Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rough Draft

Candied grapefruit is something I want to perfect. I tried the Gourmet recipe which was basically peel 2 grapefruit, blanch 4 times, and then candy in a 2 to 1 sugar syrup. I ended up blanching twelve times because whenever I'd test the peel, it still seemed very bitter. The peel ended up getting very mushy and breaking into little 1-2 inch bits. They initially were very sweet with little grapefruit flavor, now about a week later, they are more dry and tangy. The peel still doesn't have any texture though, it pretty much dissolves right away.

The picture is before the superfine sugar. I think I liked them better like this. I'm looking forward to trying again. Now I need to learn to temper chocolate so I can dip them!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dec 30 Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

The Tall and Creamy Cheesecake was quick to put together. I'd read somewhere (I think either a Malgieri cookbook or The Cake Bible) that a crust on a cheesecake isn't necessary. This was the first time it'd worked for me! I used parchment to line the base of the pan, and then just slid the cake off the base to the cake plate after it was chilled about five or six hours.

The cake was very fluffy as other reviewers had noted. I'd like to try the lemon or lime versions.

Next week is French Pear Tart selected by Dorie Greenspan!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec 23 Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

These were really for Dec. 9, but I was using them as my sign-up item for my kid's preschool Christmas party so I just made them last week. The dough was very sticky for me. I tried rolling between wax paper and plastic wrap, the plastic seemed to work best for me. I'd only chilled it the minimum because of our schedule here, I'm thinking chilling it longer would resolve some of those problems. The cookies were not like any other sugar cookies I've tried. They were very buttery and chewy, almost like a chewy chocolate chip cookie. They seem pretty sturdy (we'll see how well they survive the four year olds' decorating!). I have to say I still like my mom's sugar cookies best :)

Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers for Butterscotch Pudding - next week: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie

I made the Buttery Jam cookies for last Tuesday. I'll be making the sugar cookies for this Friday and will post next Tuesday. Nothing for today!

Monday, December 15, 2008


After reading so many articles about how fun marshmallows are and seeing McAuliflower's Brownie Points photo, I had to try making some! I used Nightscotsman's strawberry marshmallow recipe on egullet, used the vanilla variation and substituted 2 tsp peppermint extract for the vanilla. The 2 tsp ended up being almost too much, I think 1 to 1 1/2 next time would be best for eating out of hand. Two is nice for cocoa though!

Mixing them went pretty well. I almost forgot the peppermint extract so had to mix it longer, but it still poured pretty well. I tried using red food color on half to make them pretty for the holidays, but only half because I've never been very good at swirling.

Removing them from the pan was the biggest challenge. It took forever! I used foil and didn't have spray so I'd greased the foil with vegetable oil on a paper towel. I think I didn't use enough oil. I'll also try the parchment suggestion (I think this was on the Brownie Points blog). In any case, the tops looked pretty good still. Cutting them was super easy using a chef's knife; I didn't even need to use much oil. Even with the pain of taking them out of the pan, my first try with marshmallows was pretty rewarding!

The white ones look so fluffy and pretty on the plate, I really want to learn to make these well!

Chocolate-Espresso balls and Peppermint Biscotti

After finishing my gluten-free attempts, I needed to make 6 dozen cookies for my preschooler's school's cookie walk. I wanted some high-yield recipes! I also wanted something a little unusual, no spritz or gingerbread (besides that I hate rolling out dough). I ended up trying the Chocolate-Espresso balls from the Whimsical Bakehouse's Christmas cookie book. They're pretty much like mocha mexican wedding cakes. They turned out pretty good. The coffee flavor seems to come through more once they're cool. They're also the perfect bite-sized cookie, so no mess!

Then I tried these peppermint biscotti from allrecipes. I'd only gotten one box of candy canes, which I ended up needing for the dough, so instead of dipping in chocolate and rolling in crushed peppermint candy, I used red chocolate candy wafers. That's also why I decided on the white chocolate, red on brown didn't sound too great. These were really nice. I didn't try any with the chocolate or with coffee, but I liked them just plain!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gluten-free "Oreos"

So my second attempt at gluten-free baking was "oreos". I used this recipe for the cookies and this one for the filling. I made half with vanilla filling and half with pink peppermint filling (adding about 1/2 tsp peppermint extract to half of the frosting). I noticed the same thing with the grittiness of the brown rice, so I'm thinking in the future I think I'll just try using white rice flour. The cookies weren't too bad. The xanthan gum seemed to leave a bit of a metallic sort of aftertaste, but once the cookies were filled, I really didn't notice it. They're nice and crisp wafers, and I think they'd be great for a chocolate crumb crust for a gluten-free cheesecake.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alton Brown's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the first time, I tried using gluten-free flours for baking. I was hoping to make a tray of goodies for a friend with celiac. Some of the candies I'll use for all, I just was more intentional about avoiding cross contamination. One recipe that I think turned out pretty well was
Alton Brown's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. They don't have any odd aftertaste. They call for brown rice flour, I used Bob's Red Mill. I think white rice flour would give a smoother end product (or a different brown rice flour maybe?). These tasted a lot like the cookies I make when I sub ground flax for half the butter. They're good, but the grittiness I think could be off-putting. Next are the gluten-free 'oreos'!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

I also made Dorie's World Peace Cookies/Korova cookies for the first time. I just used fine sea salt (no fleur de sel here), Hershey's natural cocoa and some Guittard semisweet chocolate chips chopped a little finer, but these were pretty fantastic.

I'm thinking I'll include them with the holiday cookies this year. I'd picked up some Guittard mint chips, and I'm thinking a half and half mix of mint and semisweet could be nice? I do need to make sure that I chill them long enough or consistently enough, so they all end up looking the same.

I also love that they can be frozen ahead. I am loving the Artisan Bread in 5 min a day, and always have my dough in the fridge. Now I'll be able to make my bread in time for dinner and my oven will be preheated for my cookies, done in time for dessert!

Dec 9 Buttery Jam Cookies

Dorie's description as 'like biscuits' was perfect. I used apricot jam, and they really were like a cross between a biscuit and a cookie. They were really good warm. Still good later, but it was similar to biscuits - amazing right out of the oven, ok later. I'll make these again, they were very homey and cozy. I'd also like to try experimenting with other jams, maybe strawberry or raspberry.

So I'm hoping I was reading the flexibility in the rules for TWD correctly since I'm posting out of order here. If not, please let me know! This week's actual recipe is Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies selected by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein. I'm still hoping to catch up on the linzers (Ulrike has some beautiful linzers!)! The Buttery Jam Cookies are actually scheduled for next Tuesday, Dec 16 and was selected by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Iron Cupcake Earth: Cranberry

I was really excited about Cranberry for this month's ICE challenge! My mom's made a cranberry cake (my aunt's recipe) for years, that is a basic yellow cake with cranberries served with a caramel sauce. I tried to adapt the same idea to cupcake form: a sour cream cupcake with cranberry sauce, caramel sauce and topped with swiss meringue buttercream. The cranberry sauce and buttercream can be made ahead, though the caramel needs to be made just before icing.

Sour Cream Cupcakes based on Rose Levy Beranbaum's Sour Cream Butter Cake
4 egg yolks
2/3 c sour cream
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 c cake flour
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 TB unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine yolks, half of sour cream and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl. Add butter and remaining half of sour cream. Mix on low til moistened, then beat for 1 1/2 minutes on med. Add the egg mixture in three batches, beating til combined after each. Transfer to cupcake tin. Bake 15-18 minutes.

Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Combine all in saucepan, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer over medium heat til cranberries are cooked through but still intact and reduce til liquid just covers base of saucepan.

Caramel Icing
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup half and half
4 TB butter
Combine sugar, half and half, and butter. Cook over med-low heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. Transfer to your mixer bowl and mix until thickened. This happens quickly, about 1-2 minutes. Have cupcakes halved and drizzle caramel sauce over.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg white
3 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
Cook egg whites and sugar over water til reaches 160 degrees. Transfer to a mixer and beat til it reaches stiff peaks. Add the butter in chunks and beat til of frosting consistency (the meringue will drop and look curdled first) and then add vanilla.

Voting starts Nov. 30 at

Our November ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

Don’t forget our corporate prize providers:
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

Rice Pudding and Two-fer

I missed the rice pudding, and we'll be traveling for the Two-fer. So I'll be catching up with the Tuesdays with Dorie selections in Dec. Check out the other TWD bakers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nov 11: Kugelhopf

Kugelhopf's a new one for me. I don't think I've ever heard of kugelhopf before. It felt like the most involved recipe so far. Not that it was especially difficult, I'm just not used to allowing for the rising times. It was a very rich dough. Very moist, but it felt like it was missing something flavor wise. I used a silicone bundt pan. I'd only used it once before (unsuccessfully) so I was a little nervous. The dough rose to the top of the pan, and though it's not as pretty as that from a kugelhopf pan, it browned nicely, and I think it turned out ok. I think I'd like to try it with out the butter and sugar after the baking.

Thanks to Yolanda of The All-Purpose Girl for this week's selection!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nov 4: Rugelach

This is one of the recipes I probably would not have tried on my own. I've had rugelach before, but kind of like Dorie's experience, this was not the rugelach I'd had before. It was rich and tender. For all, I used apricot jam and I used raw sugar after the egg wash (you can see I didn't do the egg wash very evenly - oops!). I tried one half of the batch with 1/4 cup walnuts, and the second half with 1/4 cup pecans. The pecans were really good warm. I don't know that I'll be making these much, but they've definitely changed my opinion of rugelach!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oct. 28: Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

My family loves Judy Rosenberg's buttercream, with cake or fruit or just plain(a mocha version's online various places, just omit the water and coffee) . Since we've tried it, I've wanted to try my own Hostess cupcake (but one that would taste like I'd always hoped a Hostess would taste when I was craving them). The chocolate-chocolate cupcakes were a great chance to try! The cupcakes were really good. For the icing, I didn't think to sift the powdered sugar first, so it's a little lumpy. I think I'll be trying again though with an oil cake for the Hostess, and keeping the icing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Golden Genoise

I have really liked Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible. I love the lists in front for recipes for all yolks or recipes for all whites. It's a great reference! So with my dozen leftover yolks from my buttercream attempts, I decided to try making my first genoise. I've never made any type of sponge cake before, only butter cakes, so the whole process was new for me. The Golden Genoise uses twelve yolks and 1/2 cup of butter, so it's a rich cake. It's still a little too spongy for me plain, but it's pretty good with that caramel-chunk buttercream.

The top has a few bubbles in it, I think because it sat for a few minutes while the oven finished preheating.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iron Cupcake Earth: Cheese

My first entry in an Iron Cupcake Earth challenge is an almond cupcake with a pear-parmesan swirl and frosted with caramel icing.

The project was a bit of trial and error, and the end product is much improved over my first attempt! My first cupcake, I ended up with a layer cake. A sweet, white cake top layer with a bottom layer of pear-romano mush (egh). It wasn't very appealing.

In revising, I started with Rose Levy Beranbaum's Golden Almond Cake from The Cake Bible. Subbed out some of the butter and sugar for the pears, decreased the salt and extracts, and swapped parmesan for the romano. The cupcakes were ready!

The icing turned out to be the greatest challenge. My goal was a caramel buttercream. I went through four(!) batches of buttercream, initially hoping to make a caramel buttercream by making caramel and adding to swiss meringue buttercream.
Batch #1: I didn't realize I broke the glass tip of my candy thermometer and didn't feel like eating glass.
Batch #2: I didn't have a second thermometer but thought I could get along without. In overcompensating I somehow ended up with what looked like a baked meringue layer in the bottom of my mixing bowl.
Batch #3: Bought a new candy thermometer and more eggs. My first decent batch of smbc of the day! Then I tried adding my caramel I'd made the night before and ended up with more of a caramel-chunk buttercream. Not really what I'd hoped for.
Batch #4: After burning another batch of caramel, I made a traditional batch of smbc, subbing brown sugar for the white.

After all of this buttercream work, I found I didn't really like the texture combined with the cupcake, so I went for a straight caramel icing based on an epicurious recipe from Blackberry Jam Cake and Caramel Icing. The icing is very good - very rich! And it works well with the cupcake.

Almond-Pear-Parmesan Cupcakes with Caramel Icing
1 large egg
1/4 tsp almond extract

3/4 cup sifted cake flour
2 TB finely ground almonds (I used sliced almonds in my cheap coffee grinder)
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup sour cream
4 TB unsalted butter, softened

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease or line tins.
In a bowl (other than your mixer bowl) combine eggs and almond extract. In your mixer bowl, combine the cake flour, ground almonds, cardamom, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Run the mixer on low just to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and sour cream and beat on medium for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides. Add the egg mixture in two batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared cupcake tins.

Pear-Parmesan Swirl
2 pears
1 TB light brown sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Cook pear, sugar and cardamom covered until pears are tender. Press through a sieve back into saucepan. Cook down over med-low heat to thick consistency. It should be about 1/4 cup. Add grated parmesan. Drop about 2 tsp of pear-parmesan mixture into each cupcake and swirl with a toothpick.
Bake 15-17 minutes. Makes 6 cupcakes

Caramel Icing
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup half and half
4 TB butter
Combine sugar, half and half, and butter. Cook over med-low heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. Transfer to your mixer bowl and mix until thickened. This happens quickly, about 1-2 minutes. Frost cupcakes immediately as the icing sets quickly. Glaze cupcakes (it's helpful to have waxed paper under the rack for easy clean up).

Voting will begin on Sunday, October 26 at 12 noon at
NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER and will be open through Thursday, October 30 at 12 noon.

I am competing to win the following please go out and vote for me!
ETSY artist ART ON THE MENU with her awesome little cardboard cupcake:
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HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21: Pumpkin Muffins

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was selected by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. I'd never made pumpkin muffins with butter before (as opposed to oil). They were tender and delicate, generally the same differences between the cakes I've made with butter compared to oil. I made half with the raisins and half without (the pic was with though it looks short on them). In this case I'm the picky one, the kids love raisins. I'll definitely be making these again!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14: Lenox Almond Biscotti

My first entry is my first time baking along with Tuesdays with Dorie. I've always enjoyed baking, even when I didn't do much of it. My mom's a great baker (she makes the best gingerbread men and sugar cookies), so baking always seems cozy and homey to me. On my own, I tend to get in a bit of a rut - this past year I've pretty much only made chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake (lots of both). I'm looking forward to adding some variety and trying some things I might not select on my own, like the biscotti.

I've never made biscotti before. It's always been a little intimidating with the long baking times and the slicing after the first round of baking. The Lenox Almond Biscotti seemed more accessible with the shorter baking times, and Dorie's comment that she'd stopped making all other biscotti and started making these twice a week made them seem pretty enticing.

They came together easily, and cutting into slices was not as challenging as I'd imagined. I didn't stand them up, as other recipes I've read all lay them down, and I figured that was safer for me (I envisioned them domino-ing off the baking sheet to the oven floor). The loaves spread quite a bit in the first round of the oven and ran together some, but it didn't seem to be a problem when they were cut. I also didn't catch them quite in time for the second round, so they're a little darker than I think they're supposed to be, though I don't think it affected the taste. I loved the almond flavor! I'm not sure I liked the cornmeal, though I'm not sure what I could substitute in the future. Maybe it'll grow on me. I usually snack through sweets in the evening, and I ate most of them that night (though they're surprisingly filling!). They're light, not too sweet and very flavorful. Thanks Gretchen of Canela & Comino for selecting this recipe!