Tuesday, December 30, 2008

French Yule Log - Daring Bakers

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry
and Marion from Il el faut peu pour etre hereau.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Whew! Finally, done! I started way late - on Thursday, New Years Day, and it's taken me up until Saturday night to get to the stage of putting it in the fridge until it gets the icing Sunday morning. A lot of work!

Sunday morning - did the icing - lovely - I always wanted to know how to do plastic icing. I loved the praline crisp, the vanilla mousse, and chocolate ganache. That leaves only two elements I wasn't happy with - the creme brulee and the dacquoise, but I think I messed up there (used a tall pan for the dacquoise so it took a long time to bake and got a bit rubbery; I beat the creme brulee instead of just stirring it so I think that's why it came out a bit spongy.) Ran out of mousse and icing, so had to leave out some mousse layers and could only ice part of the log. It would have been fine in an 8x4 pan instead of a 9X5.

Would I make this again, like the opera cake? I'm not sure, but I would certainly make individual elements to put in other creations. Now that I have tasted the completed product, I shiver with delight, in spite of some of my construction faults. It is a real fancy French restaurant dessert. I think it would be perfect cut up into petit four sizes too.

Thank you kind hosts - it was a very challenging and worthwhile experience.

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.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

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Anne of Anne Strawberry has chosen a wonderful cheesecake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. (Please excuse the pic of the cake in its pan still - it was about to go on the subway and I was afraid it would get all squished if I took it out.)

Speaking of pics, todays blog is also starring my little girl cat, Phoebe,who is on show for her Holiday photograph.

I think the cake could well have been named Tall and "Dreamy" Cheesecake - it's a winner, the kind of cake that one is proud to serve to guests after a nice dinner. It is totally delicious and has quite a light consistency (I have had some cheesecake clunkers at times). It is rich - 4 packets of cream cheese, 4 eggs and a generous amount of cream and sour cream give it a melt-in-the mouth flavor, and it's easy to bake! No fuss, no anxiously peering through the oven door glass, just follow Dorie's time instructions exactly and after 2-1/2 hours the cheesecake will be on the table, gradually cooling.

I let mine sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours, drizzled some caramel sauce on and then took it to work. It was a great success and a very nice treat for the Christmas/New Year Holiday period. I could cut 12 generous portions (none of that sliver business) and they disappeared very quickly.

The recipe for the Tall and Creamy Cheesecake is up on Anne's blog. Bake and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Morning Muffins - Sweet and Simple Bakes

As well as delicious muffins my great, big beautiful cat "Mystery" is featured in this post, taking his ease in his kitty condo. He is truly the master and commander in my house and posed for a special Holiday pic.

Sweet and Simple Bakes is one of my favorite blogs, with a great recipe to enter every month. For December we could vote on one out of four Christmas recipes and Nigella Lawson's "Christmas Morning Muffins" won. (I was one of the folks who voted for the muffins recipe).

I have just consumed a Christmas Morning Muffin. It's 9:15PM on December 16th but that doesn't matter does it? - I think Nigella will allow me some poetic licence. They were not quite cooled on the rack when I reached out and grabbed one - oh my, delicious! It's all those plump dried cranberries (1/2 lb.) in the mix that did the trick, I think.

Some of the ingredients are true British and a bit difficult to get here in the States, but it's nothing that can't be resolved. For caster sugar just pulse some regular sugar in the coffee grinder a few times and presto, it's caster sugar. Demerara sugar can be substituted with "Sugar in the Raw." It's not as sparkly as Demerara sugar but it will taste good. I got fresh dried cranberries at Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn - just so much better than the dry shrivelled stuff one gets in a packet at the supermarket.

I took them to work (all 10 of them as I ate two before work) and placed them alongside the "Buttery Jam Cookies" I had baked for "Tuesdays with Dorie." They were quite the rave (as well as the cookies). An excellent recipe for Christmas time and so easy to put together. Here's the recipe:

Christmas Morning Muffins ~ adapted from Nigella Christmas Book

Makes 12

250g (9 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g (4 oz) caster (super fine) sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Good grating of fresh nutmeg (or ¼ tsp ground nutmeg)
2 Clementine’s or Satsuma’s *see notes*
Approx 125ml (4 fl oz) full-fat milk
75g 3 oz) vegetable oil (or melted butter, left to cool slightly)
1 egg
175g (6 oz) dried cranberries
For The Topping
3 tsp Demerara sugar *see notes*


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin paper cases.

Measure the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl; grate the zest of the Clementine’s/Satsuma’s over and combine.
Squeeze the juice of the Clementine’s/Satsuma’s into a measuring jug, and pour in the milk until it comes up to the 200ml (7 fl oz) mark.

Add the oil (or slightly cooled, melted butter) and egg, and lightly beat until just combined.

Pour this liquid mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir until everything is more or less combined, remembering that a well-beaten mixture makes for heavy muffins; a lumpy batter is a good here.

Fold in the cranberries, then spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The muffins are ready to eat now either plain or broken up and smeared with butter and marmalade.

* Notes*

*Cranberries could also be replaced with another dried fruit of choice*

* Clementine’s/Satsuma’s*

If you’re unable to source Clementine’s or Satsuma’s, 1 orange of zest and juice would be adequate.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buttery Jam Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. What a nice easy cookie to whip up - just imagine guests coming for tea and there's nothing to eat - just bake a batch of these Buttery Jam Cookies and you're all organized.

I used my delicious Turkish rose jam so the cookies have a lightly scented flavor and you can really taste the butter in them. Also baked them one tray at a time on the middle rung - seems to work just as well as switching trays around from top to bottom. They have quite a chewy texture with the jam. But aren't they tiny! About three of these would make a normal size cookie.

I think they need prettying up a bit so I have given mine some frosting with a bit of Rose water flavoring, topped with toasted almond pieces. Just right for tea.

Thank you Heather for your choice - they are on my "make again" list.

Operation Baking GALS - Christmas Package

This is my Christmas mailing package for a brave soldier in Quatar and for a brave nurse in Iraq(two boxes for each recipient). I picked Team Your Place Gourmet to work on - Kim Onstott's a great team leader and gives lots of encouragement and support.

Had a real good time baking and tasting this weekend and now everything is all packed up and ready to go. My pics. show(top)Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies ; (middle) Coconut Oatmeal Cookies and (bottom)Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (with some candy packs).

*****Five Stars for the Peanut Butter Cookies - the recipe is from one of my favorite blogs, Alpineberry. If you're looking for a special peanut butter cookie, make these - they are divine!

Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies
(makes about 50 cookies)

1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse sea salt (like fleur de sel)(I used 1/2 teasp.)
4 ounces (8 tbsp/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup firmly light packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
[Be sure to stir PB well to blend in the oil before measuring]
1 cup (5 ounces) toffee peanuts, coarsely chopped (I used Honey Roasted Peanuts)

Preheat oven to 325F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in peanut butter. Add the flour mixture and mix until the flour is incorporated.

Pour the chopped toffee peanuts in a shallow bowl. Scoop 2 level teaspoons of dough for each cookie and shape into a 1-inch ball. Roll the ball in the chopped peanuts to coat heavily, pressing any bits that fall off. Place the coated balls 2 inches apart on the line cookie sheets.

Bake the cookies until they are lightly colored on top, about 14-17 minutes. The cookies will seem soft to the touch but will firm up as they cool.

I also liked the Coconut Oatmeal Cookies which I got from
Friends Bookclub, a really good site which, altho' no longer active, has retained hundreds of lovely recipes.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
1 Cup Butter or margarine
1 Cup Brown sugar, firmly packedCornstarch
1 Cup Granulated sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tsps. Vanilla extract
2 Cups Sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tsp. Baking soda
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Baking powder
1 Cup Rolled oats, quick cooking
2 Cups Coconut

Cream butter, add sugar slowly and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

Sift together flour, salt, soda and baking powder; add (stir in) 4 parts. Mix in oats and coconut. Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

YIELD: Approx. 5 dozen

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are from the top of the Quaker Oats box, so I won't be posting the recipe for them. I was not crazy about these by comparison with the other two.

So mailing is early tomorrow, Monday morning. Of course I'm hoping it all gets there intact. So far all my packages have arrived at their destinations and I have received some very nice Thank You cards from the recipients - they write me that it is very touching to see the happiness in the eyes of the soldiers when they distribute the cookies to their troops, mainly to those who do not get mail or packages from home. Next month - Round Six. If you would like to send cookie boxes to our Troops, just check out the Operation BakingGALS site.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Ulrike of Kuchenlaten has made a wonderful Christmassy choice for us this week - sugar cookies - Yum! I'm making this a real quick post - it's already the evening of Tuesday and I have just put the oven on and taken the butter and eggs out. Two festive days of going to Handel's Messiah and a Langlais Mass (followed by a nice glass of Merlot last night) have put me out of commission for leisurely baking and blogging. However, I'm determined to get this post in before my carriage turns into a pumpkin.

Done - The cookies are quite cute; a bit small (I used the roll and slice method as it's quick and easy) and they taste rather good. I decorated them with glace cherries and colored sugar. My second batch tastes very good - I baked them for 15 mins. at 350 degrees; the first batch for 11 minutes. The shorter time gave rather a bland cookie, slightly soft. I do have a preference for a nice crisp "biscuit;" nevertheless I think Dorie is sometimes out on her timing - usually under.

If you are looking for a pretty cookie to put out on the Christmas dessert table, you can get the recipe on Ulrike's blog. Next week we will have another cookie recipe suitable for Christmas fare - Buttery Jam Cookies.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Linzer Cookies -Tuesdays with Dorie

These attractive cookies were chosen for us this week by Noskos of Living the Life. I take a quick look at the trusty Wikipedia - the cookies are of Austrian/Hungarian origin. They are mini-versions of the Linzer Torte, a tart with a lattice design on top of the pastry. The oldest recipe for the Torte was discovered in the town of Linz and dates back to the 1600's. Right, good, I've learned something today.

Making the Cookies

The dough was quite easy to get together and my rolling out skills are improving slightly. I'm also one of the bakers who thinks the dough should be rolled thinner to say, 1/8 inch, as 1/4 inch is too heavy. Well, it's done now so it's too late this time. I experimented with Dorie's cooking time, first with 15 minutes, then 13 minutes, then 11 minutes. The 15 min. batch was overdone of course, the 13 min. okay but still a bit brownie and the 11 mins. was just fine. (Sounds like The Three Bears and their porridge.)

However, I don't care for the dough very much. I have tasted Linzer cookies before and they are usually quite sweet and buttery and the dough is soft. It's probably me but this dough is hard and quite tough and it does not have anywhere near enough sugar. Also too much cinnamon for my taste. Surely the powdered sugar will make it sweeter, but I still won't use this cookie dough again.

I like the jam filling - I chose Rose Jam, imported from Turkey. I got it at the Turkish deli about 1/2 mile from me. It has a unique, scented, delicate flavor and is quite runny, so I did not add any water to it. It's also a pretty Turkish Delight pink color. Goodness, I hope the guys at work like it, but I know the gals will.

I got 26 doubled-up cookies out of the recipe, even with the dough being a bit thick. Does anyone use those rubber measuring bands on the rolling pin? - I hear they are supposed to give a perfectly even height to the pastry.

Nice creative cookie idea with the jam and the little cut-outs. Noskos has the recipe on website - Living the Life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Caramel Cake - Daring Bakers

This is the most absolutely wonderful cake. I whined and worried all the way through the making but in the end it turned out fine. The result - a delicious caramel flavored dense-crumb cake, with a frosting that becomes increasingly addictive the more you taste it.

Many thanks to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity for so graciously hosting our challenge this month; also to co-hosts Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food. This was probably my favorite challenge. And of course thank you, thank you to Chef Shuna Fish Lydon for her wonderful Caramel Cake Recipe . Shuna's blog is Eggbeater. I am still dreaming and drooling, even though we ate it two weeks ago.

The Cake Experience
I started off with the syrup and ended up making it twice as I thought it was supposed to taste like caramel - even though it was a nice amber color it tasted like barley sugar. Thank goodness for our Forum as I got good advice from a fellow DB'er that it's not supposed to taste like caramel - it's only sugar and water; it's butter that gives it a caramel flavor. I also got the tip on the Forum to whisk the syrup mix for 10 minutes before dousing it with the cold water - the recipe did not give us a time span.

I was alarmed to see the syrup set like a firm jelly while I dithered around taking breaks, then getting the other ingredients together. I microwaved it for about 15 seconds but it wouldn't liquify, so I had to add gelatinous blobs to the batter and the frosting. NEXT TIME - must work more quickly so as to catch the syrup before it gels - Syrup first; wait until just cooled, then make the batter.

The cake came out beautifully, giving off a divine aroma. I baked it for 25 minutes after turning; it probably would have been fine at just over 20 minutes as my cake developed rather brownie edges.

For the frosting I played by the rules, even though I was so tempted to try something less sweet (even made a beautiful Swiss meringue buttercream for the cake, which I will freeze as I didn't use it). I don't usually make frosting with confectioners' sugar - it is just too cloying and grainy but as it was part of our Challenge I had to use it if I wanted to play fair (and get credit, of course!).

This frosting is admittedly very sweet indeed, but the browned butter and the 2 Tbs. of caramel syrup give it a wonderfully exotic flavor, heightened by about a half-teasp. of sea salt crystals - pretty sophisticated.

I halved the portion of frosting as I wasn't sure I was going to use it at first. It's an ample quantity to cover the top of the cake, but as I spred it I couldn't help wishing I could make nice puffy creamy swirls with more frosting.

The Verdict: My co-workers loved it and so did I. It is a really special cake. There was such a demand for slices that I had to cut small slivers so people could get a taste. with the full amount of frosting now. This cake is like poetry - it has the power to uplift the spirit and change ones mood. "Cake Day" Tuesday was at work was very upbeat. Will definitely make again for a special occasion, with the full amount of frosting.

Here's Shuna's recipe:Caramel Cake

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie - Tuesdays with Dorie

Vibi of La Casserole Carrie made this week's pick - it looks like a wonderful choice for Thanksgiving dinner. Vibi has the recipe on her blog, in French first and then translated into English.

However, for me not a very happy evening. I had such great plans to make individual 4" tartlettes, each decorated with a rosette of stabilized cream. But this was not to be. I made a double portion of the "Good for Almost Anything Pie Dough" which was sitting nicely chilled in the fridge when I got back from my physical therapy session (for a conked in knee).

Quite fulfilling - this time my dough rolled out pretty well, with the help of a King Arthur Flour silpat that has circles drawn on it. So feeling confident I cut out nine 4" rounds and placed them carefully in the tartlette pans. While watching how they were doing at 400 degrees I realized the pans were too large for the pastry - I had simply formed dough pancakes.

Attempt no. 2: Rolled out the next batch of cold dough and placed it in a 9 inch Pyrex pie plate; no trouble. I sprinkled some dried navy beans over the base and did the 10 minute thing again. After 10 minutes I was dismayed to see part of the sides had fallen in and then I spent quite a while digging out navy beans from the base as I forgot to cover it with foil. I hope I didn't miss any beans or someone might break a tooth. I really don't know why my dough shrunk in the glass plate; it hasn't happened before.

Another 20 mins. will tell if I have made something halfway edible or not but gone are my visions of producing little French looking tartlettes. There will at best be a crumpled pie. But onward and upward - this Pollyanna says it's a good learning experience and to forge ahead with making Christmas mincemeat pies from Dorie's pie dough.

The taste test remains but it took almost an hour for my pie to bake at 300 degrees. It looks, well, just like a rather ordinary pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kugelhopf - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tuesday morning, Veterans Day, and I'm ready to tackle the Kugelhopf, chosen by Yolanda of All Purpose Girl. The Kugelhopf is certainly a full day cake, going into the evening. I won't have time to let it sit in the fridge overnight so a couple of hours will have to do.

I have made the dough - it is a lovely, soft, elastic, sticky dough but much moister I think than the other brioche dough recipes Dorie has given us. After reading the P&Q section, I let mine get beaten up for 15 minutes, instead of the prescribed 10 minutes. Finally it did curl up around the hook. So now I wait for the first rise, with fingers crossed.

Much later, like 9:00PM and after two L--O--N--G rises and some slap downs, my dough was almost at the top of the kugelhopf pan and ready to bake. It felt as light as a feather as I put it in the oven and did the 10 minute/foil tent thing. Now I'm waiting, holding my breath and having heart palpitations (seriously) while it bakes for another 15 minutes.

So now?! What's this - a hat that someone has sat on! Why doesn't it look like a proper kugelhopf like some of you other TWD'ers have made? I'm wondering what could have made it turn into a pork pie. It was so beautiful when I first took it out of the oven. It had better taste good tomorrow! Oh well, next time maybe it'll look nice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rugelach - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's baking pick, Rugelach, comes to us from Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal. It was an exciting bake - I have never made anything like this before.

I find these pastries to be very European, not Brit or American. My neighbor Mitka, who is from Bosnia, often brings over delicious pastries that usually have fruity, nutty fillings - the Rugelach remind me of her baking. We sit around looking at pictures in baking books, drinking Turkish coffee. A nice little break from the humdrum.

The pastry was a pleasure to make in the food processor (seems Dorie likes the food processor a lot). When it came to rolling the dough however my confidence dimished somewhat as the pastry would not form a circle, rather a map of Spain in the first batch and a distorted rectangle in the second. So the roll-ups are a bit wonky but they have held together and my office consumers will not be not looking for symmetry.

I used three different kinds of jam fillings - raspberry jam, apricot jam and guava jelly, then sprinkled either walnuts or pecans on them, followed by raisins plumped by steeping them in boiled water. Could not get currants anywhere near me. My first batch stayed in the fridge overnight and was a lot easier to handle than the second batch which started getting too soft and tricky to roll - I kept these in the fridge for only 1-1/2 hours. The pastries look as if they'll taste good; I'm looking forward to doing my own taste test tomorrow.

Thank you Piggy for this pick - I think it will be a "make again."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pistachio Cake

I made a Pistachio Cake the other day, something I've been dying to try and finally got around to doing. My Blog challenges were done and I had some "free-lance" time. This Pistachio Cake is a very nice cake indeed. It's from Epicurious, amidst at least a dozen other pistachio cake recipes. It had cardamom , my favorite spice, and looked like it wouldn't take too long. Here's the recipe:

Pistachio Cake -
Rick Tramonto

3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (approximately 4 ounces; not dyed red)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 3 medium oranges)

Arrange oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 9-inch-diameter round metal pan and line bottom with waxed paper. Butter paper, then dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

Using food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground, about 40 seconds.

(Do not overprocess, or mixture will become paste.) Add flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt and pulse briefly to combine.

In small bowl, combine milk and vanilla.

In large bowl using electric mixer at moderate speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add pistachio and milk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with pistachio mixture and beating after each addition just until combined.
Add orange zest and beat just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack. Remove paper and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Add orange zest and beat just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack. Remove paper and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Some adventures along the way, well one happening: I followed the instructions and measures exactly and waited until the 30 min. checking time before looking in the oven - the cake had risen nicely but needed five more minutes. Next I noticed the darn thing deflating in the middle - it wasn't a crater but it was a wide bell curve. I felt really miffed. In the end, however, it looked okay and I slathered cream cheese frosting over the top so the curve didn't show. The next morning it was tested by my co-workers - they loved it. The skinniest guy had three slices and most of the others (including me) had two (we had a small group this week). They absolutely loved it!

But why did it deflate in the middle? - perhaps I could be a bit scientific for a change. I consulted my recently purchased copy of Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She writes that most problems with deflating are caused by over-leavening (i.o.w. too much baking powder or baking soda). She recommends 1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons of baking powder per one cup of flour. My recipe had 2 teaspoons. I'm going to reduce the baking powder next time I bake the cake to see if it makes a difference. Shirley's book, by the way, is an absolute treasure of beautiful recipes and advice on how to make improvements to one's baking.

The cake's a keeper.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes - Tuesdays with Dorie

Three Little Cupcakes All in a Row. Absolutely super, an absolute delight, absolutely to be made again for any chocky cupcake occasion! Making them was a breeze and I think the buttermilk is what made them so light and fluffy. One little slip, however. I didn't use the mise en place method as I ought to have done (I have even bought a lot of little dishes and bowls to organize my ingredients). The cupcakes were in the oven already; I turned around and saw a small blob of melted chocolate in a cup - the 2 oz. of melted chocolate in the recipe. Too late to do anything about it so I put it in the fridge (ate it the next day - frozen chocolate is quite delicious). But it did not make much of a difference to the lovely chocolately flavor of the cupcakes - this was the kind of chocolate cake I had as a child, with cocoa powder. No-one used chocolate for baking then.

I left them in the oven for 20 mins. before taking them out - some of them were not quite baked enough so I put them back in for 2 mins. Dorie's timing is perfect here. For the frosting I used the ganache recipe from Carole Walter's exotic Filbert Gateau* as I already had some in the freezer.
*Recipe for Carole Walter's Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
As a decoration I used Bittersweet Chocolate - Guittard Sprinkles from King Arthur Flour. I think they are quite expensive but oh my, is it worth it! Regular baking aisle fare cannot compare to them. After all, they should last pretty long too - how often does one use them?

My co-workers were delighted with the Cupcakes, as they were with the Pumpkin Muffins. These last two recipes have been absolute hits. Many thanks to Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought for picking the Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes. Clara's lovely blog also has the recipe for them.

Next week - Rugelach.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pizza! - For Daring Bakers October Challenge

Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums chose Pizza for the Daring Bakers October project. What an excellent choice - I have learned so much and maybe I will start making my own pizza now. What freedom of sauces and toppings, quantities and doughs. They say Brooklyn pizza is the best - sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn't, so now I can be independent.

This said and done, however, this was one rather difficult, tricky challenge for me, but I had a lot of fun and a great sense of delight at seeing my pizzas cook so nicely in the oven.

I'm a real novice with bread making - for one thing, YEAST. My yeast behaved very badly. Last weekend I optimistically planned to get ahead of the game and finish my challenge almost two weeks before the deadline. Not so! I prepared the Peter Reinhart dough with high hopes in spite of some peculiar behavior from my Kitchen Aid and dough hook. [The machine was banging and walking around the table and the dough hook kept on curling all the dough above it.] I survived this performance and finished with a nice batch of dough. I patted the dough into a round, cut six segments and placed them under saran wrap in the fridge.

Two days later, no rise; three days later, no rise. Thank goodness for our Q&A section - a fellow Daring Baker advised me the yeast must be old and that I should just graft a bit of new, fresh yeast onto the dough. I would like to have tried this - after all, I'd just used up 4 plus cups of flour, but it was not to be. In New York of all places there was not a package of Instant Yeast to be found. I went to four different shops (two regular supermarkets and two posh ones, as well as one I found to have closed down). They had plenty of Active Dry Yeast but no "Quick Rise" so I could not get an add-on to enliven my dough. This is a cautionary tale - do not use yeast that you cannot remember when last you bought it except that it must have been at least 18 months ago!

My Confession - I had to use another dough recipe (this one from Epicurious) that required the Active Dry Yeast and a warm rise. In fact, I'm a bit leery of a cool rise now but my fellow DB'ers do not seem to have a problem with it. I promise, I promise to try the Reinhart dough again someday, but by now I was actually in a state of panic - only a couple of days to go before posting. So this time I made less dough and let it rise for nearly three hours on my kitchen table; thank goodness it came out bouncy and puffy.

The tossing? I get an "E" for effort, but I did try to toss up my oddly shaped dough - I "tossed" them with mouse like timidity - they got a couple of inches in the air but I was so nervous they would fall on the floor I quickly let them land on my hands again. I have such a lot to learn about bread baking.

The outcome of my first pizza making adventures can be seen in my pics - wonky pies in odd sizes, but the baking is the part I loved. It was just wonderful to choose toppings and sauces and then to gaze into the oven, watching the sauce bubbling up and the dough giving a slight rise. I feel proud that I have actually completed this challenge, well, sort of.

My first pie is made with a "Tomato Herb Sauce" topped with mozzarella cheese and mushrooms; my second pie, the wee one, is made with "Pesto Sauce" topped with feta cheese and pepperoni. I can't wait to try them.

Thank you so much Rosa for this rigorous and exciting challenge - I plan to improve and make my own pizza for when friends come over.

The sauce recipes are from Great Party Recipes. They're really nice so I'm posting them here.

Pesto SauceJust a little of this savory pizza sauce goes a long way.

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Slowly add olive oil while running the processor on low speed.

Tomato Herb Sauce (Marinara Sauce)
The traditional pizza sauce recipe has never tasted so good.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until tender. Add seasonings and continue cooking a few more minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, and then tomato paste. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins - Tuesdays with Dorie

This weeks choice is brought to us by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. I love pumpkin loaf, pumpkin scones, and now I love Dorie's Pumpkin Muffins. They have just cooled enough for me to have a little gobble - very good indeed. The texture is dense and soft, perfect for muffins. I love the crunchy walnuts and the golden raisins. The tops are a little bit too crusty for my taste - I think it must be the baking at 400 F. I think I'll bake them at 375 F next time.

I've wrapped them in Saran wrap and they're ready to go to work - they will really be delicious with butter and slightly warmed if any of my co-workers want to try them that way. The recipe is on Kelly's blog and in Dorie's wonderful book, Baking From My Home to Yours.

Thank you, Kelly. Excellent choice!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lenox Almond Biscotti - Tuesdays with Dorie

This fabulous choice is picked for us by Gretchen of Canela & Comino

So far so good. Saturday night and starting my Lenox Almond Biscotti. I have rolled the dough into two 12x1-1/2 inch rolls and am keeping them in the fridge overnight before baking.

Sunday afternoon and back from my pilates class - I'm ready to do the first baking. Well, it took 25 mins. not 15, but then I had them in the fridge all the time, so this must have made the difference. They are out on the countertop now, looking quite nice (keeping my fingers crossed). Thank you Melissa of Baking a Sweet Life for your P&Q advice - it worked well for me.

2nd baking - have turned my oven down to 300 F and half of them are in the oven. I got almost 30 biscotti out of the dough. I kept them in the oven for 25 minutes; half way through I turned them on to their other side.

Great success - I am so excited; I can now make biscotti! They came out beautifully and taste delicious. I was thinking of including them in my next Operation BakingGALS package but they are quite delicate and I think they may crumble in transit; it might be better to take them to work. We have quite a few Italian-American guys at work so I'm interested in what they will say. Their wives are great cooks, judging from the delicious aromas of homecooked lunch meals, so the bar will be set high.

Now onward to Pumpkin Muffins for next week.



Bobotie is an Afrikaans recipe very popular in South Africa. It originated with the Malaysian population who, in the 17th century, brought with them to the Cape from the East Indies many delicious spicy recipes.

Bobotie is essentially ground meat with a variety of spices served on a bed of rice.

Here's the recipe, first the original in Afrikaans then my translation and adaptation in English (pretty free translation). It is from an excellent recipe book Kook en Geniet -by S.J.A. de Villiers, published in 1980 (11-th publication; first published in 1951). The measurements are all metric as S.A. went metric in the early sixties but Mrs. de Villiers has provided imperial measures alongside.

l kg (2 pd) gemaalde skaap-of beesvleis (of oorblyfsels van koue, gebraaide vleis)
2 uie
1 sny brood
250 ml (l k) melk
2 eiers
12,5 ml (1 e)kerriepoeier
18,5 ml (1-1/2 e) suiker
10 ml (2 t) sout; 2,5 ml (1/2 t) peper
6 ml (1/2 e) borrie
25 ml (2 e) asyn of die sap van 1 suurlemoen
6 amandels, in kwarte verdeel
125 ml (1/2 k) ontpitte rosyne
4 suurlemoen-of lourierblare of die gerasperde geel skil van 1 suurlemoen
37,5 ml (3e) blatjang

1. Dop die buitenste droe skilletjies van die uie af, sny die uie dan in dun skyfies en kerf dit fyn. Braai dit effens bruin in warm vet en indien rou vleis gebruik work, braai dit saam met die uie tot dit net effens gaar en los is.
2. Week die brood in die melk en druk weer die melk uit. Maak die brood fyn.
3. Meng al die bestanddele, behalwe 1 eier, 1/2k melk en die lourierblare.
4. Sit die mengsel in 'n gesmeerde, vuurvaste bakskottel, rol die blare op en steek hulle in the mengsel sodat hulle regop staan.
5. Bak dit 1 uur lank in 'n matige oond by 180 C (350 F) as rou vleis gebruik word en 45 minute lank as gaar vleis gebruik word.
6. Klop die orige eier en 125 ml (1/2 k) melk en gooi dit oor die vleis 'n halfuur voordat dit uit die oond gehaal word.
7. Dien dit op met gekookte rys en blatjang.


2 lbs. ground meat (lamb or beef) or left-over, cold, cooked meat
2 onions
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 slice bread
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 Tbs. curry powder
1-1/2 Tbs. sugar
1 teasp. salt; 1/2 teasp. pepper
1 teasp. turmeric
2 Tbs. vinegar or juice of one lemon
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup of seeded raisins
4 lemon leaves or bay leaves or grated peel of one lemon
3 Tbs. chutney

1. Remove the outer peel from the onions, then cut the onions in thin slices and chop finely. (I used my food processor - didn't feel like cutting up tiny bits of onion). Saute until translucent in hot oil. If using uncooked meat, fry on low flame together with the onions until it is slightly done and a bit crumbly.
2. Soak the bread in the milk and squeeze most of the the milk out. Cut the bread in fine pieces.
3. Mix all the ingredients - except remaining egg and the 1/2 cup milk and the bay leaves.
4. Place the mixture in a buttered, fireproof casserole, roll up the bay leaves and place them upright in the mixture.
5. Bake one hour in a moderate oven (350 F) if using uncooked meat and 45 minutes if using cooked meat.
6. Beat the remaining egg and the 1/2 cup milk and pour over the meat half way through the baking. Remove dish from oven after one hour and let cool in casserole.
7. Serve with boiled or steamed rice and chutney.

I've just eaten the dish in the photo for supper. I put half a sliced banana on it and a teaspoon of Major Grey's Mango Chutney. It's a long time since I've tasted Bobotie, and a very long time since I've tasted a really good Bobotie - on a visit back to S.A. Today's dish is superb, a lovely example if anyone would like to try this recipe. Definitely a make again recipe.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Caramel-Hazelnut-Topped Brownie Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's choice, Caramel-Topped-Brownie Cake, comes to us from Tammy of Wee Treats. Thank you Tammy for such a great pick.

A nice easy cake to prepare, with rather an unusual method of melting the butter rather than creaming. It's odd how it suddenly does a crater cave-in just before being taken out of the oven - could it be something to do with the mixing method perhaps? I once made a Nigella Lawson chocolate cake with this method and it also caved in the middle.

However, with the caramel sauce and nuts on, it looked just fine as no-one could see the dip. I didn't do Dorie's TWD caramel sauce as it seemed too fussy - was feeling a bit tired and crochety, so I used a quick recipe from Diana's Desserts.I would recommend this recipe for any caramel sauce occasion; it was delicious and nice and thick after sitting on the sink top overnight.

My cake got two really polarized reviews at work:
The Boss - "Not my favorite."
The Shop Manager - a special phone call thanking me and saying, "It's the best of the lot so far!" Well, what can I say! Personally, I think it was just okay. If I make it again I would not use hazelnuts as they are hard on the teeth and give a slightly bitter aftertaste. I would also bake it for less than 40 mins. - It was a little bit tough around the edges.

So onward to Biscotti next week.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Fab Three

I've mailed my third round of goodies for Operation BakingGALS. It's funny but in each round - I bake three different kinds of cookies each time - I always discover one FIVE STAR recipe, a "Where have you been all my life?" recipe that I will now make again and again.

I don't have pics this time as I was in a rush to get to the Post Office, but I really want to reprint my discoveries:

Round 1 - Molasses Cookies *****
Round 2 - Celebration Cookies ***** (from Kara's Kitchen)
Round 3 - Snickerdoodles ***** (from Butterbur's Bistro)

Recipe for Molasses Cookies:
Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.

3/4 cup Crisco (shortening gives a much better shaped cookie than butter in this recipe - I have tried both)
1 cup sugar
1 egg whisked
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
pinch of salt (less than 1/4 tsp.)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cream together Crisco and sugar (about 3-4 mins.) with stand-alone beater.
3. Lightly whisk egg and add to creamed mixture - mix in until just blended.
4. Add molasses.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients.

Use Tbs. cookie scoop (level) and drop batter in balls onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 11-12 minutes - cookies must look a nice bronze/ginger color. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Remove to wire cooler.


Round 2: (August/Sept.)

Recipe for Celebration Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Celebration Cookie Mix (follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, combine butter, eggs and vanilla; mix until well blended. Add cookie mix to butter mixture; mix until well blended. Drop rounded Tablespoon scoops of dough 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly if you want a crisper cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

Celebration Cookie Mix
1/2 c granulated sugar
3/4 c sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c white chocolate morsels
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 c pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Round 3: (Sept/Oct.)
Recipe for Snickerdoodles

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, margarine and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry mixture into sugar mixture. Form dough into balls. Blend cinnamon with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Roll the dough balls into the cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not overbake. Cookies should be chewy in the center.
I hope I discover some more 5 STAR recipes with Round 4.It's always exciting to find something that is just that GOOD. I seem to have much more luck with checking out the blogs than with recipe books.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake - A Tuesdays with Dorie Re-wind

I decided on a Dorie Re-wind for this week - a butane torch for creme brulee would not go well with the clumsy and forgetful Sherrytrifle so I decided against buying one. Hence my pick of Dorie's Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake, chosen back in February by Jaime of Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats.

Here's the recipe:

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs) - I used Nilla Wafers.
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
For the Apples
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
For the Filling
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.

I used a 10" cheesecake pan with a removable base rather than a springform pan. I just love my cheesecake pan - it is so satisfying to just lift the whole cake with the base, which I use as a plate. There is no moving of the cheesecake unsupported.

I've eaten a slice - I'm not sure if I like it as much as a classic New York Cheesecake or as much as the light and fluffy Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte I made back in August. But I think it will be very popular at work tomorrow as it is nice and creamy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cupcake Hero - Here's to the Red, White and Blue - and Cocoa

For the new Cupcake Hero I've decided to make Red Velvet Cupcakes, with a few sprinkles of bright blue nonpareils. Our challenge is to do a re-run from a combination of two earlier CH themes: my Red Velvet Cupcakes will have red food coloring, white cream cheese frosting and a few sprinkles of bright blue nonpareils for the Red, White and Blue challenge and cocoa in the Red Velvet batter for the Cocoa challenge.

My co-workers were expecting cake today but I was empty-handed, hence the sudden inspiration to enter Cupcake Hero, something I would like to get into the habit of doing. Who doesn't like cupcakes! Naturally, I am being the true copycat - the cupcake recipe is from Kim of Scrumptious Photography and the cream cheese frosting is a Martha Stewart recipe. However, the idea of Nonpareils is original, authentic Sherrytrifle.

They have come out light and fluffy, definitely a "make again." Next time I'll make more and freeze the ones we don't eat at first and also use a cupcake tray, not disposable aluminum muffin tins - they made the cupcakes come out a bit uneven.

I'd say it took about 24 mins. to bake. It's important to follow the instructions and let them sit in the pans for 10 mins.

Here's Kim's recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 12

1 1/4 cups (125 grams) cake flour
2 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 grams) cocoa (not dutch processed)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1/6 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 ounce red food coloring paste (I used 1 tablespoon of the grocery store liquid)
3/4 cups (150 grams) sugar
1/4 cups (55 grams) butter
1 egg

-preheat oven to 350°F
-sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder (or cream of tartar), and salt into medium bowl
-whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring in small bowl to blend
-beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well fluffy, 3 minutes
-add egg, beating until well blended, about 30 seconds
-beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry, wet, dry)
-scoop into cupcake tins bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes
-cool in pans 10 minutes
-cool completely on racks

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dimply Plum Cake

Sorry, no Dimply Plum Cake this week. I made it about an hour ago but overbaked it so it came out all dry like a rusk. I'm just too pooped to bake it again. Oh well, next week is another week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pictures for Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Blogger is driving me crazy....It left out my carefully previewed pictures of my Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, so here's trying again!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Another lovely chocolate cake recipe I have discovered! This one is adapted from a recipe by Gourmet Girl. I found it by luck when I was Googling for "chocolate mayonnaise cake with eggs." It is different from my August chocolate cake as it has a softer, less dense crumb, but both get Five Stars in my opinion.

I promised it to a friend, Carla, for her birthday; her sister used to make a mean chocolate mayonnaise cake that she recalls with fond memories. I was invited to visit her in her new home in Brookline, Mass, and along went the cake as well, on the Acela Express to Boston. It was a successful journey - I was worried at first as I thought the buttercream frosting would get gooey but the air conditioning on the train was plenty cool enough to be like a fridge. Only slight repair work was required to patch up the sides with the buttercream.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

2- 9" round cake pans, greased and floured

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1- 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mayonnaise
1-1/3 cup water

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 F

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.

2. In large mixer bowl with paddle attachment beat sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy on high speed, about 3-5 minutes. Add mayonnaise, reduce speed to medium and beat a couple of minutes longer.

3. Add flour mixture to batter, alternating with water- starting and ending with flour. Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and middle of cake looks set. Leave cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the syrup
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)I used the syrup recipe in the Daring Bakers Opera Cake challenge. See ...

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream
This recipe makes enough buttercream to comfortably frost a 2 layer 9" cake.

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.) Also from the Daring Bakers Opera Cake challenge.

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.) I used a couple of drops of pure orange oil - very good.

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

Before frosting, drip the sugar syrup on to the base of the bottom layer and the top of the top layer of cake. It's probably not necessary to use it all - just enough so most of the surface is drizzled on.

Remove buttercream from fridge - when it's spreadable, cover the top and middle of the cake plus the sides. I used fork prongs to give the frosting some peaks and snazz it up a bit.

Over the weekend we ate half the cake, altho I must say in our defence that we had a visitor for afternoon tea who helped us out. It is absolutely delicious, has a rich mahogany color and goes perfectly with a buttercream frosting. I can't wait for another occasion to make it again, perhaps this time with a different flavor of frosting - pale green tinted with crushed pistachios would be nice. Oh well, I'm dreaming right now. Have to wait for an invitation from someone.

I'm submitting my Chocky Cake to Laurie's new event, Layers of Cake

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chocolate Chunkers -Tuesdays with Dorie

This weeks recipe was chosen by Claudia of Fool for Food. Thank you Claudia. I've just consumed a Chunker - really scrumptious! A very rich chocolate cookie, somewhat like a candy bar.

They came together nicely in the preparation and, surprisingly, formed into drop cookies without falling apart. I thought they would fall apart considering there are so many chunky ingredients in them and very little flour. Right now they are packed for taking to work tomorrow. The dough makes quite a lot of cookies - I got 40 out of mine and that's with using quite generous tablespoons.

For the recipe, please check out Claudia's blog.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops - Tuesdays with Dorie

Right now it's a beautiful Sunday morning and I am supposed to be baking my Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops, but there's a slight problem - I have eaten the whole 7 oz. pack of Whoppers I bought yesterday! Now I have to wait in for Sleepy's to deliver a new mattress, so I can't get to the supermarket to buy some more. Only myself to blame!

Later - I got my delivery and re-stocked on my ingredients. I have just done making the Whopper Drops. Oh my! Rich, dark chocolate, a serious cookie to be eaten with a cup of good coffee, perhaps after dinner. It's a bit surprising in a way - the title of the cookies sounds a bit like a quick crunch and munch casual cookie, good for lunch boxes and eating a plateful at a time, but these cookies are really sophisticated. Even I, with the ability to polish off lots of sweet stuff in one go, will savor these smart cookies and treat them with respect.

In spite of my delight with them, I don't think they rose very much - I used only half the baking powder as I halved the recipe - I'm wondering if one should do that or use the full amount of baking powder when all the other ingredients are halved. I pounded the Whoppers pretty small but I think I prefer them that way.

I baked them for 13 minutes as stated in the recipe and left them on the tray for 2 minutes; however, they were flopping and collapsing all over the place when I tried to move them to a rack, so I slid them off the hot tray, still on the parchment, onto the counter top. Let them sit for about 10 minutes. After this it was easy to lift them onto a rack. [This is the latest Sherry Trifle Tip.]

Thank you so much Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart for this wonderful pick. This is another Dorie GREAT. Oh yes, yes, yes I'll make them again!

An Award From Me to You

Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs has given me an award. How nice and encouraging. I'm feeling pretty puffed up - to think that around this time last year I didn't have a clue about blogging! So I'm passing on this adorable award to 10 blogs I always enjoy and often take stuff from.

Is going to:
A Whisk and a Spoon
Baking to perfection and beautiful pics as well of Sydney, Australia, where I lived as a kid. You can always get Steph's recipes a bit early due to the time difference there.

Bungalow Barbara: Lovely homegrown bakes - Barbara made Cherry Pie from the cherry tree in her garden. She also takes stunning flower pics and sure knows how to tweak a recipe.

Butterbur's Bistro: Rigby has great sweet-tooth treats - my next "must copy" are the Snickerdoodles I want to make for the Troops. She also has a darling kitty Butterbur who loves photo opportunities.

Cooking with Christine: A wonderful array of recipes to pick from - desserts, salads, main meals - a full menu. Last month Christine baked and posted over 50 recipes!

Cupcake Corner - Such pretty cupcakes and creative flavor mixtures! How about the "Mocha Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream" or one of those Chocolate Eclairs with delicately tinted mint pastry cream?

Spork or Foon? I love Teanna's wit and way with words. Great variety of yummy bakes (just love that Lil' Debbie Filling recipe) and I want that knuckle duster punch mug!

The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honey Bunch- delightful anecdotes about husband Grumpy and of course, way delicious recipes. There are two adorable kittens on stage too.

Brown Interior Tommi embarks on baking adventures - she does her own sour cream making and has baked Ethiopian bread. Lots of great TWD goodies as well.

Rosie and Maria from England have this really charming blog, Sweet and Simple Bakes. Real English treats like Victoria Sponge Cake.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters - Tuesdays with Dorie

The title says it all. These are a pleasure to make, the sort of cookie one could make if unannounced guests arrived. I took Dorie's advice and used the Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter. I also halved the recipe as it seemed to make an awful lot with the full portion ingredients.

I've been eating like a pig the whole Labor Day weekend so I am avoiding tasting one now - they have just come out of the oven (9:10PM). I will take them to work tomorrow and test one there with everyone else - if they get a five star rating I'll add them to my cookies for the Troops list. The great choice for this week is by Stefany of Proceed with Caution. See Stefany's blog for the recipe.

Later - Amazing how one's appetite can perk up when waking up very early in the morning. I needed a cup of tea so had to have a snack as well. These cookies are good, really good. Next time, just on a personal taste basis, I will use semi-sweet chocolate chips and quick cooking (not instant) oats, which give a closer texture. I'm photographing the pics now so I can put the cookies away and have some left to take to my co-workers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pierre Herme's Chocolate Eclairs - Daring Bakers

Thank you Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey and Tony of Tony Tahan for this lovely challenge. The wonderful thing about all the Daring Bakers challenges is that it gets me baking items I would never have dreamed of making myself. Eclairs! Goodness, I love them but before this I have always bought them from a bakery. Brooklyn is not exactly known for its French bakeries so I don't remember when last I tasted an eclair. Now that I know how to make them I can be independent.

The pate choux worked up nicely and I piped it into a special eclair tray which I bought recently (cheap - just an aluminum tray, for about $7.00). There were moments of anxiety while my eclairs were baking as they seemed to take ages to puff up. Finally they did puff but then deflated when I took them out of the oven.

I surfed through the baking advice websites and found that it's good to lower the temperature and let them bake for longer. Apparently deflating is a sign of not being properly cooked. So I made a second batch, this time setting the temp at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then lowering it to 325 degrees for another 30 minutes. The second batch really came out nice and puffy and shiny with no deflating.

I made vanilla pastry cream rather than chocolate as I just felt like some. I followed a really simple vanilla pastry cream recipe from the website Diana's Desserts. It's a great site and I have often had success with her recipes. The Chocolate Sauce looks a little bit too liquidy although I did stir it for a full 15 minutes. It's in the fridge now so maybe it will firm up a bit more. Same with the Chocolate Glaze, but I have a feeling they are going to turn out all right. I think I will have quite a bit left over and I have just remembered that I have some Turkey Hill French Vanilla Icecream in the freezer - Umm.. a little Sunday night treat tomorrow?

Here's the recipe for this Oh So French Dessert.

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

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

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

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

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

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

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

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) 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.

5) 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.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

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
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)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.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

I've just taken the pics and shall now enjoy the fruits of the day's labor - one eclair and one small glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cookies for Our Troops - Round 2 - Operation BakingGALS

Another exciting round of cookie baking for our troops abroad. This round's menu is:
Chewy Chocolate Coco-nut Squares; Peanut Jumbles; and Celebration Cookies. The Squares and the Jumbles are from Carole Walter's wonderful book, "Great Cookies" and the Celebration Cookies are from a recipe by Baking GAL host Kara of Kara's Kitchen.

I've worked out a way of packing the cookies (no easy task at first) for flights to Afghanistan and Iraq. Am becoming quite a pro - the APO boxes are available free from USPS and there is a flat rate charge of around $7.00 for a 12"x12" box. Plastic baggies for the cookies - with a bit of apple peel in the baggies to keep the cookies soft - kitchen towel paper, a cardboard cake box and some Staples packing peanuts do the trick very nicely. I'm off to the Post Office early tomorrow morning with my boxes of goodies. It's a wonderful way for me to do something worthwhile for our soldiers, for whom I have the utmost admiration and feel the utmost gratitude. I'm building up quite a list of 5 STAR cookies: Here are the recipes for my two 5 STAR cookies from this round:

Chewy Chocolate Coconut Squares

1 cup walnuts, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Position the shelf in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the baking pan. Invert the pan and tap sharply over the sink to remove any excess flour.
2. Place 1/2 cup of the walnuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse three or four times, until medium chopped. Remove the nuts from the processor and set aside for the topping.
3. Place the butter in a medium bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. When the butter is almost melted, add the chocolate. After 1 minute, remove the pot from the heat. Let stand until the chocolate is completely melted, stirring occasionally.
4. Place the sugar, flour, coconut, salt, and remaining walnuts in the work bowl of the food processor. Pulse three or four times.
5. Stir the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture, then pour into the food processor bowl. Pulse all of the ingredients together just until blended.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a tablespoon. Press the remaining chopped nuts across the top. Bake for 15-18 minutes (mine took about 22), until set on top and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Place on a cooling rack. When cool, use a sharp knife to cut into 40 squares.

Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 5 days. These squares may be frozen.

Celebration Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Celebration Cookie Mix (follows)*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, combine butter, eggs and vanilla; mix until well blended. Add cookie mix to butter mixture; mix until well blended. Drop rounded Tablespoon scoops of dough 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly if you want a crisper cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

*Celebration Cookie Mix
1/2 c granulated sugar
3/4 c sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c white chocolate morsels
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 c pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Both recipes are delicious.