Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Daring Bakers presents: marshmallow cookies, mint milans, and a lazy blogger :(

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Thank you Nicole for such a delicious challenge! These cookies are some of my favorites from childhood. The marshmallow ones tasted just like the Pinwheel cookies my grandma would buy for me when I was little. And as for the milan cookies, I absolutely love mint milanos, so I made mine with mint extract. And I would like to take this opportunity to point out what a procrastinator I have become lately. Case in point, I made these cookies 4th of July weekend! Shame on me :( I promise, promise, promise to post on time and be a better blogger for the few people who do read my blog. Enjoy the recipes below and please stop by our hostess's blog as well as our fellow bloggers to check out how they did.

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, whisked together
homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In the mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8 of an inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a "kiss" of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temp for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

*Note: If you don't want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat on a 35o degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade Marshmallows
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan , combine the water, the syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until "soft-ball" stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate Glaze

12 ounces of semisweet chocolate
2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Milan Cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (I added 1 extra tablespoon)
2 tablespoons lemon extract (I omitted this)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
cookie filling recipe follows

Cookie Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons mint extract

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4) plain tip , pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tart or Pudding? You decide.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Thank you Jasmine and Annemarie for a very history filled challenge!
As you may have already guessed, there is much debate on whether or not this dessert is actually a pudding or a tart. Now on the one hand it does have a crust like a tart, but on the other hand the top is rather sponge like and you can put a cream sauce on it. Unfortunately, I myself could not decide due to some, err... oh hell, the thing was so good I didn't really care to decipher if it was more of a tart or pudding. So it looks like you'll just have to make it yourself and decide the great debate: Tart or Pudding?

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability (I made a strawberry jam, but I think any kind of berry would be good, or even store bought jam if you prefer)
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. (After the jam, I added some chocolate chips.) Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

If you enjoyed this, please stop by here and check out everyone else's posts!
Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dissection of a bad cupcake

So what makes a cupcake "bad" you might ask. Well let me fill you in on a bad cupcake with my list of 3 sure ways to tell if a cupcake is truly "bad".
1. It can be used as a weapon.
Example: You see that woman who used to shamelessly flirt with your boyfriend/significant other, even though she knew he was taken, so you chuck the cupcake at her and it knocks her unconscious. Oops, now run like hell! ( joking :), or am I? )
2. The frosting can be used as a lube. Get your minds out of the gutter :)
Example: Your secret cookie stash cabinet has developed a noisy hinge. You could use the bad cucpake frosting to oil it up so your boyfriend/significant other doesn't catch you mid-cookie sneaking. Now try not to look like a deer in the headlights and start babbling about how you just found these cookies, and instead say, "Oh I was just coming to find you and see if you'd like a cookie."
3. You've tried this place's cupcakes not once, not twice, but 5 TIMES! to see if the cupcakes have changed from bad to good.
There is this great little restaurant with a cute little bakery by you. Now this bakery has tasty bread, to-die-for fruit tarts, and your all-time favorite sweet, pain au chocolat. But honestly, I'm convinced they couldn't make a decent cupcake if their life depended on it. And don't even get me started on the mountain of inedible frosting they use.
List aside, did I mention that the cupcakes are always so pretty and twice the size of a normal cupcake? You're thinking about #1 now and picturing a softball instead of a cupcake, aren't ya? I really really wish that their cupcakes would magically change to something delicious. Or at least something I wouldn't mind using up a daily amount of calories on.
Now for the unveiling of the place with the "bad" cupcakes. Drumroll please...
Originally from Chicago, they decided to build another Medici here in Normal. Now don't get me wrong, the restaurant is lovely and almost everything their bakery makes is good, except for those damn cupcakes. Who oh why can they not be good?! If I had remembered to take my camera with me, you could have seen how beautiful the cupcakes are, but alas I only had my phone camera to work with. So my apologies for the bad pictures of the bad cupcakes :(

And as for this bottom picture, no I did not eat the whole cupcake. I spread the cupcake love around and gave each of my co-workers a piece :) Aren't I so sweet and nice? (wink, wink)

Stay tuned for my next bakery adventure!

Daring Bakers and a have-it-your-way cheesecake!!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Since I've never made cheesecake before, I was super excited to tackle this challenge. I immediately began thinking of flavor combinations. That's right, Jenny said we could do any flavor or crust, as long as we followed the base recipe. Yea!

I finally decided on a mint Oreo crust with the plain cheesecake, dotted with Andes mint pieces and topped with melted Andes mints and mint Oreos. Go ahead and start drooling, you have my permission :)

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups/180 crushed mint Oreos
1 stick/4 oz. butter, melted
2 tbsp./24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks cream cheese, 8 oz. each, room temperature
1 cup/210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup/8 oz. heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice (I left this out because of all the mint flavors)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp. liquer, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (I left this out as well, but maybe next time I would add mint Bailey's)
1-2 cups Andes mint pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180c = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. ( I put the Andes mint pieces on top of the crust and poured the batter over it.) Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finishing cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Hoppy 1 Day After Easter!

I was so distracted by my very own Easter bunny, aka Sir Hops Alot, that I almost forgot to post these yummy cookie bars that I made for my co-workers. And yes, I did name my rabbit Sir Hops Alot. Go ahead, I'll give you a couple of minutes to have a good laugh...

Now back to these cookies or should I say cookie bars. I'd like to thank whomever thought to put sugar cookie dough into a cookie sheet and make these seriously wonderful treats. Lately over on Tastespotting I'd been seeing pictures of sugar cookie bars showing up. So I pulled out my recipes and found my sugar cookie dough. Since it looked like many people were spreading their dough onto a cookie sheet I did have to double the recipe, which I have already doubled at the bottom. So totally worth it!

Sugar Cookie Bars
1 cup of butter (I used unsalted) softened
1 1/2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp. of vanilla
5 cups of flour
(plus a little extra to help keep your fingers from sticking as you press the dough into the pan)
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
-Preheat oven to 375 F.
-In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugar together.
-Add each egg one at a time, mixing between each addition.
-Add vanilla, mix, and set aside.
-In a medium bowl combine your flour, salt, and baking soda. Make sure to give it a little whisk.
-Gradually add your dry mixture to your butter and sugar mixture until all the flour is incorporated.
-Grease your cookie sheet (13x18) and spread dough out onto it. Use your hands and a little bit of flour to pat it down evenly in the pan.
-Bake for about 12-15 minutes. (Mine took about 15 minutes.)
-Once they've cooled you can cut them into any shape and frost with whatever frosting you love. (I made a basic powdered sugar buttercream frosting and then sprinkled with large colored crystal sugar. Mmmm :) )

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pure Decadence

This is exactly the phrase that comes to mind as you take your first bite of Decadence's signature cheesecake. White chocolate, milk chocolate Heath toffee, caramel bits, oreo crust....oh sorry I went into a cheesecake trance. You would too if you could taste this cheesecake. This was hands down, one of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted. Sorry Cheesecake Factory :(

Now cheesecake was not the only thing I had planned on trying. My sole purpose was to try their pain au chocolats from the day they opened. Because I can count on one hand the number of bakeries here in town that actually know what these are, let alone make them. While it may not have been a real Parisian chocolate croissant, it came sort of close.

It had the right amount of chocolate and it had a nice flaky outside. The only problem was that it was a bit heavy. I'm not sure what the French do to make their croissants light and airy, but it's a technique I've yet to taste on this side of the pond. That's not to say that I won't be going back for another Decadence pain au chocolat. I'll just be continuing my search for the perfect american version of these delicious chocolate bundles of heaven :)

In the meantime, if you find yourself in central Illinois craving a pain au chocolat, you should stop on over at Decadence. You may find me drooling in front of the cheesecake display.

Stay tuned for my next bakery adventure!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Art and Soul of Chocolate Chip Cookies

372,000. That is how many results you will find if you type chocolate chip cookie recipe into Google. Amazing! Since I was a little girl, the chocolate chip cookie has been my favorite cookie. Of course who doesn't like eating the dough, but it's more than that. There is just something about the aroma these cookies give off as they are being baked. And let's not forget the warm, melty goodness when you eat one straight from the oven. Mmmmm, heaven. Add an ice cold glass of milk and you're set. Ok, now I'm starting to get hungry. Good thing I froze some of this dough ;)
After my wonderful description (wink, wink) of the chocolate chip cookie, you will understand my excitement over receiving the ART & SOUL of BAKING by Cindy Mushet for Sur la table, for my birthday! Yea! And of course I just HAD to read it from cover to cover. So what was the first recipe I tried? Devil's food cupcake? Nope. Dairy challah? Guess again. Chocolate Chip Cookies? Ding ding ding! Yup, I tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe. Surprisingly, the recipe was very close to the Tollhouse recipe. But oh so much better! Trust me, you will never go back to that Tollhouse recipe again.Because in my oh so humble opinion, it is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever tried. I'm including the recipe below. If you decide to try it, please drop me a comment on your own results.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by Cindy Mushet
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) of unsalted butter, softened (65-68 degrees F)
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch chunks, or 1 cup (7 ounces) dark chocolate chips *(I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips.)
6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch chunks, or 1 cup (7 ounces) milk chocolate chips *(I used Ghiradelli white chocolate chips instead.)
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts), chopped, toasted, and completely cooled (optional) *(I did not put nuts in mine.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium-low speed until smooth and blended, about 2 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just blended after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend well. Scrape down the bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add the flour mixture all at ounce. Blend just until there are no more patches of flour. Scrape down the bowl.
4. Add the semisweet and milk chocolate chunks and nuts (if using), and blend on low just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir gently a few times with the spatula to make sure there are no more patches of unincorporated flour or butter lurking near the bottom of the bowl.
5. Using the small ice cream scoop or spoon, portion tablespoon-size mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet halfway through, for 10-14 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges and still a bit pale in the center. If you want crisp cookies instead of chewy ones, bake for a couple extra minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before serving.
Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Daring Bakers give us a Chocolate Valentino for Valentine's

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Thank you Wendy and Dharm for such a perfect recipe for February and Valentine's Day. I love any excuse to eat chocolate and make my own ice cream. Lucky me that I was able to do both :) The vanilla bean ice cream was such a nice compliment to the flourless chocolate cake.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)
1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat){you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.
1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthwise. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.
3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time.
4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.
5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker).

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers & Dessert Rangoon

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 Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. Thank you Karen and Zorra for such a fun challenge. You would think that making stencils and having to shape the cookies would be such daunting tasks. However, this was my favorite challenge so far. You could mold your cookies into whatever shapes you wanted them to be. Oh the possibilities :)

Since I am obsessed with other cultures foods, I thought it only right that I shape my tuiles into one of my favorite things to eat. Crab rangoon. Yum :) I decided to make the sweet version, so obviously these were crab-free. I filled half of them with a sweet cream cheese and the other half with nutella. Just to make sure the nutella was up to par though, I had to taste test it. And by taste test I clearly mean take a large spoon and get the biggest scoop possible of the chocolate hazelnut goodness. Don't judge. You know you would do the same thing if you were me. Now on to the recipe.

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Recipe:Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)

Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

1. Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not over mix.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

3. Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.
4. If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

I think I need to go try some more of that nutella. I did buy 2 jars just in case one was bad ;) 
Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pasta + Sauce + Wine = Dinner :)

"I'm hungry. Feed me."

Tomato Feta Pasta

1/2 box of Barilla whole wheat rotini
1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
1/2 large red onFont sizeion, chopped up
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
feta cheese crumbles

1. Cook your pasta. You can really use whatever kind is your favorite. I love the taste of whole wheat pasta, so that's what I use.
2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
3. In the pot you used for the pasta, sprinkle in some olive oil and turn to medium heat.
4. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes.
5. Now add your garlic and saute for another minute.
6. Add the tomatoes and let cook until they are tender.
7. Add your can of sauce, wine, and seasonings. You can adjust the seasoning amounts to fit your taste buds.
8. Cook until the sauce starts to lightly bubble and then remove from heat.
9. Add your pasta to the sauce and mix together.
10. Serve up into your favorite bowls and top with feta or whatever your favorite cheese may be.
11. Enjoy with a glass of wine :)
This dish is so easy and you can add all sorts of veggies or even meats to it. Kale or mushrooms would be really great in this pasta. Or if you love meat, maybe some spicy sausage. Enjoy! And stay tuned for my next baking/cooking adventure!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sorry Excuse for a Blogger & Lemon Bars

Where did December go?! Seriously! And now January is almost over. So it's time to get my butt back into baking gear! I decided to make lemon bars, but then completely forgot to take ANY pictures. WHAT?! Oh well. I guarantee that minus the pictures, this recipe will make some of the best lemon bars you've ever had.

Lemon Bars
2 cups of flour
1 cup of softened butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 cups of sugar
dash of salt
5 Tablespoons of lemon juice (juice of 2 large lemons or 3 small)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of flour
powdered sugar

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. Combine flour, butter, and powdered sugar.
3. Mix thoroughly and press into ungreased 13x9 pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until it looks golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, mix eggs, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.
5. Fold in 1/4 cup of flour and baking powder.
6. Pour the lemon mixture onto hot crust.
7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
8. Let cool and sprinkle powdered sugar onto bars.
9. Cut into squares or eat straight from the pan with a fork and enjoy :)

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure :)