Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unique Birthday Cake

My husband's birthday was yesterday, so I told him that I would make whatever cake he wanted. I gave him a book, Cakes and Cake Decorating by Nilsen, Maxwell, and Murfitt, and he picked out the Pear and Cardamom Spice cake. Granted, he likes fruit more than sweets, but I still thought this was a bit unusual. But, I made it for him and it is very good. I guess he has good taste...

Pear and Cardamom Spice Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/4 pounds dessert pears, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat the over to 350º. Grease a 8 inch springform pan and put parchment paper in the bottom.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder together and mix into creamed mixture, alternating with the milk.
4. Stir in the cardamom, nuts, and poppy seeds. Reserve 1/3 of the pear slices and chop the rest. Add pears to mixture.
5. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the pear slices around the top, covering the cake batter. Add 3 walnuts to the center.
6. Bake for 75-90 minutes, until it a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool for 20 minutes, then remove from pan and brush with honey.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers April Challenge - Cheesecake Pops

This was my first challenge since joining the Daring Bakers, and it was quite a good recipe to start. The pops are delish! I took this to a tailgating party for a baseball game and just left them in the cooler, they were great. A nice cool treat on a hot day. They stood up to the traveling very well and everyone liked them. I'll definitely make them again.

One difference I had was that it took about 1 hour 15 minutes for the cheesecake to cook through and set. Lots of other bakers had this issues as well. I used a small biscuit cutter to make the rounds and pressed the extra together (it was too good not to use it all).

Here's the recipe we used:

Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Honey Oat Bread

I needed a baking project today and I've been on a bread kick, so this recipe peaked my interest. It turned out well, my loaf pan is smaller than the recipe calls for, so I made some mini-loaves as well. I have to tell you these were my favorite. The recipe was great, so I'll just link it here rather than retyping. The site is great, so take a look around while you're there...

Honey Oat Bread by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Also, check out this great event!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Almond Minicakes

Today I wanted to try some more intricate decorating, so I found an almond minicake recipe from Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker and gave it a try. The cake itself is pretty sweet, and with the white chocolate glaze, I decided to add a bit of lemon to the Buttercream decorations to cut the sweetness a bit. It is a good match. Next time I'll try a different glaze recipe thought, as mine didn't cover as well as I'd hoped. The taste is good, but it's a bit too thin and just ran off.

Almond Minicakes (makes 24 1 1/4 inch cakes)

8 ounces almond paste, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour

1. Preheat oven to 350º, move a rack to the bottom third of oven. Grease and flour a 7 inch square pan.
2. Beat the almond paste at low speed to break it up. Add the sugar in a steady stream and mix till incorporated. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest. Then lightly mix in the cake flour.
3. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top.
4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top springs back lightly when touched.
5. Let cool on a wire rack. Place in freezer for a few minutes to make easier to cut.
6. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut the cake into 24 1 1/4 inch pieces. Place the pieces on a wire rack over a backing sheet.
7. Ladle 2 tablespoons of the glaze on top of each cake. When you run out, pour the excess off of the baking sheet back into the bowl. You may need to reheat or strain the glaze to make it the right consistency and to remove crumbs.
8. While the glaze is still liquid, move the cakes on the rack to give a smooth finish on the bottom and prevent sticking.
9. After glaze has set, decorate as desired.

White Chocolate Glaze

4 ounces unsalted butter, diced
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

1. Melt the butter and chocolate together and stir until smooth.

Buttercream Frosting

2 ounces shortening
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Food Coloring (optional)

1. Mix first 4 ingredients together until light and fluffy.
2. Add the food coloring and stir until the color is consistent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

I was reading some of my favorite blogs (Joy the Baker) the other day, and I ran across this great looking cookie. I knew I had to make it, so I did!

The texture was great, soft & light in the middle, with bit of a crunch on the edges. The vanilla glaze was great, but the chocolate came out way too thick to spread and was not shiny. Next time I'll try a different chocolate ganache or something...

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

2. Using a mixer, beat 5 tablespoons butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk until smooth.

3. Place 1/4-cup scoops of batter 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet; spread out. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

4. In a bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon corn syrup and 2 tablespoons hot water until smooth. In another bowl, combine the chocolate, remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon corn syrup; microwave until melted, about 1 minute.

5. Coat the cookies with the vanilla, then the chocolate icing. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pecan Coffeecakes

For dessert (and breakfast on Monday) I made these Pecan Coffeecakes. I love coffeecakes, the combination of the crunchy topping with the moist crumbly cake is awesome. I had a few bags of fresh pecans from the local farmers market, so these mini-cakes came to be.

I started with this recipe from FoodNetwork, but changed it up a little (yogurt instead of sour cream, more topping in layers, little cakes...

For the cake:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt

For the topping:
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cup pecans pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs and mix until the mixture is light and fluffy. Sift the sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Working in batches, add them to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with dollops of yogurt.

Make the topping: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, pinch the ingredients together into a sandy, crumbly mixture. Add the pecans and mix.

Fill the mini-muffin cups 1/3 full of the batter. Add a bit of topping to each cup (you should use half the mixture here). Then fill to 2/3 full with the batter and add the rest of the topping to the top, pressing down a bit to make sure the layers stick together.

Bake until risen and browned, 12-15 minutes. Let cool in the pan.

'Slider' Honey Wheat Buns

I got a request for hamburgers on Sunday, but that was a bit too plain for my one day to really cook/bake. So I decided to make sliders (smaller versions of hamburgers) and make my own buns. This recipe started with one I saw in Modern Baking, but morphed into my own creation as it went on.

The buns turned out really well. I used a mega-muffin pan to get the right size. The only one I had was silicone, and while they came out good, they didn't have the browning I was looking for on the sides and bottom. It seems like anything I bake in them steams more than browns.

Makes 6 'Slider' Buns

190 grams whole wheat flour
90 grams AP flour
14 grams wheat germ
4 grams yeast
8 grams butter (cold, cut into pieces)
17 grams honey
6 grams salt
196 grams warm water

Mix dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients and mix on low until incorporated. Use dough hook and mix for 8-10 minutes to full gluten development. Divide the dough into 6, 2 oz pieces and round out into balls. Place the balls in the muffin pan and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 425º for 12 minutes until the top is lightly browned.