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!