Friday, December 11, 2009

TWD - Sables

This weeks recipe is for Sables, which is essentially a shortbread cookie. I loved these cookies because they are rolled and sliced, so I can cut them as thick as I want! After the dough has been refrigerated, it is brushed with an egg wash and rolled in sugar (I used turbinado) before slicing. This gives the cookie a fantastic crunchy edge that I loved! I will be making these over and over and look forward to trying some variations.

This weeks recipe was chose by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara. I love to visit Barbara's website! Check out the rest of the TWD blogroll to see what the rest of the bakers are up too!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Daring Bakers - Vols-au-Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
First of all - I cannot believe that I actually made my own puff pastry! I wish I had a picture of my face when I pulled the baking sheet out of the oven because I was astounded that I had actually done it. Seriously, I think I was grinning from ear to ear! Very soon after I had removed my vols-au-vent from the oven a pair of high school seniors appeared at my door wanting to sell candy to my seven year old in order to pay for a trip to ... Paris! Their timing was impeccable. Of course, they got a handful of cash! Had they been going to Cozumel I probably would have sent them packing! LOL!
Puff pastry is something most of us buy at the grocery store because it is a bit time intensive (but very easy to do!) Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “d├ętrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the d├ętrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
Since it is officially fall up in these parts, I decided to fill my pastries with apples sauteed with a bit of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. I topped them off with a dollop of maple whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon. I used some of the pastry scraps to cut out tiny maple leaves for garnishes. If you cut shapes, I highly recommend chilling them like crazy before baking because some of mine spread quite a bit.

Thanks Steph for a great challenge! Please visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how the rest of the group fared with their Vols-au-vent!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD - Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Woo-hoo! Look at me! I baked. I blogged. I did it in a timely manner! I finally feel like I'm getting my baking mojo back! This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was selected by Carla of Chocolate Moosey, who chose Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart. The recipe can be found on Carla's blog or on pages 355-357 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

This recipe was pretty straight forward and simple yet came together beautifully! I used a 10-inch tart pan because that is what I have and everything still managed to work itself out. The tart is rich and decadent and would be great for a fancy schmancy get together. Personally, I used to bribe my official taste tester into assembling a bunk bed!

Please check out the rest of the TWD bakers to see how they did with this week's recipe!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Banana Chai Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I've been in the funkiest funk for the last couple of months and I haven't been able to shake it. I've barely baked and I certainly haven't blogged! What I have been doing is reading blogs and taking notes. Lots of blogs and lots of notes! I got the ball rolling with some peach cupcakes posted by Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. I love, love, love her blog regularly stalk it looking for some goodies. I love cupcakes and hers were wonderful. The next thing to catch my eye was a post on I Heart Cuppycakes about the revival of Cupcake Hero. Cupcake Hero is monthly cupcake contest and I decided that a little competition would be just the jump start that I needed.

I borrowed Deb's Peach cupcake recipe and tweaked it into a Banana Chai Cupcake and I outright stole her brown sugar cream cheese frosting. :) It's a hella good frosting and intend to use it often! I often have a banana chai protein smoothie for breakfast and I always thought it would be a great cupcake flavor.

Banana Chai Cupcakes

3 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chai spice blend (I used McCormick's)

3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. buttermilk

1 4-ounce jar banana baby food

3 small bananas, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 30 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chai spices and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then add the vanilla. Gently mix in the buttermilk and baby food. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the chopped banana.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/4 c. light brown sugar

1/4 c. cornstarch

1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.

I was afraid of losing some banana flavor since I was using chopped banana instead mashed banana so I used a small jar of baby food. I loved the little banana chunks scattered throughout the cupcake and they had an excellent banana flavor with a little kick from the chai spices.

Please check out the other Cupcake Hero entries and cast your vote for your favorite at I Heart Cupcakes. The voting poll is on the left hand side of the screen.

Here I was thinking that this overpriced Animal Kingdom monkey was a complete waste of money when in fact, she makes an excellent photo prop!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Daring Bakers - Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding

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.
Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

For this challenge, I made three mini tarts. For one of them, I used mango jam (I know you're all shocked that I would slip in mangoes) and for the other two I used homemade caramel apple jam. I think the idea behind the tart .. er.. pudding, was to use a smooth jam, I just couldn't pass on the chunky apple jam. The result? Fantastic! I actually liked the apple version better than the mango version and plan on making this again when fall rolls around. Here, in Michigan, that could very well be the week after next! :)

The recipe calls for flaked almonds for the top, but I used sliced almonds because I had them in the cupboard. Here is what the inside of the mango tart looked like.

And the caramel apple jam version topped with whipped cream sweetened with brown sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. Yum! I seriously can't stop eating the tartlettes!

Please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see other versions of the Bakewell Tart .. err .. Pudding. Here is the recipe I use for the Caramel Apple Jam.

Monday, June 29, 2009

TWD - Perfect Party Cake

I've been diligently baking and photographing, but I've been a bad bad blogger and haven't posted my TWD assignments in a little while. I'll play catch up in a couple of days. In the meantime, this weeks recipe for the Perfect Party Cake was selected by Carol of mix, mix… stir, stir. The recipe can be found on her blog and on pages 250-252 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

My co-workers and I have enjoyed this cake twice in the last couple of months. The first time I baked it, it was to celebrate impending nuptials. I made the cake exactly as written and it was fantastic! Everyone loved everything about this cake - the filling, the frosting, the coconut - it was all fantastic. The second time was for a birthday celebration and I turned the cake into cupcakes. I made both regular sized cupcakes and mini cupcakes.

The frosting was thick enough to use in a piping bag and each cupcake was topped with generous swirl of frosting and a sprinkle of coconut. Instead of using raspberry preserves, I simply added a fresh raspberry to each cupcake. The results were divine! This recipe is by far my favorite so far and I'll be using it again and again!

Please visit the rest of the TWD blogs to see what the rest of my fellow bakers did this week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TWD - Fresh Mango Bread

Fresh Mango Bread. My co-workers have become accustomed to my TWD treats and have in fact, come to expect them. When I announced this weeks recipe, the first words out of our office managers mouth were "Did you get to pick?" I love mangoes. Love, love, love mangoes. Alas, this weeks recipe was chosen by Kelly from Baking with the Boys. Kelly is my hero!

I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in Michigan before I headed to Miami for college. Among the many wonderful things I discovered in college, mangoes topped the list! It was hard to leave behind my beloved fruit when I moved back to Michigan. I am taking my son to Disney World at the end of June. Forget about the Mouse - can someone please direct me to a farmers market or a produce stand? I'm bringing an extra suitcase.

A fresh, juicy mango, freshly plucked from the tree is absolute bliss. It has been suggested that mangoes are best eaten in the bathtub and while I have never eaten one in a bathtub, I often suck on the pit while leaning over the kitchen sink. Yes, I'm a heathen!

OK - on to the mango bread. This bread recipe is fantastic! The combination of ginger and fruit chunks was sublime. I intend to make this bread frequently. My official taste tester thought it was delicious but I've been hoarding this one from my co-workers. I may share a few slices tomorrow! I managed to find some wonderful ripe mangoes at Whole Foods and the hardest part of this recipe was actually put the fruit into the dough instead of into my mouth! I fell a little short of the 2 cups of fruit that the recipe, uuummm ... suggested.

Please visit Kelly's blog for the recipe and the TWD Blogroll to check out the rest of the TWD bloggers. Now if you'll excuse me, that mango in the first photo has yet to be eaten ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TWD - Tartest Lemon Tart

I have to apologize for being a super blog slacker lately! Last week the TWD group baked a Tiramisu Cake but I didn't blog about it because the dog ate my homework. For real. See ...

At the time of my cake baking he had only been a member of our household for a few hours and I set my cake layers out by the window to cool, just as I always do, and he just started chomping away when I had my back turned. He's new and cute and I'm an inexperienced dog owner ... c'est la vie. I'll try it again in a week or so. Now, on to this weeks TWD Baking Assignment! Today's Tartest Lemon Tart was chosen by Babette of Babette Feasts. One of my co-workers was just telling me about the movie Babette's Feast - looks like a sign that I should visit Blockbuster! Please visit Babette's Blog for the recipe, which can also be found on page 336 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

My tart tasted super lemony with just a tiny hint of bitterness, but it was fantastic! Dorie recommends using a blender to get a smooth custard but this super slacker was too lazy to dig out the blender so I used my food processor instead. I could not get a smooth custard so I strained it into the crust and was very happy with the results. My official taste tester loved it (and I did too)! My tart was very skinny - I think my tart pan may be 10 inches instead of the recommended 9 inches and it was not very photogenic!

Please visit the rest of TWD Bakers to see how they made out with the Tarty Tart! Next week is Mango Bread! I CAN. NOT. WAIT! I love mangoes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Cream Tart

This week's recipe for Chocolate Cream Tart was chosen by Kim of Scrumptious Photography. Please take the time to visit her blog. You will not only can you find the recipe for the Chocolate Cream Tart, you will also find absolutely stunning photos of yummy food! You can also find the recipe on pages 352 and 353 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

Once again, I struggled with the TWD recipe. I seem to have lost my baking mojo! I've baked Dorie's shortbread tart crust before with no problem but this time around, the crust was super dry and crumbly. I'm not sure where I went wrong - other than the fact that it was over baked - oops! The chocolate cream filling came together easy and was creamy and delicious. I decided to make mini tarts this time around.

I also decided to sneak in a layer of homemade peanut butter because ... well, just because I could. Everything except for the crust was to die for yummy! I will definitely try this one again. In the meantime, please visit the rest of the TWD bakers to see what they cooked up this week!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Have you ever eaten something so good that the taste of it haunts you? Many years ago I made a Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Butter Sauce that was absolutely divine. I think about that cheesecake with a frequency that borders on obsession. We were allowed to choose our own flavors for this challenge and not surprisingly, the key lime cheesecake crept back into my brain.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake was wonderfully smooth and creamy. I added about 1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice which made it over the top delicious! The strawberry sauce wasn't as good as I remember but it certainly didn't stop me from eating it! I served a slice to my official taste tester and he pronounced it "evil" and licked his plate clean.

The photos are actually from a mini cheesecake that I kept at home for myself and the taste tester. After the photography session, I remembered some blackberries that I had stashed in the refrigerator so I made a quick single serving of blackberry butter sauce. Oh my ..... the combination of the key limes and blackberries was indescribable. Yum!

I can't wait to see what the rest of the Daring Bakers have concocted this month! You can also check out the new Daring Kitchen website which is full cool cooking stuff! May will also be the inaugural month of the Daring Cooks Challenges! I can't wait for these challenges!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD - Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

This week, Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle chose the recipe for Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding, which can be found on pages 410 and 411 of Dorie's "Baking: From My Home to Yours". The recipe can also be found on Lauren's blog.

So, bread pudding was this week's directive and I'm fairly certain that I failed miserably. I have never tasted bread pudding. I have never made bread pudding. I have no idea what bread pudding is supposed to look like or taste like. Since I was wondering around in unknown territory, I decided to halve the recipe and bake it up in ramekins. I had some leftover liquid and in hindsight I think I should have added more of the milk/cream mixture.

I tasted it at room temperature and after chilling overnight in the refrigerator and I wasn't really excited about it so I brought some to a co-worker who professes to love the stuff. She thought the taste and texture were excellent but the pudding was a little dense. I'm glad tried something new! Thanks Lauren!

Please check out the rest of the TWD bakers to see how they did. I'm sure they baked up some decadent creamy concoctions that will make me want to try this recipe again!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD - Banana Cream Pie

I have a confession to make .... I had a complete kitchen meltdown on Sunday. The kind of meltdown reserved for those moments when you have screamin' PMS and somebody stole the last chocolate bar from your super secret hiding spot. And left the wrapper the behind out of spite. You know what I'm talkin' about!
So here's the story. Phase I of the banana cream pie extravaganza required pie crust making. I made Dorie's "Good for Nothing", I mean "Good for Almost Everything" Pie Dough as instructed. I've baked this crust before and sadly had to throw it out because it shrank. It shrank A LOT! I decided to give it another go and valiant efforts resulted in ... shrinkage.

Sigh ... so I had a little fit and was ready to call the whole thing off. Sorry folks, no pie for you. Luckily, some cooler heads in the TWD group prevailed and I was convinced to give it another go round. For the second attempt, I decided to take the graham cracker crust route. Since I had some leftover macadamia nuts, I threw those in the mix too - just for good measure! :) I made a couple more changes along the way too. The biggest tweak to the recipe was my decision to use my 10-inch tart pan instead of a regular pie pan. I made a half batch of both the custard and the topping and used only a single layer of bananas.

Would you just look at that beautifully fluted and well behaved graham cracker macadamia nut pie crust! I was quite happy with the results! I've never baked banana cream anything so I had to dig into this one right away and despite my crust troubles, I think I may come back to this recipe! The custard was smooth and creamy and the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar wonderfully complemented the bananas and the macadamia nuts. The topping was rich and delicious with a light touch of sour cream.

Thanks to Amy of Sing for Your Supper for choosing this week's recipe which can be found on her blog and on pages 342 and 343 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours." Don't forget to check out the rest of the TWD bakers to see how they baked their Banana Cream Pie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TWD - Coconut Butter Thins

When I read through this recipe and spotted coconut, macadamia nuts, and lime as ingredients, I was immediately put in an island state of mind. When I spotted key limes at the grocery store, I knew I had to have them! Would anyone know the difference if I substituted key lime zest for regular lime zest? Nope. But I would know and adding key lime zest makes me happy. :)

The recipe states that the cookies should come out "wafery" and "lacy". Anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes, knows that I do not like thin crunchy cookies. "Wafery" and "lacy" are not what I look for in a cookie, so I put the baking sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking them and removed them from the oven at exactly 18 minutes. The results were perfectly square little butter cookies that resembled a shortbread.
I baked the cookies on Sunday afternoon and as I stood at the kitchen window, nibbling on coconut and key lime, I was transported to a lovely little key, swinging in a hammock, and watching the sunset. In reality, I watched big fluffy flakes of snow fall from the sky and blanket my yard in white. I swear they were mocking me. The cookies were delicious and super easy to bake. I will definitely bookmark the recipe to make again and again!
This weeks recipe was chosen by Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 145 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my home to Yours". Please visit the TWD Blogroll to see what the rest of the bakers did this week!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

When I found out we would be making pasta for this months challenge I was super excited. Pasta making is something that I have always wanted to try and now I had the perfect opportunity. We were to make an authentic Italian lasagna composed of noodles, bechamel sauce, and a ragu. My enthusiasm started to fade as I was reading through the recipe for the ragu. I started Weight Watchers about a month ago. I'm not the food police by any means and if I want something like lasagna, I just have a small portion, make good choices for the rest of the day and call it good. But the ragu ingredients (pancetta, veal, pork loin, beef skirt steak, Prosciutto di Parma and red wine among other things) did me in and I had resigned myself to skipping this months challenge. Lucky for me ... I stumbled upon a logical substitution. Roasted Vegetable Ragu.

My friend google and I found a delicious sounding recipe at Picky Cook. The ragu tasted as wonderful as the recipe promised! I was eating it straight out of the pan! The vegetables looked so pretty in the pan ready for roasting.

Here's the finished roasted vegetable ragu. Some of the veggies got a little overdone.

Now on to the pasta making! I struggled with the recipe at first. I wanted to make 1/2 batch and I couldn't get the dough to come together. I had a big pile of unsightly crumbs.

So I added another egg and after a lot of hard work formed a lovely little dough ball!

After some rolling and stretching of the dough, I cut some beautiful noodles. My noodles were a little on the thick side but my dough was starting to tear, so I decided to just take my chances. On a side note, how is it that Alton Brown made this process look so much easier on TV and he did it in thirty minutes! I didn't let my noodles dry since I did the entire lasagna process in a single day. Here they are hanging out in the kitchen.

I made the bechamel sauce and assembling the rest of the lasagna was a breeze! The end result was divine! I never imagined that this lasagna would taste so good!

Thanks Mary, Melinda, and Enza for this great challenge! Thank you Kristin for allowing me to use the ragu recipe. Please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how the rest of the gang did with their lasagnas! If you've never made your own pasta - try it!

Oh, and for those that may be counting: WW Points=7 :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD - Blueberry Crumb Cake

Or in my case, Blackberry Crumb Cake! I searched two different supermarkets for fresh berries and could only find fresh strawberries. I found myself in the frozen food aisle contemplating blueberries and blackberries. I wanted to try something a little different (for me) so I went with the blackberries since I had never baked with them before. A wonderful choice if I do say so myself and I will definitely bake this one again when fresh blackberries, and blueberries, and raspberries, come into season around here!

The only other change I made to Dorie's recipe was using the zest of an entire lemon instead of half - another wise choice I think! I also used a round pan instead of square since I rarely have the proper pan for the chosen recipe!

Unfortunately, I had a few problems with this cake. From what I have read from other TWD bloggers, many had the same issues with their crumb cakes. After 55 minutes in the oven, I had a puddle of butter in the center of the cake. After 65 minutes in the oven, my cake was over browning and not cooked in the center. When all was said and done, I think I left my cake in the oven for close to 90 minutes! YIKES! I still couldn't get a clean knife out of the center so I just gave up and removed it from the oven and when it cooled, it seemed fine.

My official taste taster had to have a piece before it was properly photographed and he said it was fantastic. I took the rest to my co-workers and they ate it and (I think) mostly loved it. I heard no complaints about it being dry. I had a small portion from near the center of the cake and thought it was absolutely wonderful! I will be trying this one with an assortment of fruit. Dorie says you can use peaches and in my world peaches = mangoes, so expect to see that version come out of the kitchen! :) I also want to make these as minis from my cupcake pan.

Please see how the rest of the TWD group fared and visit Sihan of Befuddlement for this weeks recipe. Sihan has mango marshmallows posted on her site. Mmmmm ..... mango. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD - French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

This weeks recipe was chosen by Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction. Please visit her blog for the recipe! I was happy to see that this weeks recipe was simple and Dorie called it "foolproof"! Yeah! I skipped last weeks TWD because I made three cakes for my coworkers and just couldn't find the time to squeeze in the custard. I was really surprised at how lemony the yogurt cake turned out using only zest and no juice.

Although Dorie instructs us to strain the marmalade and gently brush it the glaze on the cake tops, I decided on a more rustic look and basically spread my marmalde directly on top of the cake! I think it looks pretty cool with the chunks of orange peel.

Instead of making a large loaf or a round cake, I baked eight mini loaves instead. They were super moist and delicious. Yum!

Please check out the TWD bakers to see what they're up to this week and thanks for stopping by. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Armagnac Cake

Armagnac? Armagnac is a grape brandy from the Gascony region of Southwestern France. Its closest relative is cognac, which is also grape brandy. I had to google to figure it out! After checking my booze stash, I realized I was fresh out of Armagnac. I also sadly lack cognac, brandy, and scotch whisky, all suggested substitutes for Armagnac. The closest thing I have? Bourbon whisky. Wild Turkey. Close enough. :)

Dorie's cake also calls for prunes. Prunes are not a staple in my pantry and since I am not going out for liquor - I am most certainly not going out for prunes. As recommended, I sub raisins for prunes. Raisins soaked in Wild Turkey Bourbon Whisky. Yee haw ... I'm going to countrify Dorie's fine french dessert!

I think I'm ready to get this cake going but realize that, once again, I don't have the proper sized pan. You'd think that I would just throw in the towel at this point. I don't have several key ingredients and I don't have an 8-inch springform pan. I'm not a quitter and I refuse to let baked goods get the best of me! A few days ago, I saw an episode of Good Eats on the Food Network where Alton Brown uses a regular 2-inch tall cake pan instead of a springform pan so I decide to improvise by covering the bottom and sides of the cake pan with parchment paper. I am happy to report that it worked like a charm!

The cake came together easily enough and looked beautiful when I removed it from the oven. It tasted great ... except for one small thing ... I don't like dried fruit co-mingling with chocolate. Like a 3 year old, I picked the raisins out of my cake slice. The bits of cake without raisins were fantastic! I plan on making this cake again and using the prunes as directed. I think they will disappear into the cake and I will be happier with the texture. The chocolate glaze that tops the cake is thick and rich and decadent!

Thanks Lyb of "And then I do the dishes" for choosing this months recipe for Chocolate Armagnac Cake, also known as the cake that got Dorie fired. You can read that story and find the cake recipe on pages 278-281 of "Baking: From my home to yours".

This is how I like my fruit and chocolate. Neighbors. On the same plate but separated by dollop of sweetened whipped cream. No touching!
Don't forget to check out the rest of the TWD bakers to see their twists on this cake.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers - Chocolate Valentino

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They chose a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

I was super excited to see this month's flourless chocolate cake challenge! I LOVE chocolate in all of it's forms. I made my chocolate cake for my honey as part of our Valentine's Day dinner. He loved it. I loved it. All around it was huge success! I halved the recipe and made four mini heart shaped cakes in my silicone heart-shaped muffin pan.

The February Challenge included churning some homemade ice cream. My aimless wandering around the Internet led me to a recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream by David Lebovitz (click link at your own risk!) I made the caramel three times and even after the third time it still tasted slightly burned to me but since I'm hyper critical of my cooking, I decided to go with it anyway. Fantastic! I couldn't stop eating it!

I served the flourless chocolate Valentinos with Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. It was so good and the perfect ending to a dinner of ribeye steaks and roasted potatoes. Please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how the other bakers did.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

TWD - Caramel Crunch Bars

For this weeks recipe, Whitney of What’s left on the table? chose Caramel Crunch Bars. You can find the recipe on her blog or on pages 112-113 of "Baking: From my home to yours" by Dorie Greenspan. This was a pretty easy straightforward recipe. I used bittersweet chocolate in the crust portion of the bars and milk chocolate for the topping. I also used Heath Bar Bits for the toffee sprinkled on top. These cookies were pretty good but I thought they were really sweet! There was a little bit of a problem with some of my bars - the chocolate layer separated from the crust layer. I'm not sure if I would make these again.

On a side note, I was noticing that I have a bunch of partial bags of chocolate and small chunks of chocolate in my baking cupboard and I'm kind of annoyed by it! :) I'll need to make some kind of chocolate chip cookie and dump the assortment of chips in the mix to use them up. After finishing the Caramel Crunch Bar recipe I was left with yet another partial bag of "stuff" - in this case, the toffee bits. Instead of adding to the cupboard collection, I made the World Peace Cookies again and used the toffee bits instead of bittersweet chocolate chips. YUM! YUM! YUM!

Please check out the Tuesdays with Dorie Blogroll to see what the other bakers came up with.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TWD - Chocolate White Out Cake

This week's Devil's Food White Out Cake was chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater. You can find the recipe on her blog and/or on page 247-249 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours". This particular cake is featured on the cover of the cookbook and looks quite spectacular! Dorie's looks spectacular - mine, not so much!

I always seem to struggle with layer cakes and this one was no exception! The cake itself was pretty simple and straightforward and tasted delicious. I will definitely be referring back to this one although I may use a different frosting.

The frosting is fluffy, marshmallowy, and not overly sweet. I thought that it tasted OK but was not crazy about it. At the very last minute I decided to make one single cupcake, hollow out the center and fill it with the frosting. The cupcake was fabulous! The frosting had the perfect texture and consistency for filling a cupcake! I will do the cupcakes again.

I had a picture of the inside but it seems to have disappeared from my memory stick! When I spread the frosting between the cake layers, I didn't add equal amounts to each layer so my cake looks a little wonky on the inside.

Please check out the TWD blogroll to see how the rest of the bakers did this week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

TWD - World Peace Cookies

This week Jessica of cookbookhabit chose World Peace Cookies for our baking pleasure. The recipe can be found on her blog and on pages 138-139 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours." I've heard rave reviews about these cookies so I was pretty excited to be making them and then I read the through the recipe and found these two words in the fine print: "crumbly" and "cookie". Those who have read here before know that I do not care for crumbly crunchy cookies but I pressed onward. I thought that at least my coworkers would eat them.

I whipped these up as directed except that I used a fine sea salt instead of fleur de sel. The raw cookie dough tasted fantastic and I considered just eating it straight from the bowl and calling it good but ended up rolling the dough into logs and freezing for a couple hours. I tried one cookie soon after it emerged from the oven and I was underwhelmed. :( I wanted to like them, I really did, so I tried another a few hours later. I sliced my cookies thick, so they were a little crisp around the edges and outside but overall, not too crunchy, but still, I thought the cookies were a little bleh.

Never one to give up, I tried another cookie the next morning for breakfast. I couldn't believe these were the exact same cookies I had baked up the day before. They tasted fantastic! I'm pretty sure I ate three or four more before putting them up! My official taste tester ate a bunch of them and when I asked if he wanted to take the rest and share them with friends, I was met with an unequivocal "NO". That's right folks, we are hoarding the world peace cookies. No sharing with friends, families, or coworkers! I will definitely bake these again and perhaps next time I will spread the peace, love, and joy with those around me.

Or not.

Please visit the TWD Blogroll to see how the rest of bakers did!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Cannoli Project

My official taste tester, aka dear boyfriend, asked me to make cannoli's as a special favor. When I explained that I had never made cannoli's he responded with "so?" Both the taste tester and my six year old are convinced that I can bake absolutely anything and while I'm quite flattered by their unwavering conviction, I was still pretty intimidated. I'm always up for a challenge so after a few good google sessions and picking the brains of a few of my fellow TWDers, I decided to mix and match a couple of recipes and several sets of instructions.

For the shells, I chose a recipe from The Arthur Avenue Cookbook suggested by Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy . The only concern that I had was the instructions indicated that the cannoli shells be fried at 325 degrees and that seemed too low of a temperature. I started at 325 and added heat and found that I had the best results when the oil temperature was closer to 400 degrees. In order to cut the suggested oval shape out of the dough I decided to try a template that I created on my computer.

This worked well, but about 1/3 of the way through the very time consuming process, I was getting a bit frustrated. I took out my largest biscuit cutter and forced it into an oval.

Since it wasn't big enough, I simply rolled the dough a little thicker, cut out the ovals, and then rolled them thinner and larger. Now I was moving along at a better clip!

I don't have a deep fryer so I just used a regular old pot from my collection and had to fry them one at a time so the temperature would remain high and I had room to move them around a bit in the pot. The end result looked pretty good but I couldn't tell if they were overcooked or undercooked or greasy or just plain nasty. I'm fairly certain that I have never eaten a cannoli so I had no idea what I was aiming for!

For the filling, I decided to try the recipe suggested by Becke from Columbus Foodie. I added just a tad more sugar to sweetened things up a bit and thought the filling tasted fantastic! The texture was grainier than I expected but I loved the flavor! I gave the finished cannoli's a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips and I sent them on their way.

The recipient (MA) and her friends and family were very impressed with the results so I guess I did ok! MA is old school Italian and mentioned that she had an authentic recipe that she dearly loved and perhaps I would like to try that one next time? Bring it MA! Bring it.

Thanks again to Susan and Becke and everyone else who offered up advice and suggestions!