Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No TWD Today

Sorry, no TWD today! I am in Chicago visiting my family and will be back to blogging soon. ;)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

I almost didn’t make it on TWD this week. You see, I didn’t grow up with bread pudding so I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to taste like. Plus, I have actually made this a couple times, each time, it has gone un-eaten.

Luck would have it that I threw out my challah loaf a few days ago leaving me with two choices: Wheat bread (ick…not a dessert-y bread) or my left over French Yogurt Cake I had in my freezer from a previous TWD. (BTW- it froze beautifully and tasted like the day I made it). So I went with the Lemon Yogurt cake. Although it was exactly 12 oz. that the recipe called for, the cake is much denser than regular bread so I should have cut the custard recipe in half. I ended up leaving out half the custard because it was really soupy.

French Yogurt Cake
Chocolate Custard

Soaking up the custard!

I didn’t use all bittersweet chocolate because I had several brands/types/kinds of chocolate needing to get used in my chocolate drawer so I used a mixture of unsweetened, semi-sweet, and bittersweet; mostly semi-sweet. I also never buy whole milk unless necessary for certain desserts so I used 2 cups low-fat milk, and 1 cup heavy cream. So my custard was probably more ‘egg-y’ because I cut the milk down by a cup knowing I would need to cut back the liquids. For added fun I added the dried cherries and about 1/3 of a cup of white chocolate chips.

Overall, I would have to say my perception still stands that this isn’t quite my favorite dessert. However, this has been much better than the others I have tried…and I will add very tasty with the lemon yogurt cake from a few weeks ago! I bet this would be delightful paired with ice cream.

Thank you Lauren from Upper East Side Chronicles for hosting this week. Be sure to stop by Lauren’s page if you would like the recipe OR you can also buy the book we bake from every week, “Baking From My Home to Yours”, by Dorie Greenspan. If you want to see what the other bakers were up to this week, be sure to visit Tuesday with Dorie’s Blogroll!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coconut Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Coconut Vanilla Bean Frosting

My sisters exact words when biting into one of these cupcakes were: “If I were to bite into Hawaii, this is exactly what it would taste like.” She’s right. These cakes are downright heavenly.

In fact they are so coco-nutty they will make you think you were relaxing on a beach with a coconut drink in hand slathered in Hawaiian tropic suntan lotion. Oh how I love that smell.

April’s Bon Appetit was downright evil. Evil because their dessert section was just so darn tempting, I am embarrassed to admit that I have sampled nearly all of them so far. And as a result, it has left my waistline growth quite questionable. I won’t lie…it was worth every delicious bite.

Naturally I am drawn to cupcakes so these coconut cakes were the very first thing I noticed when I flipped through the magazine. But apprehension lingered from my last attempt at making a coconut cupcake that was borderline gross.

But these were different: You reduce coconut milk down and use that as your milk/buttermilk addition to the mixture. The coconut milk leaves these moist and tender and absolutely the perfect consistency. The frosting was fluffy, sweet and rich from the coconut milk.

The overall verdict: (See above.) My sister loved them, I shoved an entire cake in my mouth spitting out a mouthful of crumbs saying “ughh…that’s GOOOOD!” I served these after Easter dinner …they got rave reviews. I will DEFINITELY try these again!

The dessert set up for Easter!
My Grandma bought me the cupcake stand!

Now…I found some fault in the recipe as it said it would take about 25 minutes…well it took more like 55 minutes….and that included me boiling it over. Ugh…will I NEVER learn? In order to reduce, it said put it on high but that resulted in several boiling over incidents. Not good. However, keeping a watchful eye and possibly putting the milk in a much larger pan may work out for the better next time.

The reduced coconut milk

I changed the recipe up a bit and added 2 teaspoons of coconut extract to the frosting. I think next time I may add more to the cakes but honestly, they were fine the way they were. Instead of kosher salt, I used Fleur de Sel sea salt. I also used unsweetened light coconut milk.

The Fleur de Sel

If you would like the recipe from Bon Appetit, click here.

No TWD Today

Sorry, I didn't take part in the TWD festivities this week. Due to my Easter Celebration and plans...I just wasn't able to fit one more dessert into the schedule.

BUT, don't worry, you can check out what the other bakers were up to this week and don't forget to visit our host this week, Holly of Phe-MOM-enom for the recipe!

Monday, April 13, 2009

VGABS: The Virtual Great American Bake Sale starts TODAY!

Welcome to the Virtual Great American Bake Sale. As I mentioned last week, I am participating in The Virtual Great American Bake Sale.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of these ebooks will go toward Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale program. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale are donated to after-school and summer feeding programs--food programs that many kids depend on when school is not in session. Great American Bake Sale is a program of Share Our Strength, a national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.

The ebooks are a compilation of recipes from submitters across the blogosphere and beyond. The ebooks are available for purchase based on any donation amount of the buyer's choosing.

The Complete 2009 VGABS Recipes Ebook

Add to Cart

Muffins & Breads

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Cookies, Candy, Cake, Bar & Brownies

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Beyond Baked Goods

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Need more info?? Please be sure to check out the host of this project, Kate, from Cooking From Stolen Moments for additional details on how to purchase these books AND to see the other recipes submitted for this great cause.

Looking for Cafe Coco's recipe contribution? Click here.

Key Lime Tart

I’m still recovering from the crazed weekend at my house. I’m the holiday hoarder in my family..meaning, I like to be the host for every event. It’s a ton of work but it’s also fun for me.

The highlight of my parties is always the desert. No matter what, the dessert is what I concentrate most of my time on, and this Easter was no different.

My traditional Easter dessert contribution is sugar cookies and carrot cake but this year I wanted to veer from the path a bit. I have recently become a fan of citrus desserts and decided I would go out on a limb and attempt a key lime pie.

I didn’t really have any hiccups besides shopping for the key limes….as they are NO where to be found in Michigan. BUT, luckily, I was out to dinner with my husband on Friday and my favorite server in the world suggested buying the liquid key lime in a bottle. Normally, I would have never purchased a bottled lemon or lime anything because I think fresh is always best, but I found this bottle at a local gourmet market and decided it would be just fine. (I mean what other choice did I have at this point?)

The pie turned out amazing, and was enjoyed by all, including my non-lover of citrus dessert husband.

I think I would reduce the lime juice next time and possibly come up with a way to make the custard ‘fluffier’. All in all I enjoyed this and it was REALLY easy to make.

Key Lime Tart
Recipe derived from Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant

Graham Cracker Crust
1/3 lb graham cracker (or 1 cup plus 2 1/2 Tablespoons graham cracker crumbs)
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons grated key lime zest
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
¼ cup coconut, lightly toasted (I added this)

Chantilly Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Get out a 9 inch tart pan. Put the graham crackers in a food processor (or you can put them in a plastic bag and break them up with a rolling pin). Process until the crackers become small crumbs. Add melted butter& sugar and pulse until combined. Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a tart pan, pressing down with your fingers works best and then push the crackers into the sides (you can use the bottom of a measuring cup for some of this as well). Bake the crust for about 8 minutes. Pull out of oven and add the toasted coconut to coat the top of the pie/tart shell. Then set aside while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest on high until they become thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color. This will take about 5 minutes. Then slowly add the condensed milk while the mixer is running. Continue beating on high until the mixture becomes very thick. This should take about 4 minutes. Then lower the mixer speed and add the lime just ONLY until just combined. Turn off the mixer and pour the custard mixture into the prepared pie/tart crust. Be sure to check the beaters for lime zest that is left behind. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling is just set. Cool on a wire rack then refrigerate. Freeze for 15-20 minutes before serving. Top with Chantilly cream.

Don't cover with plastic when you store this in the fridge --see the plastic marks? oops! Any suggestions?

For the cream: Whip the cream on high until you get soft peaks. Add sugar and vanilla. Whip until you get very stiff peaks. Put in a piping bag and decorate tart as desired.

Coming up next: Coconut cupcakes!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD: Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ganache

I have a confession. I need a pastry coach.

I have an undeniable fear of tempering. I’ve admitted to this before. But no matter how many times I do it…I always scramble.

Things started off great….getting the hot milk in the eggs this time. I wiped the sweat from my brow and put down the pot from my shaky hand. I did it. I send a high five to (um…no one) in the air.

Now it was time to cook this on the stove.

This is where my impatience sets in.

My pastry cream didn’t even begin to boil before it curdled mid stir, not long enough for me to catch it and pull it off the stove. I decided to attempt to fix the problem by running it through a sieve. It didn’t quite eliminate the problem but it tasted fine so I decided I was going to press forward and just go with it.

This was fine with me as I am really not a pie person nor did I really have an occasion in which to share the pie, so for trial sake, I just didn’t see the point in busting out 6 more eggs.

But the truth is, I could use the practice so this recipe was good for me. I have also come to some realizations that I may need to work on a few things before I ever become a famous pastry chef you see on the Food Network. Hey it’s my dream…go get your own.

Anyway….here is the problem.

One: I procrastinate. I always have. I have good intentions to pre-plan. I really do.

Two: I am addicted to doing too many things at once. i.e. I am notorious for turning up a burner on high, and walking away to do something else (who am I kidding…about 40 million other something’s).

Undoubtedly, this is where the problem lies…I procrastinate; therefore I always am in a hurry to get it all done. At once. I don’t know how to go step by step. I don’t read the recipe beforehand no matter how many times I give myself the pep talk “Now next time….I WILL read the recipe start to finish”. Who am I kidding? It just isn’t me.

So in my attempt to get everything done in record time, inevitably becomes about quadruple time to get anything done, followed by getting nothing done because set out to complete way too many tasks available for the time I actually have in which to do it.

This is what happens when my husband leaves for work: I get out every pan…and open every cabinet…and just picture this with the vent fan on high because either there was a small fire at some point on the stove OR, I had spillage in my oven and it just plain smells like burnt something or other.

I laugh because I know I can be a good cook and I know I can do things but it just keeps me very humble almost daily to have these types of kitchen disasters no matter how much I curse and yell at curdled eggs. It’s just curdled eggs after all, isn’t it?

I just think my mantra should be: “Take your time.”

Patience is a virtue.

Are ya done listening to my Tuesday morning rant?

My changes to the recipe:

I followed the crust recipe to a T, I had bad luck last time. I improved this go around as it’s my second time with homemade pie crust. This time my edges didn’t burn…since I followed the directions and wrapped the edges tighter this time.

The pastry cream, I also followed to a T, see above rant. The pastry cream was really thick after refrigeration, so I followed the advice and added milk. I think I added too much because it became really runny....and well....see the picture of the slice below.

I then added a layer of chocolate ganache (does this seem like the Saturday Night Live Taco Town skit yet?)

If that wasn’t enough, I added a peanut butter cream layer.

Then I followed Dorie’s cream topping. Did anyone else thing it tasted just like Cool Whip? Certainly not a bad thing in my book since I happen to like Cool Whip.

Overall Verdict: I actually liked the pie. Despite my crust and pastry cream whoas this week, they were both surprisingly good. I'm not sure I liked my alterations though....too much going on for me but that is just my opinion. I would probably try this again....Dorie's way.

Recipes for my alterations are below….

Now—move along and take a look at the other bakers—on TWD’s blog roll. For the recipe? Buy the book that all us "Tuesday with Dorie" bloggers follow, OR check out our host, Amy, from Sing for Your Supper. Thanks, Amy, for a great challenge!

Chocolate Ganache:

Recipe courtesy of "Cake Love", by Warren Brown

1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate

Directions: In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat heavy cream until hot and bubbles begin to appear at the edges of the pot. In a heat safe bowl, pour cream over chocolate. Whisk until combined.

Peanut Butter Cream Filling:
Recipe courtesy of "Bon Appetit", May 2009

3 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks.

Whip first 4 ingredients together until well combined. Fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Black Currant Shortbread Bars and the Virtual Great American Bake Sale!

I am so completely honored to participate in the Share our Strength’s Virtual Great American Bake Sale!

Kate from Cooking from Stolen Moments contacted me last month asking me (yes, little me) to participate, and I couldn’t feel more privileged.

If any of you are fond watchers of the Food Network, there is a big possibility you have seen the commercials promoting this great cause to see that no child goes hungry. But as Kate told me, this will be the first ever VIRTUAL bake sale. How cool is that? It’s amazing what the blogosphere can do.

The first Virtual Great American Bake Sale starts April 13 and 100% of the proceeds go directly to Share our Strength! Be sure to check it out, so that we can do our part to see that no child ever goes hungry.

Now to the cookies!

These shortbread cookies just are a feel good cookie, and certainly not lacking in the butter department.

I can remember the first time I had a shortbread bar, it was lemon. I didn't like lemon, but somehow, it converted me in an instant. I polished off all 6 bars and walked away from the plate in utter embarrassement. I lost all self control.

These bars, I can't say will be any different. Their good. Darn good.
You want to know the worst part? It tests my dearest patience just waiting for these to cool. Because you HAVE to wait for then to cool COMPLETELY (yes I mean completely folks) before you remove them from the pan. Unless you like a gooey mess, and in that case, by all means...eat them out of the oven. But don't say I didnt warn you when you get that similar to pizza burn at the roof of your mouth.

Oh yea...these cookies are serious business.

Don't let the "black currant" fancy pants name scare you off. These babies can be made with ANY jam you have.

Black Currant Shortbread Bars
Recipe derived from Fine Cooking

2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 ½ oz) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg yolks
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons (14 ¼ oz.) all purpose flour
2 cups Black currant preserves (or you could use raspberry, cherry etc.)

Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, be sure to leave and overhang. This will allow you to remove the cookies with ease when they are completed.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the butter, ¾ cups of sugar (leave the other ¼ cup for later), and salt. Add the egg yolks. Mix well. Then, switch to a rubber spatula and add the flour and mix just until combined. Transfer about 2 cups or (3/4 of the dough) to the pan and spread evenly. Refrigerate the dough to stiffen for 30 minutes. Preheat oven the 325 degrees F.

This isnt a 9x13 pan...forget you saw this photo.
This is what the foil should look like.

Remove dough from refrigerator, prick dough with a fork a few times. Bake the dough on the center rack in the oven for about 20 minutes. You don’t want the crust to brown, it should stay pretty light in color and won’t be completely firm in the middle. This is ok because you will be putting this back in the oven later.

Meanwhile, with the remainder of the dough, mix in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Set aside.

Pull shortbread out of the oven and top with jam. Spread evenly. Top with the crumb mixture. You don’t want to break the crumbs up too much because they will spread during the cooking process, and you want to have some larger crumbs.

Increase the temperature to 350 degrees F and put the pan back in the oven, on the top 3rd rack of the oven for 25 minutes longer. This will allow the top of the crumbs to brown while allowing the bottom of the cookie mixture not to brown.
Remove pan from oven once crust is golden brown and place on a wire cooling rack. Do not attempt to remove the bars until completely cooled (about an hour). Once cooled, remove the bars by pulling up from the aluminum foil and slice into 2x2 inch pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Malted Milkshake with Whoppers

I was the queen of “make believe” when I was a kid. The youngest of 3 girls, I was always left out on the sidelines so I had no choice but to make up my own fun.

When “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” came out, my imaginary brain would run in wild circles on what I would do if “I” got the golden ticket…I can tell you…I would probably be the one in the middle of the chocolate river. I’m just sayin’.

So in the midst of make believe and wishing I was a kid again, I saw a recipe for a Malt Milkshake in my May, Bon Appetit Magazine. (If you don’t get this mag….get it. It will never ever disappoint) AND since I made whopper cookies last week….I was lucky enough to have 2 boxes of Whoppers still in my pantry just begging to be used.

This was just what I needed to wash the ‘real’ world away…

For all my Whopper loving readers…this is for you.

Whopper Malted Milkshakes
Recipe derived from “Bon Appetit Magazine”, May 2009

2 ½ cups vanilla bean ice cream (I used Edy’s slow churned)
2 tablespoons of malted milk powder
½ cup milk
½ cup half and half
¼ cup coffee or chocolate liquor (optional)
½ cup Whoppers, crushed

In a blender, add milk, half and half, ice cream, and liquor. Blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, put Whoppers in a Ziploc bag and beat with a wooden rolling pin or mallet.

Pour milkshake into classes and top with Whoppers. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

TWD Rewind: Malted Whopper Cookies!

I had to rewind TWD….all the way to September 2008.

You see….my husband LOVES malted anything. Malted ice cream to be specific. So when I was leafing through “Baking From My Home to Yours” for my Coconut Butter Thins, I found these Malted Whopper Cookies and decided…I HAD to make BOTH cookies.

These cookies are chewy…but have that crunch of the cooked whoppers in the cookies. The texture is amazing…and the taste is amazing.

Pair these up with some milk….pure heaven.

I didn’t eat these for breakfast. Nuh – uh. Nope.

Just call me Veruca Salt.

Want the recipe? Visit TWD’s host from way back when, Rachel from Confessions of a Tangerine Tart to get it!