once the water starts to simmer in the lower pot, cover with the top pot. Fill pot with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and shortening.  Once you see the chips starting to melt, mix with a spoon.  Then let the mixture rest 2-3 minutes and then stir again. Repeat that process until all the chips are melted and batter is smooth.  Add the peanut butter and stir until completely blended.

Pour chocolate mixture over bottom oat layer.  Smooth out evenly and top with chopped peanuts.  Place pan on cooling rack and let sit for 20 minutes.  Cover pan and place in refrigerator to firm up for a few hours.

Remove and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes.  Then cut into 12 one inch wide strips.
                                 **2 YEARS AGO: Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake**

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Blackberry Focaccia

It seems like I can never get out of the grocery store without blackberries.  While I do love to eat them as a snack, they make for a super item to have for breakfast or dessert. Since I had gone a little overboard in the quantity, I wanted to put them to use in a recipe.  Finding that special recipe that sparks my interest sometimes takes longer than the whole process of creating and posting.  After several hours of research, I was happy to come across this particular recipe.

This particular recipe makes me think of muffin tops.  We all know that muffin tops are the best part of the muffin.  There are times when that is all you want and the rest of the muffin seems to be too much sweet bread to devour.  If so, then it is time to consider converting the savory focaccia into something sweet.  Less bread, more topping---count me in.

This bread is still made with the original choice of olive oil but it is interesting in how this ingredient is incorporated into the topping.  The almond brown sugar streusel and the tart, juicy berries make for a perfect balance of flavor on top of the focaccia bread. Thicker than a pop tart but thinner than coffeecake, one piece will make you happy you stopped midway between the two.

Blackberry Focaccia
adapted from Baking For All Occasions

1 lb bread flour (approx 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (approx 90-100 degrees)
5 tbs olive oil

Ingredients/ Streusel
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp gnd cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs flour
5 tbs cold butter, cut up
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups blackberries

To make the bread, start by pouring warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Then sprinkle on the yeast and a pinch of sugar from the measured teaspoon.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Pour in the olive oil first and then add the flour on top.  Sprinkle in the salt and remaining sugar.

Using a dough hook, beat the mixture on low speed for 12 minutes or more. Beat until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and balls up around the dough hook.  The dough should be smooth and elastic, but still retain a slight stickiness.  Take hook out of dough and remove bowl from the stand.  Cover lightly with a towel or plastic wrap.  Let set in a warm place until doubled in size.  This should take about 30-35 minutes.

While this is rising, complete the process for infusing the olive oil.  The initial step is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then pour the almonds on a baking sheet and place in oven.  Let them toast for about 8 minutes in the oven.  Remove the pan and pour nuts into a small ramekin or bowl.  Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the almonds, making sure all are submerged.  Set aside to cool. Turn off the oven. Once the nut mixture cools, strain out olive oil and reserve nuts in a smaller bowl.

After the dough has completed the first rising session, you will need to prepare a baking sheet.  The baking sheet size should be 15 1/2x 10 1/2 x 1 inch, like a jelly roll pan.  Grease the interior of the pan and then line the bottom with parchment paper.  Brush the surface of the parchment paper with some of the reserved almond infused oil.  Punch down dough and then stretch to fit evenly in the bottom of pan.  You may have to stop at a few intervals to let the dough rest for a minute if it seems to resist the stretching. However, it should not take long to get the dough stretched evenly, covering the bottom of the pan.  Cover lightly and place in a warm place for the 2nd rising.  For the 2nd rising , it should take about 60-70 minutes to double its original size.  The end result is dough that does not spring back when a light indention is made.

During second rise, pull out a food processor for preparing the streusel.  Fill the bowl with the reserved almonds and salt.  Pulse about 4 times, chopping the nuts in two.  Add the flour to the nuts.  Then sprinkle in sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Drop the cubes of butter on top.  Pulse the mixture repeatedly until it has a coarse texture and forms small pebble-like clumps. Pour in 1 1/2 tsp of almond infused oil and pulse 10 times. Add mixture to a smaller bowl and refrigerate until 2nd rising is completed.

Uncover dough after 2nd rising and brush with some of the reserved almond/olive oil.  Press blackberries into dough at 1 inch intervals.  Lastly, sprinkle the streusel evenly over the surface.  Cover again and place in a warm location and let rise its final and 3rd time until double.  This should take about 30-35 minutes.  While dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Once the 30-35 minutes rise time has passed, place another indentation in dough with your finger.  As before, it is ready if the dough does not spring back once your finger is removed.  Place in oven and let bake until edges are golden and blackberries are bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.  Be sure and rotate pan at the half way point of baking.  Let pan cool on rack about 30 minute before cutting into 3 inch squares.  These can be served warm or at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. It is important to have the correct size pan and making sure the dough is evenly stretched over the bottom of the pan. Otherwise it will be crisper in some areas and fluffier in others.

2. How much spread and bubbliness you have with the blackberries depends on if you use them at room temperature or right out of the refrigerator.  As you can see by the picture, mine were used right out of the refrigerator.

3. The original recipe states that weighing the flour makes a difference from the cup measurements, so use your scale if you have one. Also, it makes note that ingredients should be added in order as stated.

4. Be patient on the beating of dough at low speed, it may take sometime to get to the right consistency, but running your mixer on high will make for very tough bread.
                                 **LAST YEAR:Peppermint Patty Cake**


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roman Holiday Cream Cake

If you could see my liquor cabinet you would think having a cocktail or two is part of a daily routine. In reality, most of it is for the sake of baking. Recently I found myself in a outlet liquor store- that's right - outlet.  There were grocery carts at the front and it seemed like endless aisles of varieties to choose from.  I did not go to the cool case section with the beer, but I am sure it covered the all the beer brewers on the planet.

There are a lot of delicious recipes out that us booze as an ingredient but I was drawn to this recipe of a cake infused with almond liqueur. I have always enjoyed Italian cream cake and the addition of the almond liqueur proved to be a delicious benefit. Fluffy cake studded with chunks of pecans and coconut topped with a cream cheese amaretto icing.. it is quite a nice addition to afternoon tea as well as a sweet ending to a meal.

Besides the wonderful taste, this cake has such an elegant appearance it gives quite an impression. Now let's get down to baking!

Roman Holiday Cream Cake
adapted from Big Oven

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup almond liqueur
5 eggs, separated
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 sticks or  3/4 cup butter (room temp)
12 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup amaretto
4-5 cups powdered sugar
Whole pecan halves ( for decoration, optional)

Prepare 3 nine inch round cake pans by buttering interior and lining the bottom with parchment.  Butter the face up side of the parchment.  Dust the whole interior of each with flour.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl cream together butter and 2 cups of the sugar.  Once mixture is fluffy, add 1 egg yolk and beat 30 seconds on medium high speed.  Continue to add each egg yolk and beat until all have been incorporated into the batter.

Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a clean dry batter blade, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Then, while the mixer is still running, slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until you reach the stiff peak stage.  Then set bowl aside.

Using a small bowl, stir together both extracts, baking soda and buttermilk. Set this bowl aside also.

Divide out 1/3 of the sifted ingredients and fold into the creamed butter batter.  Stir in 1/4 cup of almond liqueur and 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture.  Then fold in 1/2 of the remaining sifted ingredients.  Add the remainder of the buttermilk and almond liqueur, stir and finish by folding in the last bit of sifted ingredients.

Add the egg whites to the batter and carefully fold in, using a spatula.  Lastly, stir in the coconut and pecans.

Pour the batter evenly into each of the round cake pans.  Place all three in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes or when tester indicates done.  Once done, remove from oven and let cakes rest in pan for about 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto rack and let completely cool prior to frosting.

For the frosting, place butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth.  Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into batter and mix until all is evenly distributed.  Then stir in the almond liqueur.  Add the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat again.  Should it be too thick, add some more almond liqueur.  Once the desired consistency is reached, fill and frost the cooled cake. Decorate as desired, placing the pecan halves around the top edge of the cake making a complete circle.  

Tips and Notes:
1. I had to mix up another 1/3 of the frosting recipe to finish covering the cake.  How much frosting
    you need is personal preference.
2. It states to store the cake in the fridge, but be sure that it is at room temperature when serving.
3. Measuring your batter and dividing by three will insure that each layer will be consistent in height.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Brandy Apple Cake**