Sunday, August 31, 2008

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

This is my first daring bakers challenge. I finally bit the bullet and joined. And I was very excited to find out what it was going to be. When it was Eclairs I can say that I was less than excited and excited at the same time. You see I don't like filled donuts at all, its a consistency thing, I don't like pudding either. But I have also never made cream puffs and I have always wanted to and never quite forced myself too. I think that batter and the cream puffs themselves are so versatile. So after making my first batch I now want to try to make them again. And I will say that I ate a whole small eclair and did enjoy its chocolately flavor. I am looking forward to the next challenge and I hope that I can keep up with the challenges.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.
Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature


In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 6 tbsp (110 g) of Nutella

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Stirring gently, stir in the Nutella.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Raspberry Applesauce Cake

I love the Fall and I love apple sauce. Honestly it’s my favorite time of year hands down. Perfect weather, perfect food and flavors and its right before my favorite holiday, Christmas. Ok, I know Thanksgiving is before Christmas but its close. But I love the flavors of fall and I will be going to the apple orchard at least 5 times this year if it kills me. I just love it there and don’t mind paying the premium price for their apples and eating a warm apple cider donut isn’t too bad either. Back to the recipe. My mom brought me some raspberry and mixed berry apple sauce, and I knew I had to come up with something for them to be show cased in. And so looking through my many recipes I came across this one and decided it would be perfect. This cake turned out great and the hint of raspberry gave it the right amount of tang. I really liked this cake so much I’m trying to figure out how to make it without the applesauce part. Or maybe use a different sauce. The ideas are endless with this easy recipe.

Raspberry Applesauce Cake

3 cups of AP Flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
1 cup of butter, softened
2 cups of light brown sugar
¼ cup of honey
2 large eggs
2 cups of Chunky Apple – I used Raspberry Applesauce that my mom bought for me

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 10 cup bundt cake pan with nonstick baking spray. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and honey until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined and then beat in the applesauce. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes in the pan and turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Apple Sauce Cake.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Double Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake and a Forgotten Anniversary

Apparently my life has been spinning out of control lately as I totally forgot about my 1 year Blog Anniversary. So I didn’t really make these for that but I have to start trying out recipes for my Infamous Christmas box as I have to step it up every year. So that means testing and retesting new recipes that I am thinking about making. So this recipe has been tapped to be tested. I will tell you that I did overfill the cakes so this is the adjusted recipe as to what I will do next time. Now this is a thick cake so it was hard to spread out. So I am looking for ideas for next time to get to go into the pan easier. But Happy Anniversary to me! These were quite tasty but I think I would leave out the coffee flavor next time. And the mini chips were perfect for the small size of the cakes.

Double Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

3 cups of flour
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks of butter, softened
3 cups of sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups of heavy cream
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips – I used the mini ones because I was making mini cakes
1/2 cup raspberry preserves – heated in the microwave

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray 2 12 cup mini Bundt cakes with baking spray.
In a bowl combine flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition, then add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
Add in the flour mixture alternating with the milk. Mix until just smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips, making sure to not over mix.
Fill each mold 1/3 of the way full, pour a little warm raspberry jam on top of the batter in the pan. Spread some remaining batter on top of each so that the Bundt form is about 2/3 full.
Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes in the pan. Turn the cakes out of pans and cool on baking rack.

I also got an award from the wonderful Theresa over at Mexican American Border Cooking.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When a good idea goes horribly wrong........


Have you ever had a great idea that has just gone horribly wrong. I had that last night, with these cupcakes. I'll take it from the top. I love coconut cake and with the summer coming to an end soon I knew I had to make one and quick. But its so much work to bake the 3 layer and then split them and then find some way to unload 3/4 of a cake. So while watching my many DVR'd cooking shows, I watched Ina make these and was in love. But thought I could step this up make it even more summery. A few months ago I purchased some tropical fruit curds a Mango Peach and a Guava. They had been in my pantry ever since with me trying to figure out what to do with them. Don't you just love impulse buys. So I thought why not fill these cupcakes with a mixture of the two curds. Great idea right.... Wrong, oh so very wrong. I put the cupcakes in the oven, no turning back now, and opened up the curds to combine them together in a bowl. As soon as I opened the first one I knew I had an issue on my hands. The curd at the top of the jar was a completely different color and texture, it looked almost congealed. So I thought well maybe because that came in contact with the air when it was packaged it gets like this. So I spooned off the top of the curd to see if the rest was fine. It looked fine so I put it in my bowl and moved on to the next jar hoping for better results, but was faced with the harsh reality of the exact same results. So I spooned off the top again and spooned it into the bowl with the other curd. I gave them a good mix and gave it a taste. Yuck, it tasted eggy and a little off. I made P taste it and he agreed but didn't think it was as bad as I thought. So I thought maybe my previous experience with the congealed top made me think it was worse that it actually was. So in my first moment of clarity I decided to just make one cupcake with the filling and see how it tasted before I filled the rest of them.
So after waiting anxiously for another 30 minutes I filled and frosted my test cupcakes and took big bite and........ immediately spit it into the garbage. It was all wrong did not work at all. In my second moment of clarity, the curd went down the drain. And plain coconut cupcakes is what I was left with. Good in their own right and they had taught me two lessons. If I ever want to use curd to just make it myself because I know how and then I will be happier with the results and maybe this was the kitchen god's way of saying don't mess with a good thing, keep it simple.


Coconut Cupcakes

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a bowl cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.
Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a bowl on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

I halved the recipe for the frosting as it sounded like a ton of frosting and the halved recipe was plenty. There was even some for me to eat out of the bowl.

Cupcakes based off of Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Caprese Salad on a Stick

For our cook out at work, I also had to make a side dish and really wanted to make Caprese salad because I love it so much. But its kind of hard to pile on a plate with all of the other cook out side dishes. So I decided to put it on a stick, then it was portion controlled and everyone could have one. These pictures are from before I put the dressing on. They went over very well. I think they would be a great addition to any picnic or family gathering and can be made in advance just put them in the fridge after assembling them. Summer is almost over and that makes me sad, so I will be trying to pack in a few more summer recipes.

Caprese Salad on a Stick

30 cherry tomatoes
15 small boconccini or 8 medium size boconccini halved
15 basil leaves
15 bamboo skewers

Dressing -
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Skewer in this order: Tomato, Basil leaf, Boconccini, Tomato. Once you have made all 15 skewers arrange them on your serving plate. Combine all of the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the skewers. You will have left over dressing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When you think of the South what do you think of?

Once again I over bought on peaches this time they were Southern peaches from South Carolina. And I had to figure out something to do with them. So as they were Southern peaches and both peaches and biscuits scream the South to me. I had an idea to marry the two together. And freeze the rest of the peaches for a later application, Bellini's anyone? So after what felt like hours of peeling and slicing peaches (seriously I hate peeling peaches), I was able to start on my biscuits. This is my go to biscuit recipe and I think next time I could use a little brown sugar to sweeten the biscuits up. But overall these were good not really peachy but good. It was that horrible fine line of if I put more peaches it won't hold together. Maybe some peach puree next time. Yum! In any event a few seconds in the microwave and some butter and honey and you have yourself a damn good snack. I hope P's office likes them, as they are my new guinea pigs for baking. Don't you wish you worked there!

Southern Peach Biscuits

2 ½ cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of cold unsalted butter cubed
1 ¼ cups of heavy cream 1 ripe peach, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the desired optional ingredients. Cut butter into the mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cream until just combined. Add in the chopped peach pieces. Dough can be dropped on to a parchment lined baking sheet or patted out and cut into biscuits. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Birthday Party Cupcakes


If you have read my blog lately you probably know that I was tapped to make cupcakes for my twin niece's first birthday party. After trying out different flavor combinations the 3 cupcake flavor were settled and I set about planning and packing all of the items I needed to make the cupcakes. So with my suitcase packed and a half day of work I was ready to go. We raced to the airport to catch our flight only to have a 5 hour delay for weather. Well they said weather until we got on the plane and then informed us that it was mechanical. How nice of them. So instead of getting in at 9 we got in at 1 am. Luckily the twins were quiet that next morning as we needed some sleep. The party went off with out a hitch. The cupcakes were completed that morning and everyone seemed to enjoy them. This is a picture of the table with the cupcakes on it.

Oh and we had a nice 2 hour delay on the way home too! I love the airlines! And Happy Birthday to me! I'm the BIG 26 today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!