Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fall Recipes

Forgive me for no pictures, my camera is dumb. Here are a few recipes for fall. Lately I've been trying to eat healthy, easy, and cheaply. These all fit the bill quite nicely, and they've been a hit with my three-year-old, which is always a plus. I think she ate an entire butternut squash when I made the puree. It was a fall miracle.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries - We LOVE these. They have been a great excuse to eat tomatillo ranch dressing that we have leftover from pork tacos. But these fries are good plain or with ketchup.

Butternut Squash Puree- Try it or she'll deck ya.

Lentil Chili ok so I haven't actually tried this yet, but it looks good and fally. I am making it for dinner tonight.

And this one does not fit my "healthy" requirement at all, but I'm a sucker for nutmeg so I made them anyway and they were so yummy! Try Nutmeg Doughnut Muffins. And don't skip over the blog post, it's one of my favorites from molly.

Wait, wait! Before you go, did I ever tell you about Easy Swedish Apple Pie? No? Well, I meant to. I was just hoping to have pictures to go along with it. Make it. You won't be sorry. It is so good and buttery, and actually not really pie at all, but tastier and easier. Plus, you can double it and put it in a 9 x 13 pan. Hooray!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recipe Surfing roundup!

Here is a sampling of recipes I've stumbled upon online lately and felt compelled to try.

Pomodori al Forno (Seasoned & Baked Tomatoes) - tasty, but too flavorful on their own. I made sandwiches out of them with mozzerella and basil on a warm baguette, and they were company-worthy and so easy!

Roasted Peach Strusel (with almond cream!)
- I love baked peaches. These were not quite up there with peach cobbler, but they were easy, different, and very tasty. I would be happy to eat plain almond cream for dessert...love it. If you enjoy almond flavoring, try this recipe!

Whoopie Pies with this recipe
and frosting from this recipe - They were pretty good, not amazing. Same goes for the frosting, it was an average buttercreamy filling. Then again, I am not a whoopie pie connosieur. I'm working on that. I became interested after sampling some store varieties (oreo cakesters and one other kind) and I was convinced I could improve upon the product. I'm kind of ashamed to say that I think I enjoyed the cakesters more. Next up: banana whoopie pies, and pumpkin whoopie pies. I can't wait!

Tomatoes stuffed with Rice - reminiscent of tomato-basil pasta. They would have been better if I had followed the directions and used the right kind of rice (I was cheap and used whatever I had, resulting in a crunchy rice interior). Texture aside, the taste was right-on. The potatoes baked on the side didn't quite work for me. Some areas dried out.

Coconut Cupcakes are from Simply Recipes. Therefore, they were flawless. I made them for Ava's birthday party. They were kind of like the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcakes, but more moist and subtly coconutty.

Monday, October 13, 2008

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

This weekend we attended our local classic car show and festival. After staring at cars, collecting some free stuff from booths, and letting Ava do some crafts, we were ready for lunch.

We were betting that the little old ladies of a local church would have the best food booth. They also happened to have the shortest line. So we ordered some chicken wings for Ava and Ryan and I ordered BBQ chicken sandwiches. The resulting chicken leg between two peices of wonder bread really made us laugh. I guess I'm still not quite a southerner. I was expecting shredded chicken or at least boneless. ah well, I ate the leg (it was tasty) and fed Asher little bites of bread, which he thorougly enjoyed.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarsaparilla Skirt & Vest GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

Sarsaparilla Skirt & Vest GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

another fun one from grosgrain fabulous! This would be especially handy on those FAmily Reunion nights in Vernal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

new item!

I just added a new element to my page. If you scroll down, you will see my Delicious bookmarks on the right. I have been using Delicious for years now. Two years, almost exactly. I have a Delicious tag on my Internet Explorer toolbar, and whenever I see a recipe that I might want to make some day, I just tag it. It has been really handy for me and I am no longer left wondering "now where did I see that recipe for coconut cupcakes/fig ice cream/lasagne soup?".

Now you can see what I'm tagging!

This does have a downside. Now I can't tag anything embarrassing, like the NKOTB fan club or a recipe that uses canned cream of chicken soup or something else that is not foodie friendly. Don't tell the others.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The only thing on Oprah's "favorite things" list that I will be able to partake of

Here it is, people, Oprah's favorite turkey burger. I saw the beginning of her "Favorite Things" show for summer and this was the first item.

Does it live up to the hype? The recipe looked really good to me, but then I opened my jar of Major Grey's chutney (which is a type of chutney, not a brand, I learned) and I wasn't so sure. I am a fan of chutney, but this did not taste good straight out of the jar, and it was extremely salty. The brand was Crosse and Blackwell. It was my first experience with Major Grey's chutney, so maybe another brand would be better. I don't know.

Then, as I started to make the recipe, again I was uneasy. It is a huge recipe which should serve 8 so I decided to 1/3 the recipe, which pretty much amounted to guessing the amounts of the ingredients. It seems that Oprah's people pay less heed to the website than the show. There were mistakes all over the place. (It says it serves 6, but then instructs you to shape 8 half-pound patties. It calls for cinnamon in the instructions for the topping, but not on the ingredient list. ) Also, the amount of salt and pepper it called for sounded crazy. All of this left me wondering if the recipe would turn out anything like the burger Oprah holds so dear.

So I went through with the recipe anyway, even adding almost all of the salt it called for, and they were delicious. I am craving more. My husband (who is very manly when it comes to food- he loves his beef) actually declared them better than regular burgers. The burgers looked great because they keep their shape better than beef (no fat to shrink them!) and they had perfectly seared black lines from the grill. Though turkey has a tendency to be dry, these stayed quite moist, probably from the apples.

Some notes if you are going to make these burgers:
  • 1/3 of the recipe made 5 average-sized burgers
  • I used a grater for the apples because I thought bigger chunks might lead to burgers falling apart on the grill. It worked perfectly!
  • They were quite salty, which was a nice contrast with the sweet topping, but I will probably scale back on the salt next time (I scaled back a pinch or so this time around)
  • we topped ours with the chutney topping, mayo, and a little bit of the Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce. I think they would also be good with lettuce, tomato, cheese, or whatever you like on your beef burgers.
  • They can be formed a day ahead of time to be grilled later
As for the chutney:
  • I roasted my pears with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, as I did not know the amount to use, and it worked fine
  • I did not follow the recipe here. Since my chutney was already so salty and because I didn't like it that much anyway, I just used 1 whole roasted pear and mixed it with a few spoonfuls of chutney and a handful of raisins. We liked it that way!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

And I shall go to Foodie Hell for it

I was previously under the impression that normal people are not allowed to make Eclairs. They were only for well experienced and paid pastry chefs. Like French Macaroons, they were just off-limits to me and my kitchen.

Enter the Daring Bakers challenge for this month: Pierre Hermes Chocolate Eclairs.

I did it. I made them, and they really weren't too hard. I even managed to get an entire plateful that looked, dare I say, as if born of a paid pastry chef. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of that plate because it was a paper plate and it needed to be delivered quickly to my neighbors before they got soggy. But I did get a picture of this little dandy, which would have been lovely if not for a few chocolate drips.

I love this recipe because the pastry creme and part of the chocolate glaze can be made ahead. The pastry dough comes together really quickly- like 10 minutes- and it can be frozen on the baking sheet for later, if you wish. You know I love food that can be made ahead of time!

Here is my bullet list for you to read if you intend to make this recipe:
-The chocolate glaze is quite a fussy glaze recipe, but delicious and worth it
-The chocolate sauce recipe is a separate recipe but you'll need it for the glaze. You will have extra leftover sauce, but don't fret. It is DELICIOUS eaten with a spoon and mixed with milk it makes a mean hot chocolate or chocolate milk.
-I did not use Pierre's recipe for chocolate pastry cream. I worship you, Pierre, and after making the glaze I thought I would do anything you asked....but then I discovered that some people who had made the chocolate pastry cream thought it tasted almost exactly like Cook n' Serve Jell-o Pudding. So I used Cook N' Serve Jell-o Pudding and I shall go to Foodie Hell for it. I opted for vanilla, because I just love the classic eclair combo of vanilla creme with the chocolate glaze. I also folded in some stiffly-whipped heavy cream, for good measure.
-When piping the eclairs onto the baking sheet, I just used a big Ziplock bag with the corner cut off to about 2 cm, and it worked perfectly. I learned to pipe slowly to make a thick, even eclair.
-The recipe says to cut in half to fill with cream, but I used a bismarck tip to inject the shell with cream, which gave them a more professional appearance.
-one more tip: be sure you bake them long enough. Notice how the baked shells on this cookie sheet look fallen? That makes them really hard to fill. The should be baked until they are darker and more firm, as the filled one in the first photo.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008


Need I say more about this month's Daring Bakers Challenge?

Probably not, but I will. Tomorrow. See you then.

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
hand-mixer 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 Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona 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.

see all the other Daring Bakers’ amazing eclairs here!

Monday, August 25, 2008



I have given in and posted the recipe for the Filbert Gateau.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I just wanted to let you all know that I have gotten around to the following:
  • I actually added my recipe for coconut opera cake! YAY!
  • There was a typo in the flan recipe, which is corrected as of today. I hope none of you tried to make the burnt caramel, because it would not have worked.
Still on the list (Maybe):
  • dig up the recipe for the Hazelnut praline cake, since paige asked for it. Paige, if you decide to make it, don't say I didn't warn you. It isn't worth the investment.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Gateau Again

It was another week of child neglect when I made this months Daring Baker's Challenge- Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. Yes- It took me a week.

Since the recipe seemed kind of similar to last month's gateau (and last month's was SO delicious!) I was pretty excited to make this cake. Plus, it features one of my favorite flavor combinations: hazelnuts and chocolate. The name "filbert" sounds like the name of the kid in your second grade class who always got picked on, so from here on I shall call them hazelnuts.

The cake took so long to make that by the time it was finally finished, I resented it so much that I didn't even want to eat it. Food resentment has never happened to me before. Maybe it's a stage every Daring Baker must experience. It didn't last too long. The next day my heart had softened a bit, so I brought the cake to the pool to let some friends and family try it. Nobody, including me, raved about it as much as last month's gateau. Then I resented the cake again- how dare it! It took me a week to make so it should have been amazing.

Making this cake, though laborious and strangely emotional, did have a positive side. I think I have accepted that I am incapable of making a pretty cake, especially when it comes to piping.
Luckily, my camera is on the fritz and then I left it at a friends house in Charlotte so I am unable to post pictures of The Hideous. I did take some pictures with my camera phone, but how do I get pictures out of the phone and into the computer? This challenge is neverending...

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise
Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned (¾ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned)
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted (1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch (1 Tbsp. cornstarch)
7 large egg yolks (4 large egg yolks)
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups (½ cup sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (½ tsp. vanilla extract)
½ tsp. grated lemon rind (¼ tsp. grated lemon rind)
5 lg. egg whites (3 lg. egg whites )
¼ cup warm, clarified butter - 100 – 110 degrees (1/8 cup warm, clarified butter)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake
2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

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 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Inner Beauty

I have a love/hate relationship with this month's Daring Baker's Challenge, Opera Cake. Mothers don't make this cake. It will surely result in child neglect. In fact I started making it on a sunday and didn't finish until tuesday. I was pretty annoyed on Tuesday when my kitchen looked like it blew up, the kids were not quite taken care of, and I had what I thought was a disaster of a cake on my hands, too.

Half of the cake stuck to the tinfoil in the bottom of the pan (that's why the recipe calls for parchment paper, I guess) so I made a few mini opera cakes with the bits and peices of cake that I could peel off of the tinfoil. So I was pretty frustrated by the time I finally finished making the cake, but then when I tasted it suddenly it was all okay. It wasn't pretty, but we all agreed that it was tasty.

I came away with my new favorite buttercream, and ideas of how to make the cake simpler and more delicious- by making just the cake, buttercream, and sugar syrup (no mousse or glaze). Oh yeah- and next time I will be buying almond meal at whole foods instead of blanching and processing my own almonds.

Here's the recipe, but just the parts I recommend.

For the cake (Joconde)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
2 Tb orange zest
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C). Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and orange zest and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup:
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp.coconut extract

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar (Used to say 2 cups but should be 1 cup)
¼ cup (60 grams) water (Used to say ½ cup but should say ¼ cup)
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Used to say 1¾ cups of butter but it should be 1¾ sticks).
Coconut Extract- about 1 Tablespoon)
Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) (Note: The original recipe instructs to heat the syrup to 255◦F (124◦C). We heated it to 225◦F and it worked just fine. However, if you are concerned, then by all means heat your syrup to 255◦F.) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
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).

Monday, May 19, 2008


This is my brother-in-law, Ryan, with his chicken. He has no taste. The man literally can not taste. It happened in a longboarding accident which resulted in a head injury which resulted in a loss of smell which resulted in a loss of taste. Ryan continues to eat pretty much what he ate before the accident (not always. I saw him mix milk and apple juice once, when there was just a little bit left of each. That was nasty, Ryan.)

Anyway, this post is dedicated to Ryan, who I thought of when I ate half of this flan in one afternoon. It had the smoothest texture to ever grace my lips, and the texture of his food is very important to my brother-in-law.
It's also very important to me, so I'll be making this again.

This was my first flan attempt, and it came out pretty well, but the sugar was a bit too caramelized. Next time I will follow America's Test Kitchen's recipe and use half water/half sugar, and hopefully that will eliminate any sugar lumps. Waiting for the sugar lumps to dissolve was the reason I continued cooking past the caramelized peak.

Actually, I don't really know how it is supposed to look or taste, really. I don't eat flan much and never order it at restaurants because I don't love that burnt sugar taste. But somehow the texture made up for it and I found that I had eaten half of the pictured flan, sliver by sliver, in one afternoon.

This recipe made 6 custard cups of flan (they looked adorable, but I took them to a cinco de mayo party, so there are no pictures) plus this breadpan of flan, which would probably serve 5 people or so.

15 egg yolks
2 cans evaporated milk (14 oz
1 1/2 cans condensed milk (12 oz
Aluminum foil

Create burnt sugar: boil 1 C sugar and 1/2 C water over medium-high heat until 300 degrees or straw-colored. lower the heat until its 350 degrees (amber colored). Pour some into the dishes you will be baking your flan in. Work quickly as the sugar will continue cooking in the pan. I used breadpans and custard cups. You might have extra burned sugar.

Flan: Separate yolks. Remove all white as possible. Add evaporated and condensed milk. Mix mixture with a spoon and try not to create bubbles. Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth to remove the excess white part of the egg. Pour into dishes and cover them tightly with aluminum foil.
Create water bath by arranging flan dishes in a deep aluminum pan (ones used for roasting or those used for serving in buffets will do nicely) filled with water halfway of the flan dishes. Add more water in the middle of the cooking time, if needed, to prevent burning of bottom. Cook in oven at 350 F for around 30-40 minutes for smaller flans, and more time for bigger flans The water-bath is more like “steam-cooking” than baking. Insert a toothpick in the center to check if done.Cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008


This has nothing to do with food but I have to brag a little about my fantastic, talented husband.

Ryan's website launched earlier this week at http://www.ryandartdesign.com/

He submitted his table to MocoLoco.com, a modern and contemporary design blog, and they posted it here. And yes, it's a table and not a bench. However, it can hold the weight

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Winner Is...

Paige and Garrett!

Congratulations! I'll be in touch for your mailing address!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If I had a $25 Gift Certificate to Amazon.com

Then I could have bought 2 of the cookbook I bought today, and it would have cost me nothing.

Amazon.com and half.com are my favorite places to buy cookbooks, so I am having an Amazon give-away.

Just comment on this post. Make any (appropriate) comment and you'll be entered in a drawing to win. Then you could get this book I've been wishing for

Or maybe this pan, if you like brownie edges.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I approve of the union.

That's what my dad said when my husband asked for his approval before proposing to me. Dear Chocolate and Cheesecake, I feel the same way about you.

These chocolate-coated cheesecake lollipops are as delicious as they sound! Plus, look how cute they would be for a party! Especially if your wall color matches them as adorably as mine does! I knew my mac n' cheese walls would be good for something.

They're kid tested and approved. Also husband-tested. Ryan REALLY liked them, and he thought they were the perfect size for an after-dinner treat. I thought they were the perfect size to go back for seconds and thirds.

Thank you, Elle – Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah – Taste and Tell, for hosting this lovely Daring Bakers challenge. It was right up my alley. Click here to see other Daring Bakers Posts about this challenge.

Here are the adjustments I made:

I baked it without a waterbath because I needed to use a springform pan. So I put a ban of boiling water on the lower oven rack while my cake baked above it. Then I baked it more gradually, at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then 225 for 2 hours. Then left it in the oven to cool for about 20 minutes. I chose this method because some daring bakers were having trouble with the stated baking method.

Also- I would now recommend dipping them so as to cover the entire cheesecake part with the chocolate- that way if you need to refrigerate them for a few days the cheesecake part won't dry out

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40
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
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely
chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white
(Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer
coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry
colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies,
crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional
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
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 confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Easy Peasy

The baby is squirming around on a blanket on the floor next to me. The toddler is sleeping. This post will have to be too quick to be any good. But do you know what is really good despite being ridiculously quick and easy? Peanut butter squares. Easy enough even for a mom with a 3-week old baby to make.

They are pretty much Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but prettier. Isn't there something alluring about the sharp, contrasting layers of chocolate and peanut butter? It's just so graphical, and you know how hungry graphics make me.

I got the recipe from Nigella.com, and my only suggestion is in the cutting. The first time I made them, they looked horrible because I tried to speed up the setting by refrigerating them. Then the chocolate cracked when I cut them. So don't refrigerate, just let it set on the counter. If the chocolate is too hard to make those pretty, sharp layers, then dump them chocolate side down on a cutting board and then cut them.

Peanut Butter Squares

for the base:
quarter cup brown sugar
1 and three quarter cups powdered

half stick unsalted butter
three quarters cup smooth peanut

for the topping:
7oz milk chocolate
3oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 x 9 inch square brownie tin, lined, preferably,
with Silpat

Stir all the ingredients for the base
together until smooth. I use the paddle attachment to my mixer. Press the sandy
mixture into the lined brownie tin and make the surface as even as possible.To
make the topping, melt the chocolates and butter together (in a microwave for
ease, for a minute or two on medium) and spread on the base. Put the tin in the
fridge to set. When the chocolate has hardened, cut into small squares –
because, more-ish as it undeniably is, it is also very rich.Makes approximately

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reason for Delay

Haven't been cooking or baking anything lately. Just enjoying this sweet little face! I will be back soon with a new recipe!
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the winner is....


Congratulations, Toni, and thanks for the brilliant frosting solution for the cranberry cake!

The winner was determined randomly. I wrote the names of all the entrants (there were 11, total) on a peice of paper, my husband picked a number (14) and the person I landed on when I counted to that number was the winner.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You walk the line

You guys are such good, rule-abiding entrants.

All 5 of you.

Yeap, we have only 5 entries so far for the Williams-Sonoma gift card contest. (LMP vs. Swedish apple pie from Paige, Sugar cookies vs. sugar cookies from Deborah, Chocolate Chip cookies vs. chocolate chip cookies from Kimmy as well as Sara, and Lemon Bars vs. Lemon Bars from Blair)

Anyway, I wanted to let everybody know that you've been very good about posting recipes with glaring similarities to mine. However, if you'd rather, your similarities can be a little more abstract (ie: they both contain eggs, they both go well with ice cream, I crave them both at midnight, whatever)

After all, this is really just a way for me to finagle your best recipes out of you.

good luck!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Free stuff- it's better than food!

I might have told a few of you that I would be doing some give-aways. So, without further ado, here is how you can win a $25 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma (where you can finally get the set of 3 fuzzy chicks you've been dying for!).

It's a showdown.

Pick one of the recipes that I have posted (it doesn't have to be one you have made). In the comments section for that recipe, tell me about a recipe that is similar in some way, but superior to the one I blogged about. And don't forget to post your actual defending recipe.

For example, you could oppose my favorite brownie recipe with your favorite brownie recipe. OR maybe the similarities between my recipe and yours would be less obvious- just explain what they have in common and why you think your recipe is better. Then prepare for my brownie to beat your brownie up, because it will.

The winner will be chosen randomly from all the contest entries. But, since I am making up the rules as I go, if your entry is especially entertaining or convincing then maybe you will be entered twice. The deadline for entries is in one week- March 15th at 11:59 pm.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thank you, Wendy!

Here's to my all-time favorite dessert.
Go ahead, call me boring, but I don't think there is a dessert that can stand up to the tastiness of a chocolate chip cookie with a cold glass of milk. Or, when I'm feeling fancy, a warm cookie with a scoop of ice cream.

Everybody seems to have their favorite recipe and I have found mine. Actually I found it about a year ago, and I have been meaning to share it with you for a while. I like my chocolate chip cookies buttery and chewy, yet crispy on the edges. I am also a firm believer in adding enough chocolate chips to contrast the buttery dough but not overwhelm it. This recipe accomplishes all of that. The only drawback (in some cases, benefit) is that the dough must be refrigerated before baking. Otherwise, with this brown sugar and butter- heavy recipe, the cookies will just spread too much. I am also a fan of freezing the dough in little balls for later use- with this recipe there is no need for defrosting before baking.

I don't know much about high-altitude baking, but if you are high-altitude I think this recipe might need some tweaking.

This recipe is based on a recipe by Wendy Gaynor that was printed in New York Times Magazine. From what I gather, she used to own a bakery called
Ruby et Violette in New York City that is famous for its cookies. It sounds like a fun pit stop for the next trip to NYC to try an exotic cookie flavor or two. But then again, it would be near impossible to beat the classic chocolate chip!

Here she is:

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

8 oz butter, room temperature
1 C brown
1/2 C white sugar
2 eggs
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp
baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 C chocolate chips

Cream butter. Add
sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time.

Mix the flour and
baking soda together. Add this to the butter mixture at a low mixer speed until
it is just combined. Add the vanilla extract.

Beat on medium until
blended, then add the chocolate chips and stir them in.

refrigerate until
dough is completely chilled, then drop by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie
sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-11 minutes.

If your dough is spreading too much, try freezing it in little teaspoon-sized balls, between sheets of wax paper, then bake it straight from the freezer.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Let's talk more about Valentine's Days of yore. I think the reason I like Valentine's Day so much is because my parents made it special by doing nice things for us. They snuck into our rooms while we were sleeping and left us valentine cards and little presents. Valentine's day was just a nice day to say "I love you" in a family kind of way. It wasn't just about romance.

And not just about the agony of deciding how to sign the Valentines I gave out to my classmates- should it be "from, Holly" or "Love, Holly"?

And another heavy thought for my first grade brain- what did it mean when that one boy gave me a real valentine- like a Hallmark card, not the kind with a picture of the Jetson's on it that came in a pack of 30?

Yes, I am grateful for my parents who made sure this day was about more than that.

It was about family. And sugar cookies. My mom always made the cakey kind with lots of piped frosting on top. They actually looked like valentines, and I thought they were so pretty. We decorated them with sprinkles and red hots.

This Valentine's Day I am lucky enough to be staying at my parent's house, enjoying cookies with excessive amounts of frosting.

These aren't as pretty as my mom decorates them, but they were delicious nonetheless!

Here is my Grandmother's recipe:

Nostalgic Valentine's Day Sugar

1 C shortening
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 C milk
4 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
4 1/2 C flour (about)

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add vanilla
and add eggs one at a time.
Combine dry ingredients and add mix dry in
with the wet. Roll out, use heart shaped cookie cutters, and bake at 350 for 8
minutes. Frost with buttercream frosting.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

There is one little catch...

I don't care if it was created by Hallmark, I love Valentine's Day. I loved it even when I didn't have anybody to love, and I would merely hope that on that day, some romantic boy would do something crazy or romantic or unexpected to declare his adoration for me. That would have been so fun...

Sadly, after 4 years of marriage, it still hasn't happened. Ryan and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together 3 weeks after we were married. Ryan celebrated by falling asleep for an all-night "nap" immediately after devouring the delicious meal I toiled over all afternoon for him. I celebrated by doing the dishes then watching TV. So much for the "honeymoon phase".

Valentine's Day has never really lived up to my expectations, but I still love it, so I wanted to share a few ideas for your Valentine's Day treats. Here's the first one!

When I saw this cake, by Peabody, I knew I couldn't resist making it. It is just so pretty and so PINK! Of course, hers was much prettier than mine so you should really check out her post. It is a white chocolate mousse cake with cranberry frosting.

I loved the cake- it got rave reviews all around. It was very moist, and kind of dense but still somewhat soft and springy. The taste was delicious and the white chocolate was detectable, but not too much. The cakes were very thin, so even with three layers and frosting it was not a tall cake.

The frosting. I loved the cranberry. The little, tart, juicy bits were perfect to offset the sweet white chocolate cake. But herein lies the catch. Check out the recipe. It is not a typo. It calls for 6 sticks of butter IN THE FROSTING! So, though delicious, it was pretty greasy. Not to mention that each (small) slice of cake I served contained 1/2 stick of butter (44 grams of fat and 400 calories!) in the frosting alone. Even I, The Glutton, could not stomach that. But I could stomach some of that- so I scraped off only half of the frosting and enjoyed the rest of the cranberry butter...er...frosting.

Next time I will experiment with the frosting- I think we could cut out a few sticks and still have a decent frosting on our hands. I'll let you know.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cake

White Chocolate Mousse Cake
4 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1 TBSP pieces, plus 1 TBSP melted

12 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
10 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 325F

Lightly coat three 9 x 1 ½- inch round cake pans
with some of the 1 TBSP melted butter. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, then lightly coat the paper with more melted butter.

Melt the chocolate and butter on top of a double

Place egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, and vanilla in the
bowl of a standard mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on high until lemon-colored and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Add the melted white chocolate and beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip. Whisk on high for 45 seconds until soft peaks form, then add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and continue to whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about 45 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add about a third of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and fold to incorporate, using a rubber spatula. Add the remaining egg whites and fold until the mixture is uniform in color. Immediately divide the batter into prepared pans, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake on the top and center racks of the oven until a toothpick comes out clean , about 21-22 minutes. Halfway through rotate the pans 180 degrees and switch racks. Remove cake from oven and let cool
for 30 minutes. Invert the cake layers onto cake plates. Carefully peel away the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake layers uncovered.

Cranberry Icing
1 ½ cups fresh whole cranberries

1 ½ lbs(6 sticks…yes 6) unsalted butter, cut into
1-TBSP pieces, softened

2 ½ cups powder sugar, sifted

Place cranberries on a baking sheet and bake in a 325F oven for 8 minutes, until they start to burst. Then put them in a bowl and place in fridge.

Place butter in the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low for 1 minutes, then increase
speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the cranberries and mix on low speed for 15 seconds, increase to medium speed and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl.

Gradually add the powder sugar while mixing on the lowest speed until combined, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down again. Beat on
medium-high for 1 minute until very soft and fluffy. Remove bowl from mixer, and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the icing until thoroughly combined.

To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from fridge. Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip. Transfer 1 cup of the icing to the pastry bag and set aside at room temperature. Use an icing spatula to evenly spread 1 cup of the remaining icing over the top of one of the cake layers, to the edge. Use a wide utility turner to remove the second layer from the cake plate and place it on the icing. Spread another cup of icing over
that layer to the edge. Top with the last layer. Gently press the layers into place. Using a sharp knife to trim away any rough edges around the cake. Spread the remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake.Using the pastry bag, pipe a ring of 8 to 10 evenly spaced cranberry icing stars along the outside edge of the top of the cake. Refrigerate cake for at least 1 hour before cutting and serving.Heat blade of a knife under hot water and wipe dry before
cutting each slice. Slice the cake while still cold, then keep slices at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

*Source: Adapted from I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate
Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers

Monday, January 28, 2008


I have an announcement to make: From now on I will refer to lemon meringue pie as LMP. I earned it during this month's Daring Baker's challenge.

LMP is not usually my cup of tea- why make LMP when lemon bars have a higher crust-to-curd ratio? So I have never made it before, but I really enjoyed making this month's challenge. Learning how to make a classic dessert is always fun, and it makes me feel nostalgic even though I have no recollection of eating homemade LMP in my childhood. Or ever. So I guess I've only had store-bought, maybe? Luckily this concoction was much yummier.

My husband was a big fan of this pie. The extra sweet pie crust offset my (too) tart lemon curd filling. If I were to make this again I would add the lemon juice gradually, and taste-testing often, as I have a sneaking suspicion that some lemons are just more tart than others.

Also, the filling wept like a baby after we cut the pie. Is this normal for LMP? I wouldn't know. Many Daring Bakers complained of soggy crusts, but my brilliant husband stored our pie on a sland so all the liquid drained away from the pie- so the crust stayed good for at least 2 days.

The crust was...different. It had an unusual amount of water and sugar. It was butter based. Pretty much it was a sugar cookie. I think it worked well with the filling, but as the recipe is written I found it almost unworkable. Next time I will add the water gradually, as I ended up with a sticky mess that couldn't be made into crust. So I reworked it, probably destroying any possibility of flakiness. Then I think I undercooked it a tad (I hate my new oven. hate.) I made the crust a little bit thicker than my normal crust just to balance out the lemon filling, and that detail was appreciated by Ryan.

I thought the meringue was perfect- and so beautiful! Sometimes the egginess of it grosses me out, but this was a good meringue recipe.

I discovered during this challenge that LMP is a LOT more labor-intensive than lemon bars. Advantage lemon bars again. So, if you are a die-hard LMP enthusiast, or you are feeling nostalgic, see the recipe below. And visit other Daring Baker's blogs right here. Otherwise I refer you to the recipe that would turn anybody into a believer-
Mrs. Dart's Lemon Bars.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL)
fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20
minutes.Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by
rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture
will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust.
Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.