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Macarons – October 2009 Daring Baker’s Challenge

October 27, 2009

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

The recipe for this challenge calls for almond flour. Now I’m not a huge fan of almond flavor in anything but an actual almond so I was ecstatic to read that we could substitute any other nut we wanted! I immediately searched the internet for hazelnut flour and pecan flour. My two favorite nut baking flavors. While I found both I ultimately decided to go with pecan flour/meal that I found here.

I grew up eating fantastic pecan pie. My grandfather was from Alabama and he told stories about getting sent to the neighbor’s house, with a brown paper bag, to collect pecans then having to shell them for his momma’s pecan pie. He always used her recipe and no pecan pie has ever come close to the ones he used to make. Believe me, we’ve all tried.

Since no one can get it as good, I started making chocolate pecan pies. Very tasty and still sparks the memories without the ultimate disappointment of a lesser pie. And since chocolate pecan pie is my very favorite kind of pie now and when I think of fall I think of that pie I decided to do a chocolate pecan pie macaroon. Yum!

To make these I substituted pecan flour for the almond flour in the recipe below.

macaron half

Then I put a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of each cookie. Everything’s better with dark chocolate, in my opinion!

chocolate

Last I made this recipe for pecan pie filling, added about a 1/2 a cup of chopped pecans and sandwiched it between two macaroons.

filling shot

Presto!

macaron close up

Chocolate Pecan Pie Macaroon! Yummo!

You gotta try one!

Original challenge recipe below!

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups Confectioners’ sugar
2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 egg whites, at room temperature

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

October 17, 2009

pre-iced close up

I love this cake! It is one of my all time favorites. I make it whenever I get the chance.

This particular creation was made for my friend Leslie. She and her hubby were celebrating their 3rd wedding anniversary and this was one of the layers I made for their wedding cake.

The icing is FANTASTIC! It could be a dessert all on it’s own… I highly recommend it for any number of cakes. Anywhere you’d use caramel frosting this one will work too. And on a chocoate cake? Delish.

Now, I’m a pb & j purist. I always use Jif peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly. Of course you can use any peanut butter you want and any jelly. It just won’t be as good 😉

finished cake

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake

2 c. unsifted all purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened (1 stick)
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. grape jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 1 1/2 inch round layer cake pans; or use Pam. Sift together baking powder, flour, and salt. Beat together butter and peanut butter until well blended; add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in flour mixture, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Spread jelly between layer and frost with Peanut Butter Frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons milk, or as needed

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy

Garnish with peanut butter chips, if desired.

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S’mores Bars

September 6, 2009

S'mores Brownie top

I found this recipe on Peabody‘s blog the other day and thought it would be perfect to make on Saturday. You see on Saturday, some of my girlfriends and I got together for my friend Beth’s bachelorette. She wasn’t really interested in going out and wooping it up, so we had a Baking Bachelorette. Everyone came over, brought their pj’s, their favorite alcohol, and a recipe with fixings to bake. Whenever I think of a sleepover I think of Girl Scout camp at Bear Creek and S’mores, so this was the perfect recipe to stumble upon.

The bars are FANTASTIC!! They are sticky and gooey and just… mmm! Scrumdidiliumptious! Thanks Peabody for hooking me up with such a winning recipe!

S'mores Brownie side

S’mores Bars

Graham Cracker Crust

2 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (15-17 crackers)…I used 18
1/3  cup granulated sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
Fudge Brownie Filling:

6 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup plus 2 TBSP unsalted butter, chopped into TBSP sized pieces
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups pecan halves, chopped
4 cups (packed) miniature marshmallows

Line a 10 x 15x 2 inch glass baking dish with foil, leaving a 1-inch over hang around the top edge of the pan. Smooth out any big wrinkles in the foils and then lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a small bowl. Gradually add the melted butter until the crumbs just hold together when squeezed in your palm. Press the mixture into an even ¼ inch layer on the bottom of th prepared pan. Run a smooth bottomed measuring cup over the crust to pack and level it.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a large bowl that fists a double boiler. Place the bowl over barely simmering water and stir as needed until the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, followed by the beaten eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour, mixing until smooth. Pour the batter on top of the graham cracker crust and level with a small offset spatula.

Scatter chopped nuts evenly over the batter. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in brownie center comes out with dark, damp crumbs on it. Do not overbake. Set on a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.

Distribute the marshmallows evenly over the brownie top. Place the pan under the broiler in the top third of the oven for about 1 minute, or until he marshmallows are puffy and golden brown. Watch carefully and rotate the pan regularly, as the marshmallow can easily burn. Cool until the topping is firm and easily cut without sticking.

Remove the brownies from the pan in one block by gently pulling up on the foil overhang. Place directly on a cutting board. Remove all foil and cut into 2-inch squares. For the neatest cuts, use a sharp knife, wiped clean with a warm, damp cloth between slices.

Adapted from Cookie Swap by Julie M. Usher

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Dobos Torte – August Daring Bakers’ Challenge

August 27, 2009

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar
and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

"finished" torte

Ok.

This recipe started out pretty well. We (Beth and I) mixed up the sponge batter.  Took a little bit to get the whites whipped due to a 6 qt. Kitchen Aid, but we managed. 

whipped whites

We split them into 6 pans, baked them up and set them to cool.

layers

Cake layers? Check!

We sat around for a little while taking care of my twins, talking, and watching TV. Once we had my girls settled we started to tackle the buttercream and the caramel. Now, I would like to preface this with the information that I have made buttercream dozens of times and caramel almost as many.

The buttercream seemed to be going ok.  We beat the eggs, added the chocolate to melt, and let it cool some before adding the butter. But the butter didn’t seem to want to blend. It was room temperature and soft, but cranky about joining the eggs and chocolate. We got it mixed, but it didn’t set up. We put it in the fridge for a 1/2 hour. Still didn’t set up. We put it back in the fridge for an hour. Still soup. *sigh*

buttercream soup

Buttercream? Check, but only if you like it REALLY soft…

Now the caramel… This was a stunner. I mixed my ingredients. Put it in the same size saucepan I always use. Put it on Beth’s electric stove and whisked.

whisking caramel

Whisking. Whisking. Whisking. Starts to bubble, I stop whisking and turn down the heat. Bubbles form. Lots of bubbles. Bubbles are rising…

bubbling sugar

Bubbles escape! Much hissing insues and the whole kitchen now smells like a burnt marshmallow. I pick up the pot. Swirl it around a bit, put it back on the heat. Bubbles start to rise again. Pick up. Swirl. Repeat.

I will mention at this point that I am holding my 6 month old daughter while doing this. She woke up unexpectedly so was joining us in our baking. In the midst of my swirling and lifting, I turn my head to kiss her on the cheek. Now mind you, this takes less than 2 seconds. As I turn my head back, I hear the hissing. Yup, boiled over again. As I lift the pot, something unexpected happens…

THE STOVE CATCHES FIRE!

view the aftermath…

burning stove

I have been baking a long time and I must say this was a first. After a few seconds of panic and a little fanning, I simply lean over and blow it out. Goes out just like a marshmallow. I guess sugar fires are one of the easier household fires to extinguish.

Now if I thought it smelled like a burnt marshmallow before.. WOO! It’s like girl scout camp all over again now! The entire house is full of smoke, the fire alarms are going off and we’re opening every window in the house.

Caramel? Umm… no.

So, for the very first time I have been roundly defeated by a DBC. You win Dobos Torte! You win! But I’ll get you next time! Muwahahaha! And your little dog Toto, too…

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Mallows and Milans and DBer’s! Oh My! – July Daring Baker’s Challenge

July 27, 2009

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

These were super fun to make!  Pic’s are on my friend’s camera, but I’ll add them as soon as he sends them to me!

*EDIT* Okay, between my hubby’s kidney stone and teething 5 month olds, I haven’t had a chance to update this post with more detail and pic’s. I’ll get it up soon! Keep checking!

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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Bakewell Tart – June Daring Baker’s Challenge

June 27, 2009

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.whole tart in pan

I’m not feeling fantastic today, so it’s gonna be a short post… easy to put together, smells great, just came out of the oven.

I coated the short crust with bittersweet chocolate and used black raspberry jam.  The frangipane was difficult to spread over the jam but it was just enough to cover.

I’ll add pic’s of a piece once it’s cooled off a bit.

bakewell tart cut Bakewell tart piece

Edit: Now… I must say, this tart was SO tasty.  The chocolate added a touch of richness that just made the whole thing sing.  The frangipane was crisp and added some crunch to the tart.  Ugh. So good.

And having said that, I must admit… I went looking at other DBer’s tarts… Mine did not look like theirs… And I got to thinking about the ingredients I’d used.  And the more I thought, the more I began to realize I had forgotten three (apparently) very important ingredients…

eggsYup, that’s it.  Eggs. I completely forgot to add the 3 eggs.  So what was supposed to be a poofy, cake-ish top, turned out a crispy, flaky (and damn tasty) crust.  I encourage everyone to try it this way.  It was super!

I will definitely make this again to see how it was really supposed to turn out.  I’ll let ya know!

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatized for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Frangipane

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

June 25, 2009

Well I finally managed to participate in a Cookie Carnival!  I’ve been getting recipes for almost a year but I never seem Strawberry Shortcake Cookieto get around to participating in time!

Not this time though!  I was determined!  Plus, it’s strawberry season and any excuse to eat a super-sweet-in-season strawberry I’ll go for it…

I got my strawberries at a local farm, Huber’s.  It’s become more of an attraction over the years, but it’s a great place to go pick your own fruit.  I picked strawberries this month and I want to go back in July for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries!

The recipe is super easy to put together and I highly recommend using a cookie scooper.  The dough is very loose (like strawberry shortcake should be) and the mess that would ensue were you to use your hands, I think, would be epic. Now, of course, being able to EAT the mess once you were finished would be a bonus… I may have to rethink my position 😉

The cookies don’t spread very much so you can put a large number on one cookie sheet. They are best still warm from the oven when they have a lovely crisp outside and a warm soft, slightly chewy inside.  I don’t recommend storing these covered as they lose all their crispness and they taste best the same day, so make them when you’re really hungry or have somewhere to take them.

Recipe!

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE COOKIES

MARTHA STEWART

These tender cookies are made with cream and studded with sweet strawberries for a portable version of a classic dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 3 dozen.

* 12 oz strawberries, hulled and cut into ¼-inch dice (2 cups)

* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

* 2 cups all-purpose flour

* 2 teaspoons baking powder

* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

* 3 oz (6 tbs) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

* 2/3 cup heavy cream

* Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining

7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.

2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.