Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD: Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake

For this week's Tuesdays' with Dorie recipe, The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones chose Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake.

I didn't know what to expect since I've never made chocolate cheesecake, or even tried it.

I thought it was good, but I have to admit it wasn't my favorite cheesecake flavor. (The more I make chocolate-based desserts, the more I'm thinking that chocolate doesn't play well as a back-up flavor.) But I'm glad I tried it. I have been curious to know what chocolate cheesecake tastes like. Plus, it's nice to have a chocolate cheesecake recipe up my sleeve in case I run into any choco cheesecake fans in need of a little homemade love.

I got some pretty major cracking on top. D'oh!

Thanks Tea Lady for the interesting pick. Please check out Tea Lady's site if you'd like to see the recipe, or see Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

I knew after missing last month's Daring Baker's challenge (I'm still planning on making those cannoli!) that I needed to step up to the plate and get this month's done.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my first ever gingerbread house, er, church.

It really wasn't hard at all. I don't know why I haven't tried it before. You make the dough (see recipe below) and let it rest in the fridge. Then roll it out and use a paper template to cut out the pieces. I used a template from this site.

I used royal icing to glue my pieces together.

Golden Grahams made for good shingles and a tasty snack to boot.

A sprinkling of powdered sugar is the finishing touch.

Thanks so much to Anna and Y for this awesome pick. I wouldn't have tried this on my own.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)
Click HERE for the online version

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TWD: My Favorite (Boozy) Pecan Pie

Updated to say: I forgot to mention the first time around that this is my December entry to the You Want Pies with That? blog event. This month we were challenged by June at Sweet Therapy to make a "Holiday Spirit Pie", i.e. an alcohol-insprired pie or tart. Thanks June, I thoroughly enjoyed this rummy pecan pie.

With this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Pecan Pie, I learned a few new things and confirmed another.

Not being a huge fan of pecans by themselves, I learned that roughly chopping the pecans rather than leaving them whole helps to avoid having a mouthful of nothing but pecans. I also learned that I'm too big a chicken to add chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon to pecan pie... sorry, Dorie!

I confirmed what I thought the first time I made pecan pie, that adding a little dark rum really kicks this dessert up a notch, like up to the stratosphere. I don't think plain old pecan pie will do it for me anymore. A touch of rum goes perfectly with the slightly bitter pecans and the sweet filling. (I discovered the rum/pecan pie connection when I made Wayne Harley Brachman's recipe, which you can find here.)

I reduced the recipe and made it in a single 4" tart shell. I had already baked the shell previously, so it did end up getting quite brown. I used sweet tart dough, which I really liked with the pecan pie filling. About a tablespoon of dark rum for a full recipe is just right.

I think I forgot to mention that this pie was awesome. Not too sweet, like Dorie said.

OK, one more week until the big day, Christmas! Merry Christmas to everyone and we'll see you next week!

Thanks so much to Beth of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Brina for the excellent pick this week. Please check out Beth's site for the recipe, or Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD: Cafe Volcano Cookies

Before I talk about this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, I just have to ask... what do y'all think about this whole Tiger Woods situation? Personally, I'm wondering how in the world it took this long for him to get caught, with the trail of evidence he seems to have left in his wake. What do you think?

Anyway, on to sweeter matters, LOL. Thanks to Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar we got to make a very easy and slightly strange cookie... Cafe Volcano Cookies. And by "strange", I don't mean bad, I just mean... unusual.

They couldn't be any simpler. Toasted, chopped nuts, sugar, espresso powder, and egg whites get thrown in a pot and heated briefly. Then mounds of the mixture are spooned onto cookie sheets and baked. The motley little piles turn into craggy, holey, crunchy cookies, perfect with coffee or tea.

I passed on the espresso and used almond extract and some concentrated strawberry flavoring I have on hand. The cookies were pretty good, although a tad sweet. I tend to like softer cookies, but they were a nice change and I did enjoy the toasted nut flavor.

OK, that's that. Thanks Macduff for the interesting cookie adventure this week (and thanks for an easy recipe! Gotta love those in December.) Please check out Macduff's site if you'd like to see the recipe, or see Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

Mmm, coooo-kies! I love cookies, making them and eating them. To me, it's so easy to whip up a batch of cookies. Some folks don't want to be bothered, but I say "no problem-o". Especially when they're slice and bake cookies like this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Sables, chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara.

Apparently sables are the French version of shortbread. I honestly thought they tasted a lot like my sugar cookies. Now, I didn't bake them for the allotted time, which seemed way too long to me (I prefer soft cookies to crisp). So maybe that had something to do with them seeming decidedly non-French and non-shortbread-ish.

My son and I are baking another batch today, so maybe I'll try leaving them in longer. I'm sure they'll still be delish.

OK, over and out until next week. If you'd like to see the recipe, please stop by Barbara's blog, or find a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TWD: Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

Oops... Somehow this turned into Wednesday's with Dorie...

If you've got a child's birthday that falls right after a major holiday you might understand my tardiness this week. At 6:00 yesterday I was still shopping for presents for my oldest baby's birthday party that was to take place at 7:00. Yikes!

Anyway, once the dust settled from the Thanksgiving cooking and eating marathon and the birthday festivities, I decided to treat myself to a nice leisurely day in the kitchen making this *fantastic* Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart, which was chosen for Tuesday's with Dorie by Lauren at I'll Eat You.

The caramelized pistachios were kinda fun to make.

And the pistachio pastry cream? OMG, give me a spoon and leave me be, please! I could eat this stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mine was extra nice and green thanks to me not realizing I didn't have any eggs until AFTER I poured the milk over the ground pistachios. (Gotta love those mid-recipe grocery store runs... not!)

I really loved this tart. I would place it squarely in my top 5 Dorie recipes. (My thighs are thanking me for only making one tiny little tart.)

Thanks so much to Lauren for the awesome pick! If you'd like to see the recipe check out Lauren's blog, or better yet, get the book "Baking, from My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenpspan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD: All in One Holiday Bundt Cake

Hey folks! I feel like I need to issue a serious apology for not having posts of any real substance these days. It's been a serious lack of posts or "here's the recipe, see you later" around here lately. Sorry! Hopefully I can get my act together after the holidays.

Anyway, for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, I made the All in One Holiday Bundt Cake which was chosen by Britin of The Nitty Britty.

This puppy is going in the freezer until Saturday when our family gets together for Thanksgiving. I'll also add the cream cheese icing glaze then (ooooh, can't wait!).

For now, I tried an unglazed piece so I could report on the taste. As I suspected, it is VERY good. Mostly, the pumpkin and spice flavor come through, but every now and there there's a little tart cranberry surprise. I grated half of the apple and cut the other half into tiny little pieces so there were no distinct hits of apple. But I'll bet it helped add to the moistness of the cake.

All in all, I'd call this cake a success.

OK, if you'd like to try this yourself, check out the recipe at Britin's blog, or better yet, get the book "Baking, from My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenpspan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

We had a special guest in the kitchen this week.

An ingredient never before seen in these-here parts.

All the way from France... please welcome Chestnut spread, ladies and gentlemen!

For this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, I made the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake chosen by Katya of Second Dinner.

Let me tell you about this cake. First up was the chestnut spread-filled cake, soaked with a brandy-brown sugar syrup. Next was the caramel chocolate frosting/filling. Then the jarred, chopped chestnuts. Finally, the whole kit-n-kaboodle was to be topped by a chocolate glaze.

For various reasons that I won't bore you with, I only made the cake and the caramel chocolate frosting.

The chestnut cake was very good on it's own. However, I'm afraid the moist and tasty cake was upstaged by it's supporting cast, the chocolate caramel frosting. Here it is, fresh from the mixer.

After cooling in the refrigerator and a healthy whipping in the stand mixer, the silky smooth frosting turned airy and fluffy. And delish!

I'll definitely make the frosting again. I'll bet it would be sublime with white cake. Although the cake was very good, I don't imagine I'll be making it often due to the cost of the chestnut spread. I ordered it online from The Frenchy Bee. It arrived in two days, but at $12 (including shipping), it's a bit pricey for an everyday cake.

OK, over and out until next week, folks! Be sure to check out all of the TWD bakers to see their delectible delights. For the recipe, stop by Katya's blog, or better yet, check out the book "Baking, from My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenpspan

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

Nope, those aren't onions hiding behind this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Cran-Apple Crisps (chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef... thanks, Em!). They're tulip bulbs.

The cool thing about tulips is that you plant them, you enjoy them for a number of years, then you dig them up and find that where there was one tulip bulb, there are now many tulip bulbs. They multiply! Kinda like rabbits.

Another cool thing about tulips is that a crisp fall afternoon spent digging them, separating them, and replanting them is a perfect excuse to indulge in a little afternoon snack like apple crisp. And if the apple crisp is chock full of the surprise ingredient, cranberries, well that's just bonus points as far as I'm concerned.

For the Cran-Apple Crisp, I followed the recipe exactly, except that I used dried cherries in place of the raisins, and I used a 1-1/2 quart dish and two ramekins. Some folks on the TWD forum mentioned that the crisp was a tad sweet, so I used a higher proportion of tart Granny Smith apples than the Fuji and Red Delicious apples. I thought it ended up a nice balance between sweet and tart.

I *really* liked this dessert.

A lot.

OK, folks, gotta run. "Somebody" still has tulip bulbs to plant.

Thanks so much to Em for a great pick. If you'd like to see the recipe, stop by Em's blog, or better yet, check out the book "Baking, from My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenpspan.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies & Caramel Corn

Whew! I'm a day late for Tuesday's with Dorie this week. I've been running around like a chicken with it's head cut off for the past week!

I collaborated with my brother-in-law on the mother-of-all-Halloween-costume-paper-mache-projects. (I'll give an atta-boy to anyone who can guess what this is supposed to be. I know, it's kind of obscure.)

Then there were two batches of caramel corn to make. (By the way, it's so good and completely addictive. I'll share the recipe below.)

Throw in a 3rd grade concert...

... and school Halloween parties,

... and last but not least, my 30-foot long former weed patch. This is the last chance I'll get to work some organic matter into our lovely clay soil before winter, so I've been digging, digging, digging.

Among other things, I need a home for my strawberry plants that I foolishly thought I could contain in pots. I started with two plants, which multiplied to at least twenty. (Any and all strawberry growing tips are welcome as I obviously don't know what I'm doing.)

So anyway, that's my big long list of excuses why I'm late getting my Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies posted. Thanks so much to Pamela of Cookies with Boys for picking an easy recipe. Also, thanks to Laurie for allowing the Tuesday's with Dorie bakers to bake the recipes out of order this month. Pamela's pick isn't until later in the month, but it was the easiest one for me.

In a word, these cookies were fantastic! If you like molasses and fall spices, that is.

I really liked the method for making them too. I've never turned out such a perfectly uniform batch of cookies!

First, we were to chill the dough. Then cut into uniform sized pieces and roll into balls. A bath in sugar prepped them for the pan, where a (go Bengals!) glass was used to smoosh them down.

And voila! perfect cookies!

I will definitely make these again (and again). If you'd like to see the recipe, please check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours" or check out Pamela's site.

Caramel Corn

I would rate this at a medium difficulty recipe due to the hot caramel mixture.

3 quarts popped corn (I popped kernel corn on the stove. I'm not sure if this would work with microwave popcorn, but if you want to try, I wouldn't recommend a buttered version.)
1 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. dark or light corn syrup (I used dark)
1/2 C. margarine (I used 3 oz. butter and it was fine.)
1/2 tsp. salt
chopped nuts or peanuts (optional... quantity is to taste)
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Butter a 9" x 13" pan. (Note, I doubled the recipe and used a 12" x 18" pan.)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Pop your corn and spread evenly in the pan. Sprinkle nuts over top, if using. Have it nearby and ready when the sugar mixture is done boiling.

Bring the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda. Stir well as it froths up.

Pour sugar mixture evenly over the top of the popcorn. Stir the popcorn as best you can, but don't worry if the caramel mixture isn't evenly spread over all popcorn. It will distribute as you bake and stir later on.

Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Use a wide wooden spoon or spatula when you stir. Try to scrape up any fallen sugar from the bottom and turn over the popcorn. If some of the sugar sticks to the spoon, try to scrape it off and lay over any dry looking areas. Stir gently as the popcorn wants to spill out of the pan.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: French Macarons

It's time for the Daring Bakers to show off the October challenge - French Macarons!

These scrumptious little French bakery cookies are easy to make but difficult to master. They should be airy and smooth, and should have the ever -elusive "feet", that puffy layer around the bottom.

Sadly, mine were foot-less. And not smooth. (But they tasted fantastic.)

The ingredient list for making the cookie portion is short; egg whites, granulated and powdered sugar, ground almonds, flavoring and that's it.

I ground blanched almonds in my food processor and strained them through a mesh strainer. That worked pretty well and I think I'm now going to make my own almond flour from now on... it's much cheaper than pre-ground (cha-ching!).

I mixed a touch of pink and red food coloring in with my ground almonds and powdered sugar.

And ended up with a lovely Pepto-Bismal color? (Oops.)

I made two batches, the first was lumpy and bumpy.

For the second batch, I ground the almond flour with the powdered sugar in the food processor. They ended up somewhat smoother, but still not that glossy smooth that the *real* French macarons are famous for. Here they are before baking.

And after. They stuck to the parchment somewhat, but were still usable.

I filled mine with some cream cheese icing I had on hand.

Well, I won't be quitting my day job any time soon to start up a French macaron-making business. But overall, this was a fun challenge and I can see how people get addicted to trying to perfect them. I'd love to try, but my thighs can't take it, LOL.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

French Macarons


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

TWD: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

For the final Tuesday's with Dorie recipe for October, April of Short + Rose chose the Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte.

I gather from Dorie's write-up that this is a brownie-ized version of Black Forest cake, complete with dried cherries and cherry preserves in the brownie itself (with a little Kirsch thrown in here and there). The brownie was to be topped with a cream cheese-slash-mascarpone cheese-slash-whipped cream layer.

I simplified the recipe because I thought it might be a little too "fancy" for my family's tastes. I made half of a batch and divided the batter evenly in 11 cups of a muffin pan. Next time I'll stretch it to 12 cups because a little goes a long way with this rich little treat

For the topping, I forgot to get mascarpone at the store and I didn't feel like making another grocery store run so I improvised. I used the cream cheese called for (1/2 of it anyway), I added a few table spoons of sugar, a little glug of vanilla, a couple of serving spoons of honey Greek yogurt, and finally a couple of dollops of Cool Whip (I admit it, Cool Whip is my Achilles heel). It was darned tasty and just the right amount of tang to balance the sweet brownies.

I'll definitely make these again... maybe even the way they're supposed to be, LOL. OK, if you want the recipe, please check out April's blog or go straight to the source and find Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, from My Home to Yours".

Friday, October 23, 2009

Saturday's with Dorie: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

It's been a year exactly (well, 360 days if you want to get technical) since Clara at i heart food 4 thought chose Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes for the weekly Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. I seem to remember being in some sort of snit at the time and didn't make these.

Bad call on my part!

These were really good... and this from someone who's not a huge cupcake fan. They were moist and light, perfect for a big dollop of vanilla icing (and sprinkles, of course!). I thought they could have been a big more chocolaty. But really, let's face it, cupcakes are all about the icing anyway, right? So it wasn't a big deal.

Dorie mentions that these cuppies are more suited to adults, being less sweet and made with dark chocolate. However, I needed these for a kid-friendly event, so I used semi-sweet melted chocolate and increased the sugar by a few tablespoons.

(I couldn't pass up these Halloween themed cupcake liners, by Martha of course. No one but me will probably notice them, LOL. They've got spiders on the bottom too.)

Anyway, kudos to Clara for a great pick and (as *always*) to Dorie Greenspan for another fabulous recipe from her book "Baking, from My Home to Yours". For the recipe, check out Clara's site or better yet, Dorie's book.