Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers January Challenge: Tuiles plus Something Fruity

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

After missing December's Daring Bakers Challenge, I was very excited to get back to it this month. Sadly, I feel like I didn't give it 100%. Oh well. Our challenge this month was great: bake classic cookies called tuiles, shape them, decorate them, and pair them with something light and fruity. The example they gave us shape-wise was butterflies, and I decided not to think outside the box at all this month, so I did butterflies. The batter was a cinch to make. I started running into problems right before the baking step. Because I'm such a genious, I decided to use my silpat instead of parchment paper on my cookie sheet, but it made my butterfly stencil slide all over the place, so spreading the batter was kind of a nightmare. Then, because I'm such a lazy, impatient genious, I slathered the batter on way thick. I ended up having to bake the cookies longer than they were supposed to need, and instead of turning out nice and crisp, they were thick, strange, and chewy. But I think they looked kind of cute. Next time, I'll not use the silpat and take my time a little more spreading the batter.

I chose to pair my tuile butterflies with a treat my mom likes to call "Sugarplum Ice Cream." It is a very easy frozen treat made of sherbet, ice cream, cool whip, cookies, and nuts. It is easy, refreshing, and delicious. And it seemed to go really nicely with the whole butterfly thing.

Sugarplum Ice Cream

1/2 gallon raspberry sherbet, softened
1/2 gallon pineapple sherbet, softened
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 large container cool whip
1 package Mother's Coconut Macaroons, broken into gravel-sized chunks (super hard to find; I used the Wal-Mart equivalent)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Refreeze until hardened; serve. Makes a whole lot!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The CPSIA and a plea for action!

**An update: Thanks to the thousands and thousands of complaints, the CPSIA will be postponed for a year. Hopefully, during that time, they'll work out the many, many kinks. :)**

I know there aren't many people who read this blog, and I'm not usually one for soapboxes, but I feel like the word needs to be spread about the CPSIA. There are so many great websites that talk about it: Handmade Toy Alliance, Cool Mom Picks, and Fashion-Incubator, just to name a few. I won't go into lots of detail, because the previously-mentioned websites do a fantastic job of getting information out. But after spending an hour this morning reading CPSIA updates, I just feel dumb-founded and outraged. And I think that if you aren't outraged, it's just because you don't know what's going on. So maybe I can help raise awareness, even if it's just in a few people.

The CPSIA takes effect on February 10th of this year, and it requires testing for lead and phthalates on all products intended for use by children 12 years and under. Do you even understand what that means??? All products: bed sheets, blankets, t-shirts, binkies, books, crayons, socks, coloring books, wooden blocks, bicycles, diapers, ...everything. And it is retroactive, which means all products on the shelves as of Feb. 10th have to be tested, even if they've been around for 50 old library books. The American Library Association has been scrambling to figure out what to do about this. Do they pull every single children's book on the shelf on February 10th, or do they ban children 12 and under from the library??? They've asked the CPSC what's going on and still haven't gotten a straight answer. You can stay up-to-date on that particular CPSIA fiasco here.

Obviously, we all want out children to be healthy, and with the lead-laced toy scares of the past year, stricter testing requirements seem like a great idea. But the CPSIA seems like a poorly-thought-out, thrown-together law that has consequences going way beyond its intent, and Congress needs to know that! I've never been a very politically active person, but the craziness that is looming on February 10th makes my head spin. And, yes, I'm bummed that my brand new etsy shop is pretty much kaput--because I was really excited about it for a really long time. But I'm more bummed that it'll be really hard to find handmade toys for my kids, and that I likely won't be able to buy them hand-sewn scandinavian costumes at the festival this summer. I'm sad that the holiday craft market probably won't have any toys or clothes for kids this Christmas. So I wrote to my congressman and senators to let them know how I felt. I plead with you to do the same!
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Cupcakes

I had seen several ideas for inauguration day desserts, but I'm trying not to go to the grocery store this week--just to see if it can be done--so I couldn't make the flag cake with the berries, or the red, white, and blue jello parfaits or anything like that. I had also seen cute patriotic cupcake topper print-outs on Tangarang. So I opted for inauguration cupcakes. It wasn't until I already had my heart set on said cupcakes that I discovered that I didn't have a cake mix or even any eggs. Yikes! I ended up borrowing eggs and making Flower Cupcakes from the Barefoot Contessa. The reviews on the Food Network Website made them sound like the most delicious cupcakes in the world. Well, guess what...they were the most delicious cupcakes in the world! Someone who tasted one even said those very words: "Wow. This is the most delicious cupcake in the world!" My one tiny bit of advice: The directions tell you to fill the cupcake papers to the top, and you'll think, "That's insane." Trust yourself. Fill them like you would for any other recipe; you will get more than 24 cupcakes and they won't overflow in your oven! OK. One more tiny bit of advice: The frosting was delicious, but you maybe don't need all 3 sticks of butter that the recipe calls for! Maybe...

Flower Cupcakes
from the Barefoot Contessa, here

2 1/4 (18 Tablespoons) sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat the oven to 350. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Fill the cupcake liners to the top (don't do this!!!) with batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 lb powdered sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat just until smooth.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Cake Slice Bakers, Challenge #4: Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache

I have to apologize to my fellow Cake Slice Bakers for not participating in December. I took my hazelnuts all the way to my parents' house for Christmas, but then no one was enthusiastic about my nutcracker cake, so I decided not to make it. :(

Anyway, I was excited to jump back in this month with a banana cake with pralines and white chocolate ganache. I have to say, I didn't like the cake at all. It smelled good, and I guess the flavor was OK, but it was really dry. We didn't even eat the whole thing! The frosting, however, was AMAZING! It tasted, as my sister-in-law put it, like, "whipped cream times a thousand." It was really, really delicious. I maybe didn't whip it enough, because it was kind of droopy, but it tasted fantastic. Like lick-the-bowl-and-all-the-untensils-and-plates-clean fantastic!

Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

The Cake:

makes a 9-inch triple layer cake

3 cups of cake flour
3 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of ripe mashed bananas
8 ounces of softened unsalted butter
2 cups of sugar
7 egg whites

Praline Filling:

1 cup sugared pecans, cooled
1 and 1/2 cups white chocolate ganache

Sugared Pecans:

1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves
3 cups vegetable oil
1 cup confectioners sugar

White Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces of white chocolate chopped
2 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper or wax paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In a food processor or blender, process the milk and banana into a smooth light puree. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium high speed, beat in egg whites 2-3 at a time until smooth. Scraping down the sides of the bowl between egg additions.
  4. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and banana puree alternately in 2-3 additions, beating until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 1-minute. Divide the batter among the cake pans.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto a wired rack and remove the paper liners. Then cool completely one hour.
  6. To assemble the cake, put one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover the top evenly with half of the praline filling, leaving a 1/4"-inch margin around the edges. place the second layer on top, again flat side up, cover it with remaining filling. Finally add the third layer and frost the sides and top with the white chocolate ganache. Garnish with sugared pecans.
Praline Filling
  1. With a large chef's knife chop the pecans. Or pulse in a food processor being careful not to turn into paste.
  2. Add the sugared pecans to the white chocolate ganache and stir to mix well.

Sugared Pecans
  1. Place the pecans in a medium sauce pan, add water to cover, and heat to a boiling. Boil the pecans slowly until they are swollen and soft 5-8 minutes. Drain the nuts well in a sieve for about 5 minutes. (Do not pat dry; the nuts must remain damp.)
  2. While the nuts are draining, heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan or deep fat fryer t0 350F degrees.
  3. Set half of the nuts aside. Dust the remaining nuts in the sieve with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Shake the sieve to coat the nuts evenly, letting any excess sugar fall away. Immediately add the coated nuts to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon scoop the nuts out and drain them on several thickness of paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining nuts.

White Chocolate Ganache
  1. Pu the white chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl. In a small sauce bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1-minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the white chocolate cream stand until cooled to room temperature.
  2. In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters beat the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream and vanilla until softly whipped. Stir in the white chocolate cream and beat until fairly stiff. taking care not over beat, which would cause the ganache to separate.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

World's Ugliest, Easiest, Best-tasting Cinnamon Rolls

I can't post a recipe without a picture, but DON'T judge these cinnamon rolls based on their looks. They are, admittedly, not much to look at. I had my doubts when I pulled them out of the oven, but they are really, really good. And so easy. So easy! If you want warm, gooey cinnamon rolls for breakfast--or off and on all day long--but don't want to go through all the hassle of making them from scratch, this recipe is the one for you. Try it! You won't be disappointed, except in yourself for you lack of control when you eat 4 in one sitting!

Easy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
from Christy's Kitchen Creations here
*A funny side note: the picture on the above blog is much better than mine, so really do check it out, but you'll notice that we apparently have the same cake plate to put our cinnamon rolls on. I wonder if she got her's at TJ Maxx???

20 frozen dough rolls (like Rhode's)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 small box butterscotch pudding mix
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted
powdered sugar

Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. I couldn't find mine, so I used a tube pan (Angel Food cake pan), and the butter leaked out all over my oven, so I don't recommend that! Add frozen rolls. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, pudding mix, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over rolls. Pour melted butter over all. Cover with clean, damp cloth. Leave on counter overnight. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn out onto a platter. Meanwhile, combine milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla to make a glaze, then drizzle over the cooling rolls.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Chocolate Orange Shortbread

I'm a sucker for anything citrus. I really think it is the perfect flavor for all seasons. It tastes fresh and new in the spring, cool and refreshing in the summer, a bright and sparkling spot of sunshine in the gloom of fall and winter. And I especially love it paired with chocolate. I'm not a big fan of fruit and chocolate in general. Raspberry flavored chocolate treats make me want to gag, and I'll eat chocolate covered strawberries, but nothing more. But I think chocolate and orange taste so dreamy together!

I wasn't looking for a chocolate orange shortbread recipe, yet I managed to find two in the same week. This is the first. The shortbread turns out crumbly and tender and VERY buttery. It isn't super sweet, but it is very rich. It definitely needs to be accompanied by a big glass of milk.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread, part I
from someone's old blog here

2 1/2 to 3 cups cake flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, orange zest, ginger, and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and mix in by hand. Let dough rest 10 minutes, then divide into two equal portions. Pat each into the bottom of an ungreased 8" round cake pan. Prick surface all over with a fork. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes until edges are golden. Immediately cut each pan into 16 wedges. Cool completely and remove from pan. Melt chocolate and shortening in the microwave, stirring frequently. You can dip the wedges in the chocolate or drizzle the chocolate onto the wedges. I drizzled the chocolate onto the wedges before I took them out of the pan, and I DO NOT recommend it! I had problems getting the wedges out of the pan without tearing the chocolate.
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Monday, January 12, 2009

More Cookies With White Chocolate Chips...

So Margaret and I are at the gym at 6:00 this morning, walking on our treadmills, watching re-runs of Angel on TNT, and I tell her that I'm starving. How does she respond? By telling me all about the AMAZING chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate (yep, that's 4 chocolates) cookies she made this weekend. What's a girl to do? I had no choice; I came straight home and made them. And they are amazing and rave-worthy (that's "rave" as in reviews, not "rave" as in glow sticks and techno). I didn't have the required 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, so I used up what I had, then used up the white chocolate chips I had left from a secret project (check back on the 20th), then made up the rest with milk chocolate chips. Gooooooood! And I guess that makes mine 5 chocolates!

Quadruple Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Tania at Mommy Recipes

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 small (3.9 oz) pkg. chocolate pudding mix
2 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2 teaspoons)
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon because I used salted butter)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or any combination you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, and pudding mix. Add eggs and vanilla, blending well. Add dry ingredients and mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop by heaping teaspoons (I used a level ice cream scoop!) 2" apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8-11 minutes.
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

White Chocolate Oatmeal Jumbles

I spotted this recipe on the back of a bag of white chocolate chips a few weeks ago and thought, "Hmm. I MUST make those!" So the occasion arose today (lunch for almost 100 twenty-something boys), and the cookies were a hit. Buttery and nutty, with just the right amount of warmth from the cinnamon. I can't imagine eating them in the summer, but they seem absolutely perfect for a cold, blustery winter day.

White Chocolate Oatmeal Jumbles
adapted from the back of a package of Essensia Real White Chocolate Chips :)

1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
12 oz white chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup quick oats

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and both sugars until fluffy. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips, pecans, and oats. Stir to combine. Roll dough into large marble-sized balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, or until edges turn golden. Makes about 4 dozen.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

2008, We hardly knew ye

I can't believe it is already the second day of a brand new year! I remember this time last year so clearly, it is hard to imagine that a whole year has gone by. I also can't believe how long it has been since my last post! And it's not like I haven't been cooking. The light--or lack thereof--is truly to blame for the lack of posts. By the time I get anything made, it is already too dark for good pictures. And who wants to see ugly pictures of food!?

Anyway, I've been thinking about my family's holiday traditions lately, and surprisingly (not really), they all pretty much involve food. We eat certain foods at certains times of year, and usually ONLY at those times. On Christmas Eve we have clam chowder and other soups at Nana's, followed by a dessert of Raspberry Danish Dessert covered with cream, which is a stand-in for some Swedish dessert I can't spell or pronounce. On Christmas morning we usually have a breakfast casserole and sticky buns from my mom's neighbor Brandy. We always make the same cookies: molasses crinkles, peanut blossoms, russian tea cakes. And on New Year's Eve, we have slush and armenian meat pies. I wait all year for these two treats, and even though I could really make them whenever I wanted, it almost seems sacrilege to have them any time but the New Year.
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