August 31, 2009

Easy Bake cOven: Chocolate Mousse Cake

So it looks like my MckLinky disappeared before all the members could link to my blog. If you haven't started following the cOven what are your waiting for? Check out this month's variety of Chocolate Mousse Cake! Don't forget to check the cOven for September's recipe - coming soon -
Happy Baking

August 28, 2009

Easy Bake cOven: Chocolate Mousse Cake

The former " Baking Club" has found a new name. After much deliberation and voting, we are the "Easy Bake cOven". For those of you who may be completely confused by this post, I recently started a baking club with friends across the country. Our first item was Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. We all posted to my blog since there were only 6 of us then. Thankfully we have grown in number since that post and we needed to find a more efficient way to share. We created a blog, Easy Bake cOven, for those members who don't have one of their own, and I have added the link below to group us all together. Please check out all of the entries, and visit the cOven!
Since we have this cool new way of posting, feel free to join! We will post each recipe near the beginning of the month at the cOven so make sure to check frequently, and there will be a window at the end of the month for you to add your link to your blog post here (the Lovely Lady Baker). Hopefully this will all go as smoothly as planned! We hope you enjoy reading about it!
It may seem silly to make your own Birthday Cake, but I did. Since this month's recipe was chocolate cake I decided to just make it for my birthday, which happens to be today! I don't think I have ever made a cake for myself, but I have definitely thought about it. And while I wouldn't have necessarily chosen this recipe for my cake - it was delicious enough to pass. Emily from San Francisco chose this month's recipe. (Make sure to check out her post). I read this recipe quite a few times before making it. I actually do this with most recipes so I know what steps to expect etc. and do not waste time reading the directions while baking. This recipe is fairly intense. Maybe more than fairly... it was really intense. There are a lot of steps, and if you decide to tackle this recipe I recommend splitting up your time. I think it took me about 3 hrs total to make this. One night. I had planned to split it up, but I recently got to visit my love in Hawaii, (where he has been working the past month) and returned Wednesday to bake a cake for Daring Bakers. So many cakes, so little time!
I may have slightly overcooked the cake layers. Mind you, there is so much ganache and goo and cream that if the layers were slightly dry - there would be no way to tell. I took a picture of the filling, a semisweet mousse, and didn't believe that it was going to fit. I decided not to share this photo because it too closely resembles what I imagine elephant poo to look like. I think it yields about 4 C that you are supposed to sandwich between the two layers. It did fit and I was happy for this. I also didn't have any brandy or rum on hand so I decided to take a shot of each of the liquors in our cabinet followed by a lick of raspberry to decide which was the best substitute..... haha. I really didn't do this I Promise! I just thought it would have been a good way to decide while I was washing dishes - and wanted to trick you. hope it worked. Anyways, everyone knows I prefer tequila....
Back to the cake. Since I was making it all in one evening, I sped up the cooling process with the freezer between mousse and ganache. There is so much chocolate in the cake you might be sick. I wanted to cut the cake so you could see the mousse, and of course to taste it, and all I could manage was about 3 bites. Super rich! I will attempt to share this with more than 12 people. Don't forget to check out our other contributors entries below!
Chocolate Mousse Cake

Jim Fobel's Big Flavors

Cake

8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

4 T unsalted butter

4 large eggs, separated

¼ t salt

½ c sugar divided

1 t vanilla extract

2 T all-purpose flour

Filling

1 ½ c heavy cream

2 T sugar

⅛ t salt

12 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 T unsalted butter, sliced

2 egg yolks

2 t vanilla extract

½ c seedless raspberry preserves

2 t brandy or rum

Milk Chocolate Ganache

¼ c milk, scalded

8 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Dark Chocolate Decor (optional)

2 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 T hot water

Garnish

Fresh raspberries and whipped cream

Make the cake layers. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or waxed paper; grease the paper.

Combine the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over (not touching) barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove the top of the pan and let cool slightly, until just slightly warm, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep bowl, combine the 4 egg whites with the salt. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually beat in ¼ c of the sugar and beat until almost stiff. Reserve; do not rinse beaters.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks with the remaining ¼ c sugar. Beat with the same beaters at high speed until thickened and light in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla; beat in the melted chocolate mixture. Quickly stir in about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to lighten. Sift the 2 T flour over the top and fold in gently. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites.

Divide the batter between the 2 pans, spreading it quickly but evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; when the surface is touched lightly it will spring back when done. Cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of each cake layer to loosen from the pans. Invert a plate or cardboard round over each and turn out the layers, tapping firmly, if necessary, to free. Peel off the paper and set aside to cool completely. If a layer should break, do not worry, the pieces can be put together and the filling will hold them in place. (The layers can be made well in advance; wrap tightly and freeze.)

Make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and salt over low heat. Bring to a simmer and keep warm.

Put the chocolate in a food processor and finely grind. Add the butter, egg yolks, and vanilla and pulse to blend. Add the hot cream mixture and blend until smooth. Turn out into a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill the filling, stirring occasionally, until firmed up and thickened but not set, about 1 hour.

Beat the filling with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy, 20 to 30 seconds.

Assemble the cake. In a small bowl, stir together the raspberry preserves and brandy or rum. Place 1 cake layer upside down on a serving plate. Spread the top with half of the raspberry glaze. Turn all of the chocolate filling onto the cake and spread into an even layer. Spread the remaining raspberry glaze over the bottom of the second layer. Invert the layer over the chocolate filling. Hold a spatula vertically, even the filling all around the edge. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and chill until set, 1-2 hours, or as long as over night.

Make the milk chocolate glaze. Combine the milk and milk chocolate in the top of a double boiler and place over barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove the plastic wrap from the cake. Spread all of the warm milk chocolate glaze over the top and let it run down the sides, smoothing with a spatula to coat and chill until set.

Make the dark chocolate glaze. Combine the semisweet chocolate with 2 T hot water in the top of a double boiler. Let stand until the chocolate melts and then stir until smooth. Turn the chocolate into a small plastic zip-lock bag or make a small, parchment paper cone and fill with the chocolate. Snip a 1/16–inch hole at one corner of the plastic bag or at the tip of the cone. Beginning in the center of the cake, decorate the top with a tight spiral design. Make small chocolate dots all around the outer edge and one in the center. Chill until set. Note: I did not add water and used only 1 oz dark chocolate for my decor. I usually do not add water to chocolate as this can ruin it really easily - Instead, I use shortening. I didn't this time since it was such a small quantity, but usually I add about a 1/4 tsp to 2-3 oz chocolate.

To serve, cut into 12 wedges and lift off slices with a spatula. If desired, decorate each with fresh raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

August 26, 2009

Daring Bakers - Dobos Torta

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This was an interesting challenge. I have never made a sponge before, and I had fun making it. I decided to stray away from the traditional 8" circle and make a tiny 4" square layer cake instead. I halved the recipe too since right now it's just me who will be tempted to eat it...

The process took a while. The torte has 5 layers and a is supposed to be topped with a caramel layer - which I burned. haha. yep, burned it up. I am not good at candy. I plan to be someday, just not today. I attribute it to jet lag (lying to yourself is ok every now and then) so I don't feel so bad. I took a picture but couldn't bring myself to add it to the cake. Maybe next time. I thought the sponge layers were tasty and easy to make. I would like to try it again using something besides chocolate for the filling because it is pretty heavy - even though I only had 2 bites to taste. A really light mousse with berries sounds delicious.

Try it out! You might just succeed at the candy part!

Dobos Torta

Sponge cake layers

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided

1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)

pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar

4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar

12 tablespoons (180 ml) water

8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice

1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

a 7” cardboard round

12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted

½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C). 2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.) 3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour. 5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. 2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this. 3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes. 4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency. 5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula. 2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel. 3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts. 2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake. 3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake. 4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

August 19, 2009

Wedding Cake Part 1: Tasting

Some of you may know already, but I thought I'd inform the rest of you.... I'm making a Wedding Cake!!! It is coming up soon and I have done a lot to prepare - probably not enough but I'm trying not to think about it. I am getting a new mixer in the mail soon. Mine died (my fault) and I decided this was the best opportunity to get a Kitchen Aid. yea! Anyways, I had a couple of tastings with the bride and groom before they made their final flavor choices. This was quite fun. I made 4 different cakes based on the bride's favorites: Red Velvet, White Cake with Raspberry filling, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache, and Lemon Poppy Seed with Lemon Curd filling. The last flavor developed after they couldn't decide between the other 3. We had the second tasting earlier this week and they revisited the chocolate (which they thought they were going to toss) and decided instead to keep it. They chose two flavors for the three-tier cake. Poppy Seed and Chocolate.
The bride made one special request, to use her Great Aunt Lou's Buttercream frosting recipe. Her family is obsessed with it and they are all really excited I am going to use it on the cake. It has good flavor, but I am not in love with the texture. The recipe calls for regular sugar and I am the kind of person that prefers a smooth frosting vs. something with a gritty texture. But hey, it's not my cake, so I'm making it. It is a very old fashioned way to make buttercream as well, with cornstarch and milk for body, and a combo of butter and shortening. I think it will frost nicely though. It is fairly thick and will smooth out nicely. Did I mention they all love it?
I am about to order my pans.... the tiers will be 14x14, 12x12, and 8x8. I am also going to experiment with a heating core (which has been recommended for larger pans than 10x10 but if any of you have insight that says otherwise please let me know!
I hope this cake will be a success. I'd like the opportunity to do a few more, especially if this one comes out straight and pretty. I think that wedding cakes offer a great deal of creativity, and even more of a challenge. I'll keep you posted on my practice this month.

August 18, 2009

Going Away Peaches

I went with some friends to pick fruit in the valley. It was a beautifully hot summer day. I mean really hot - like in the 90's! I must miss summer. There is something about sitting around outside at night when the sun goes down... accompanied by a grill and a tasty beverage... to me that spells summer. We don't get many warm nights so we have to create our own feeling of summer. Delicious summer fruits help complete my illusion.
We picked peaches and plums. I have only picked apples and strawberries back in the good ol' midwest. (We had really good apples by the way.) It was fun. They said we could eat as much as we wanted in the orchard, if only the birds hadn't eaten the good ones! The farm we visited was pesticide free and organic, allowing those pesky birds to bite a little of each perfectly ripe peach. We picked some ripe and others that needed some time, which I appreciated because I had no idea yet what I might bake with them. They sat in the fruit bowl until they started to get a little soft. Panic mode set in and I feared I wouldn't decide in time and they might all turn to mush before I could make anything delicious.
I decided on Sunday that I was going to roast some and serve them with ice cream. I wanted to make something special for my husband who was leaving again on business the following day. He missed the fruit picking, and these peaches were too good not to share. I'm not sure why I haven't tried this before it was so fantastic. Truly simple too. If you are looking for an impressive dessert without the fuss you should try the recipe below. I created a simple syrup to roast the peaches and added vanilla bean. I was tempted with the idea of a white wine syrup reduction infused with rosemary, but we opted for the trusted vanilla bean. Good choice love. I think a half a peach would be plenty with a large dollop of vanilla ice cream - we ate a whole peach ourselves and felt very full. Well worth it. Definitely worth it.
I hear the Colorado peaches are coming into season, so those of you back home have something to look forward to. Check out Use Real Butter blog for another great peach dessert. I might make this one next.
Vanilla Bean Roasted Peaches
1 T butter melted
1/2 C white wine
1 tsp honey
juice from half a lemon
1 vanilla bean seeded
2 T sugar
2 peaches ripe but firm
preheat oven to 400˚. cut peaches in half seed, and set aside. in a shallow baking dish, whisk all of the ingredients together (add bean pods too). Place peaches cut side up and spoon some liquid over the top. bake in oven for 25 minutes, turning and basting half way through. remove from oven place in serving dish with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. spoon some syrup on top. If you don't have vanilla beans just substitute 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

August 15, 2009

Wheat Germ Cookies

Although they contain what germ, they are by no means "health cookies."
I must first confess that the best part of the cookie is probably the dough.... and as often as I sample the dough before baking cookies I have never been sick from it. The only time I've ever come close to sick is from eating too much of a slice and bake log when I was younger. If there are a lot of eggs I usually use caution and only take one lick - which I feel is my job since I am going to be feeding whatever I am baking to people. I wouldn't want it to be gross or anything. Self sacrifice... remember, it is very important to practice this while baking.
I've been meaning to make a cookie like this for a while. There is a chain of bakeries here in the city that serves a very similar cookie (though 3x the size and loaded with calories) and this is my first attempt to recreate it. I know the basics, wheat germ, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. From here I went in search of a cookie recipe that held its body, meaning it wasn't going to melt down into a thin crisp while baking. I came across a healthy-ish cookie recipe that was supposed to contain lots of seeds and coconut. Never anywhere did it mention chocolate! I forgive them for it and have turned that recipe into this new one for the collection. It's not quite like the one at Specialties, but it's definitely a good start. It is good. Plain and simple. It has a bit of crunch on the outside and plenty of chewy, chocolatey, goodness on the inside. (we give thanks to the wheat germ for texture). I also usually don't make large cookies. I have a great little scoop which produces uniformity but this time I decided to overflow it... they were definitely uniform in a big way. Next time I might play with the amount of wheat germ in the batter just to see if I can get closer to the giant tasty bakery cookie. I'll be sure to let you know the outcome!
Chocolate Chip Wheat Germ Cookies
1/2 C butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 T canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C old fashioned oats
1 C wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C toasted wheat germ (sprinkle on baking sheet and bake at 350* for about 5-6 mins)
(1 T water see instructions)
3/4 C semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375*. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg, beat 1 minute. Add in vanilla and oil and mix thoroughly, then add the salt.
Whisk together the dry ingredients and add them in thirds to the wet mix. If dough doesn't seem like it will come together add up to 1 T water. Mix in the chocolate chips. Scoop heaping tablespoons onto a silpat lined baking sheet. Lightly flatten the tops a little. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Yields 2 dozen large cookies.

August 12, 2009

Wine for Breakfast - with Scones of course...

My good friend Rebecca has a bit of what you call the travel bug (read about it here). She can't stay in one place for long and seems to use up her vacation time as soon as she accrues it. She left on a trip to New Zealand a while ago and brought back some really tasty wines, Daniel Schuster being one of them. I got to meet him at the Jug Shop (our friendly neighborhood liquor store) where they occasionally do wine tastings. I almost came home with a bottle but they sold out - literally the person in front of me bought the last one. Thankfully, Rebecca decided it was time to share in this goodness.
She proposed a slumber party (which I have not done in years) and thought it would be fun to have this wine for breakfast. haha. Wine for breakfast seems silly I know... but it was fantastic! The glory of our breakfast goes to Daniel Schuster himself (who might I add is an excellent salesman). He convinced us the way to drink this wine was breakfast in bed and here is how he sold us.... A bottle of Late Harvest Rielsing, brandy soaked apricots, apricot studded stilton cheese, maybe he said something about roses scattered on the bed.... I can't remember it all, but Rebecca remembered the food part well.
We didn't have breakfast in bed - a little weird for 4 grown women - but we did all sit around our breakfast counter and devour our breakfast. We recreated the instructions fairly well and I made some scones with the Stilton cheese. It is amazing the flavor you get after taking a bite of cheese and apricot followed by a sip of deliciously sweet wine.
Late Harvest is one designation given for dessert wine. This means the fruit is harvested later in the season so there is less fruit but a higher concentration of sugar in each grape. This can be done with a lot of different types of wine, some of which are combined with Brandy to make Port or similar dessert wines. You also usually drink these types of wine in moderation since they have a higher alcohol content. This Riesling was not overly sweet and paired really well with the cheese. Schuster was right. We might just have to spend some money on a case and do this again.
Thanks Rebecca for sharing!
Stilton and Apricot Scones
1 egg
1/2 C cold buttermilk
1/4 C apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
1 3/4 C all purpose flour
1/3 C stone ground yellow cornmeal
2 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter cut into small pieces
3/4 C crumbled stilton cheese with apricots
1/2 C dried apricots finely diced
Preheat oven to 400* and center a rack in the oven. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.
Stir egg, buttermilk and cider together. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with your fingertips until you get pea sized pieces and everything in between. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until just blended. I promise at this point you have done everything right, the batter is just sticky, really sticky. Stir in the cheese and apricot. Fold with a spatula a few times. After this I found it easiest to drop it by the spoonfull or so on the silicone mat. Alternately, you can turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a 12" rectangle a half inch thick and cut with a dough cutter into 12 equal pieces. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden and slightly firm. Transfer to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes.
Serve with a delightful chilled dessert wine, preferably the one mentioned above, and do remember to soak some fresh apricots in brandy overnight.

August 8, 2009

Tea & Books, what more can you ask for?

Maybe some delicious finger foods, a small room full of girls, old friends, new friends, and lots of great conversation. I think we had it covered. A couple of weeks ago my good friend Joey and I hosted what we called the Tea & Book exchange. Our intention was to get a bunch of girls together to exchange books. Yes, that simple. Joey and I have been exchanging books back and forth for a while now and we decided it was time to branch out. We had a lot of girls show up (just over 20) and they brought the expected chick lit, some books stolen from husbands, and a few serious books. It was a hit. We requested each lovely lady bring one book but most people brought a lot more.
Joey and I concocted a menu that may have been a little over zealous but we pulled it off just in the nick of time. Here is what we had:
Cilantro Mint Chutney and Cucumber Sandwiches
Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Brie with Apples and Crackers
Asiago and Parmesan Cheese Crisps
Chocolate Strawberries
Green Tea Shortbread Cookies
Blueberry Crumble
We also had an assortment of treats brought to us by friends for the event which were delicious (Thanks Girls!). Joey cracks me up - she doesn't really bake or cook much - and to this she states, "If you don't cook, you have to be a really good shopper - and I'm a really good shopper." So I coached her through her green tea cookies (the hard way since my mixer died) and they turned out perfect! She also had a lot of great ideas up her sleeve, like the Chutney (which she used to make in Boston and says is good on fish too).
I think we had a great assortment of sweet and salty with some of my favorites. In order to keep my rambling short I am going to give you some of the recipes we used and invented. We plan on doing this again in a couple of months to switch books again. If you really liked this idea, I think you could turn it into something that suits your style: Children's Book Exchange - for Mom and Dad, or older kids who enjoy reading, a magazine exchange, recipe exchange, whatever you choose I assure you it will be great fun! Joey also found this great little site that is still beta testing for online invitations, they are beautiful (more fun than Evite) and you can personalize them to suit your party, I hope you check them out.
Cilantro Chutney

1 cup packed cilantro ( leaves and stems)

1 cup packed mint (leaves only)

1/4 small red onion coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Up to 2 tablespoons water

Blend it all in a blender until you get a smooth paste. Add water if

needed to aid on the blending. Refrigerated chutney will keep for 4

day. Smear on bread with cucumber for a tea sandwich or add to fish too.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
super simple - no real recipe here
1 baguette sliced and lightly toasted
5 oz goat cheese
2 large tomatoes diced
handful of fresh basil leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
add garlic, basil, and some olive oil to a food processor and blend until pieces are small but not pesto! salt and pepper to taste. toss with tomatoes and set aside. Spread a little goat cheese on the toasts and top with a little of the tomato mix.
Green Tea Shortbread Cookie

2 cups flour

1-2 tblspns green tea powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

sift the flour, powdered tea and salt into a bowl. In a mixer bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy. Add flour mixture to mixer bowl and mix slowly until dough just comes together.

Pull dough into a log aprox. 2" in diameter. Wrap dough log and place in freezer for 30 minutes until dough has firmed to the touch. Slice dough into 1/4" rounds and place on silpat lined cookie sheet, aprox 1" apart.

bake on preheated oven at 325 for 16 to 18 minutes or until cookies

start to turn golden

Blueberry Crumble
1 1/2 C quick oats
1 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C butter, cut into small pieces
1 C blueberries, frozen
1/2 C raspberry jam
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
Line a 8x8x2" pan with foil and preheat oven to 350*. In a small bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, and butter. Using your fingertips cut in butter until it resembles peas and flakes. Reserve 1 C of the mix. Press the mix into the bottom of the pan. Bake 25 minutes.
In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Gently pour onto half baked crust and top with the reserved crumble. Return to oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack and cut into bars.
I like to make this one in individual cups (muffin tins work well) when I am not making them for a large crowd. Use foil for the lining. Bake as directed above separating the mix equally between the 12 muffin tins. Unmold and serve with a small scoop of great vanilla ice cream or raspberry gelato - or both!
click here to see all of the pictures from Tea & Tales

August 5, 2009

lemon tart

I am first going to apologize for the not so pretty pictures. It was late and the light was not good enough for the point-and-shoot. I don't have my fancy camera at the moment (and won't for the whole month!) because my dearest love took it with him to Hawaii for work. Ahh, if only I had to work in Hawaii for a month too.... I know it won't be all fun and games but it must feel more like summer than San Francisco. The quote is true you know, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" ~ Mark Twain.
Since I am lonesome and it is cold winter here, I invited some girls over for dinner the other night. We had some good bread, good soup, and a fine dessert. I do recommend you visit Sass & Veracity for a wonderful Asparagus soup recipe. (I've had some frozen for a while now since I am the only one who eats it). The only things I did differently than the recipe is add a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans and only add 1/4 C (maybe just less) cream vs cream and creme fraiche (what I had on hand). Very good.
I have come to terms with the fact that I am no Pierre Herme. I have not yet learned the fine art of pastry cream but am a willing student. This is my second attempt at this dessert. The first time my food processor broke just before I was able to blend in the butter... needless to say it wasn't a hit. This one though was rather good. The cream was not as stiff as I think it should be but definitely had a delicate flavor and texture. I should also mention that it is unsafe to hold your pastry crust in one hand while unwrapping it with foil as it is likely to break into pieces, which it did. Luckily we averted disaster because the tart shell broke off in a large chunk. Oh my. Thankfully, I was not being judged on looks! It is nice to have a disaster every now and then. It helps put things in perspective and keep a level head for my perfectionism.
Like I said before, it wasn't perfect. A little soupier than expected but good. Maybe I'll try something other than lemon next time to break the curse.

August 4, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake, Perfect for a Picnic

We celebrated another birthday this week! For some reason this past week I went a little crazy in the kitchen and baked something almost every night. Some for my own pleaseure and the rest were either challenges or birthday cakes. I really do love doing it, but baking all night after a 9 hr day sometimes is quite exhausting. The crazy week ended with me baking 4 cakes on Friday (luckily my day off) for a tasting on Saturday and the birthday. For this birthday I got a simple request for a cake. Nothing in particular - just birthday cake. She must trust me.... I sent her some images of berry tarts and cakes and she picked strawberry shortcake. I really wanted to invent a giant biscuit shortcake but didn't have enough time to experiment in case of disaster. Instead, I used a couple of recipes as a base to create an interesting bright citrus cake with some delicious strawberries on top.
I found some tasty strawberries from our local Coop, small enough in size that they would slice nicely and ripe enough to give up their juices. I am not a fan of recipes that require gelatin for berry toppings. I understand the point of it but find it sort of repulsive and unnecessary for fruit to stick together like glue. It will kind of do this naturally if you add some sugar and macerate them (it would be best to substitute with a good strawberry jam heated to a pourable consistency). I liked the way the cake turned out, unfortunately it had started to melt by the time we cut into it (melt in the whipped cream sense). Our birthday girl didn't mind and managed to take down two slices. For a tiny thing she sure can eat dessert! It is always nice to make fun cakes for friends. Especially when you get free reign to make up you own recipe!
Strawberry Shortcake
1/2 C butter
1/2 C sugar
zest from one lemon
1 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C whole milk
1 1/2 lb strawberries, sliced
squeeze of lemon
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 T powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
For the Cake:
In the bowl of a mixer zest the lemon over the sugar. Rub together with your fingers until the sugar is fragrant. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time then the vanilla. Whisk together flour, powder, salt. Add 1/3 dry mix into the butter mix. Add 1/2 the milk, continue alternating flour and milk ending with flour. Pour into a parchment lined, buttered and floured 8" pan. Bake at 350* for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the top comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 mins then turn onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
For the Strawberries:
Slice thin and place in a glass bowl. Spoon a little sugar over the top and a squeeze of lemon. Stir to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the Cream:
Whip with an electric mixer, add in powdered sugar about half way through. Continue whipping until fluffy and soft peaks form. Add in vanilla.
To assemble the cake:
Cut into two layers (don't forget to peel off the parchment!) and place the bottom layer on a cake stand or board. Spoon about 1/2 the strawberry mix onto the cut side of the cake. Add 1/2 the whipped cream and smooth with a spatula. Place the next layer on cut side down. Smooth remaining whipped cream on top. I recommend refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes to keep the cream cool but if you can't no worries. Just before serving, spoon the rest of the berries on top. If your cake has to travel to the park like mine and you can't wait to add the strawberries just make a little well for the strawberries to sit inside so the juice doesn't leak out all over the cake. Cut and serve.

August 2, 2009

Rice Krispie Cake for an Unwanted Birthday

I haven't made Rice Krispies in a while. It has actually been at least a year if not more. When I think of these delectable little treats I also think of kids. Not so for this cake. We have a friend who somehow escapes his birthday every year. When we first met him we just didn't know until it had already happened.... That was three years ago, and this year for his 40th he left work the Friday before his birthday (Monday) and didn't come back till Wednesday. Since We could not celebrate with him, I forced upon him a cake that he would eventually have to share in celebration since I dropped it off at the office.
Rice Krispie Cake sounded like a fun way to go. I ended up making one batch and dividing it into three 6" cake pans. I melted some chocolate for the centers and found it completely necessary to decorate the top with a ring of chocolate chips. This cake could be anything really. You could use any shape bowl you wanted or try your hand at sculpting your own. Just remember to line the pan with wax paper and spray with a light mist of oil. Decoration possibilities are endless as long as you get them to stick! I used a tiny bit of melted chocolate for the chips. It was so cute. I admit that I am obsessed with small cakes and plan to make many more.
Rice Krispies
1/4 C butter
1 16 oz bag mini marshmallows
7 C rice krispie cereal (or store brand)
Melt the butter over low heat and add the marshmallows. Stir until you get a nice buttery goo with no lumps. Add in the cereal and stir quickly to combine with the marshmallow before it sets up. Pour into a lightly greased pan and press into the corners. Make as flat a top as possible if stacking. Cool. Cut and serve. Or, cool into prepared pans, unmold, stack, and decorate.
Filling ideas:
1 oz melted semi sweet chocolate - Melt in a double boiler and allow to cool slightly (so it is not too runny). It makes just enough to stick the layers together but not be obtrusive to the flavor.
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ganache - 5 ounces good-quality milk semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, 1 cup creamy peanut butter. In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Refrigerate 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.
Marshmallow Madness - Add some spoon fulls of Fluff to between the layers, go crazy and mix some fluff with Nutella or Peanut Butter. Exact amounts will vary depending on how much fluff flavor you want to have.

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