Monday, February 9, 2009

World Peace Cookies

My cookies are only a week late! I feel I'm slinking in through a hole in the fence but I just had to make the World Peace Cookies after seeing them last week on all the TWD blogs.

They are quite seductive - perfect for close on Valentine's Day - the cookie version of molten chocolate cakes. They are also very easy to make. I think I'll get the real Fleur de Sel for my next indulgence - I used sea salt but there is so little in 1/4 teaspoon you don't get to taste the salt with each cookie.

No more ado - must just put them in a container and take them to the office for my co-workers. I have a feeling they are going to go very fast. For the recipe, just check it out on Jessica's blog, Cookbookhabit .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Assorted Pastries for a Reception

I didn't get to making the World Peace Cookies for TWD this week as I catered mini-pastries for a reception at my Church on Monday evening (almost 300 pastries) so I'll put the World Peace Cookies on my list for a re-run. Sorry about missing TWD but I'm a bit baked-out.

This was my menu:
Dorie's Buttery Jam Cookies
Dorie's Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes (mini version)
Lemon cream tartlets using Dorie's Pate Sucre
Chocolate Mocha mini cookies

Does any of these sound familiar? Thanks to our wonderful TWD group and Dorie's recipes I was able to pull off this baking feat. I did manage to take a pic of all but the lemon tartlets. I got lots of complements and each of the cookies got named as a favorite by different guests. It was all so exciting and rewarding.

Next TWD I'm doing will be the cover cake, so I will learn to make yet another beautiful confection.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuiles - Daring Bakers

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.

This was a fun and light challenge - just as well after the December French Yule Log which quite wore me out! I was a lazy artist as far as making templates of tuiles went - I bought mine from Kerekes in Brooklyn, aka "Paradise." They had all sorts of wonderful tuile templates lined up in boxes against the counter wall and I actually bought not one, but four.

The two I picked for the Challenge were the butterfly and the large flower. The recipe was easy and I applied the dough with an offset spatula onto the tuile shapes. I was as happy as a kid doing arts and crafts class. After baking, the tuiles were easy to mold - I used my rolling pin. Then the most exciting part of all - brushing on petal dust; now I really felt like a kid again - it was most enjoyable.

Oh dear, oh dear, though, I chose to make a blancmange for the dessert part and picked a recipe for a plain simple vanilla blancmange from somewhere on the web - it really turned out so dull and boring. Oh well, as least it served as a backdrop. I also tried raspberry coulis, but it turned out more like a blob of raspberry jam. I think if I had served this dessert to anyone but myself that person would have kept the tuiles for a decoration and sent the rest back to the kitchen. But that doesn't really matter; it was all about tuiles wasn't it?

Thank you Karen and Zorra for this delightful challenge; I will be using my tuile templates again for sure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread - Tuesdays with Dorie

Sunday night - A nice cake to make. The process was quite straightforward, except perhaps for the finely chopped ginger root. I tried chopping it in my coffee grinder but it came out too full of liquid, so I just chopped it with a knife. It's stringy and does not respond well to being cut into tiny pieces - I have a feeling that people are going to get little chunks of ginger with string in their portions. I did not use the ginger in syrup - I thought it would be too much.

Of course, I believed I had Grandma's Molasses but it turned out I only had blackstrap so that meant a quick trip to the store about 4 blocks away. After that putting it together went very breezily. I baked it for 40 minutes before testing with a fine knitting needle - it came out with lots of batter on it, so I went for 50minutes. Now I think it might be a bit overdone! Oh well, as long as it tastes good.

I've just sampled a small piece that fell off the bottom of the cake when I turned it out - it does not seem to be very sweet and has a strong molasses (somewhat bitter) taste. Hopefully it will settle down tomorrow before we eat it on Tuesday. Right now I'm thinking of real English Gingerbread Loaf Cake with Lyons Golden Syrup (like my mother and grandmother used to make)- it was sweet and absolutely divine.

Monday evening - Finished the chocolate ganache part. It set very quickly and looks quite glossy. I sprinkled the top with mini crystallized ginger morsels.

I'm really looking forward to it tomorrow, posting day. I'm the "Chooser" this week so here's Dorie's recipe:

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

For the Cake
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate - 2 ounces melted and cooled, 4 ounces finely chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (available in Asian markets and supermarkets; optional)

For the Icing
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon strong coffee
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Getting Ready:Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and put it on a baking sheet. (Pan must be a full 9-inch square size or batter will overflow - measure first).

To Make the Cake: Put the fresh ginger and sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment,or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar and butter together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Pour in the molasses and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate, along with the sugared ginger. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2(begin and end with the dry ingredients),mixing the batter only as much as needed to blend the ingredients. Fold in the chopped chocolate and the ginger in syrup. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Don't be concerned if the cake has domed and cracked-it will settle down as it cools. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the cake. Turn right side up to cool to room temperature before icing the cake. (The edges of the cake might be quite brown, but don't fret-you can trim them after you ice the cake.)

To Make the Icing: Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, put the chocolate and coffee in the bowl, and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and, using a small whisk, stir in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the chocolate and stir in. Transfer the bowl to a counter and let the icing sit for about 10 minutes.

Put the gingerbread, still on the rack, on a piece of wax paper or foil (the drip catcher). Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and use a long metal spatula to spread the icing evenly over the top. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes (you can hurry it along by chilling the cake briefly). If the edges of the cake are overbaked, now is the time to trim them. Then cut the gingerbread into 9 even pieces.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Time for some cupcakes, Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes, from an excellent book 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson. The recipe uses the creaming method but with egg whites, resulting in a nice light, delicate cupcake. Easy and quick to make and would probably be good for those bite size mini cupcakes that are so popular. This time I made the regular size.

Here's the recipe:

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350F.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 egg whites
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/2 lemon oil or lemon extract
1/3 cup buttermilk (I mixed 1/3 cup of milk with 1 tsp. vinegar - it worked fine)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon zest and lemon essence, beating well. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two ob buttermilk, beating until smooth. Add lemon juice, beating just until smooth.

Scoop batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(This is a half portion of the original from the Joy of Baking website.)
3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz. Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

In food processor or with hand mixer, mix cream cheese and Mascarpone cheese until smooth.
Add vanilla and confectioners sugar and process until smooth.
Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl.

Then, in bowl of electric mixer, or with hand mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. With a large spatula, gently but quickly fold a little of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream, in two stages. Cover and place the frosting in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or until it is firm enough to spread.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vanilla Apple Cake - Sweet and Simple Bakes

This is a most delicious cake, perfect for that morning or afternoon tea or coffee break or for a more formal teaparty. It's from the Brit site Sweet and Simple Bakes(a wonderful site for British cakes). The more I think of my already eaten apple cake the more I can almost taste it; it has a nice sweet, but not overly sweet, crust that forms on the top.

Here's the recipe:

Vanilla Apple Cake

250g/9oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
250g/9oz golden caster sugar (or normal caster sugar)
4 eggs, beaten
250g/9oz self-raising flour
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds removed and reserved (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 small Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (or any other type of cooking apple, if not apple of your choice)
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4/350F. Butter a 20cm/8inch springform tin, then line the base with baking paper.

Beat the caster sugar and butter together until the mixture turns pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour and vanilla seeds, then beat together quickly to make a smooth batter. Tip into the prepared tin, then lay the apple wedges on top, poking them halfway into the mix. Don’t worry if the apples appear crowded – they’ll shrink as they cook. Sprinkle with the Demerara and cinnamon, then bake for 1 hour 5 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the sponge is risen and golden.

Leave to cool for a few mins, then release the tin and cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

I put regular sugar in the coffee grinder to get "caster sugar" - much less expensive and just as good; actually bought some Demerara sugar but a running brown sugar (not the packed kind) will do just as well. Also used Golden Delicious apples.

Definitely worth making again and then again.

Monday, January 5, 2009

French Pear Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

Dorie Greenspan herself has chosen her wonderful French Pear Tart recipe for us to bake this week. I would like to take this opportunity to say a big "Thank you" to Dorie for her outstanding book, Baking From My Home to Yours and also to Laurie and her team for the Tuesdays with Dorie blog. I have learned such a lot: choux pastry, brioche, kugelhopf, creamy mousses and .... I could go on and on - so many delicious recipes that I had never even thought of trying just a year ago.

Well, so it's French Pear Tart. I got up early this morning and blits the pate sucre , which is now sitting in the fridge for this evening's endeavor. I have a trip planned to Citarella for the best baking pears I can get.

After a nice lunch with friends in the City and carrying some Boscobel pears, I wended my way homeward. I was filled with fury when I got home to see there was yet another dunning letter for me - some lousy company harassing me for a payment I don't owe. It took me a while to calm myself before I could start baking. But my mood became so upbeat when I started on the tarts - so creative.

I made minis, using some 2-1/2 inch tartlette pans with removable bases - a delight to work with. The minis look cute but they were certainly a lot more work than a single 9-inch tart. However, they will be easy to handle and easy to eat.

If you would like the recipe for Dorie's French Pear Tart - get the book, get the book! It is truly one of the best.