Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

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An Anniversary Challenge

January 27, 2012

I feel like I was lost in a time-warp for a bit and poof, here I am in the future…errr present actually. Whoa! I have been writing and cooking but just not posting (oops). Expect new content from us much more frequently, and *gasp* tasty leftovers of course. <(^_^)>

Sooooo my parents had their anniversary celebration this past year and it was a big one. I mean the 25th is quite the milestone (it is silver and all)! Wahoo! My gift to my parents (and personal challenge) was catering the event for them. It wasn’t massive, just an afternoon of light appetizers and dranks for about 25-30. I was pretty stoked and planned out a fun menu of classy appetizers and also sorta recreated their wedding cake. (P.S. in case you are curious/old soul at heart, here are the breakdowns of what each anniversary means).

The menu that Josie and I assembled included the following: Miniature beef Wellingtons, Asparagus spirals (familiar no?), basil & feta sweet potato cakes, and of course artisan crudite & cheese platters. I’m certain we will share all these recipes soon, but today I wanted to share the recipe for the cake.

When I asked for details about the original wedding cake there were some mixed stories. Most remembered it was a banana cake, the jury was out on the type of frosting and fillings. Hmm yes, they were kind of vague. So having this framework to work with I devised a plan. The cake would be banana of course, and I immediately thought of using this fantastic brown sugar frosting that I had made in the past. The cake came out wonderful. It was super moist and had a great flavor to it (the rum didn’t hurt either). So here is the final result:

Thoughts:

-I scaled back the recipe to be more fitting for 24 cupcakes or a 2 layer cake.

-You can easily make your own oatmeal flour by putting rolled oats into the food processor. It adds a wonderful warmth to just about any recipe.

-Using salted butter in the frosting really helps to balance out the sweetness.

-As stated before, not a fan of cinnamon, so I went pretty light on it for the frosting. Adjust to your taste preference ^_^

-Josie and I always use this simple marshmallow fondant found here. It is so easy, tints beautifully, and tastes pretty great for fondant. NOTE: Using this fondant will make your cake non-vegan friendly as there is gelatin in the marshmallows >_<

Bananas Foster Anniversary Cake

My parents love the tropics so I brought it to them with cheerfully bright flowers and bright teal fondant with swirling waves!

Banana-Rum Cake

  • 1 cup of ripe banana, well mashed (3-4 bananas)
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of oatmeal flour (easily made by putting rolled oats in a food processor)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups of sugar
  • 2/3  cup canola oil
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/3 cup dark rum
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Extra Rum (optional…but is it really?)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. To make the banana smoother, put it through the blender or food processor. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the bananas, soymilk, oil, rum and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just to combine.

For cupcakes, fill two-thirds full and bake for 20-24 minutes. For layer cake, fill 2 greased 8 inch cake pans evenly and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool slightly then carefully stab cake/cupcakes with a toothpick (don’t go all Psycho on it) then drizzle a dash of dark rum and let it seep in.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup of soymilk
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tsp of cinnamon (depending on your taste)

In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar. Bring sugar mixture to a boil and lower the heat to medium low stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk until it is all incorporated. Cool to lukewarm then using an electric mixer  gradually add in the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Continue to beat until thick enough to spread. If it is too thick, add a little hot soymilk. Frost cake/cupcakes immediately as frosting hardens quickly.

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Happiness is a Warm Peach Cobbler

June 20, 2011

Peaches are summer to me.  They’re so sweet, juicy, and refreshing, and they can be put into almost any dish, savory or sweet.  And though peak peach season is still a few weeks off, I wanted to give you this recipe in preparation (plus, peaches were on sale at the store this week).  You’re going to want to try it.  It’s painfully easy and extraordinarily delicious.

My gramma gave me this recipe several summers ago when she came to visit and brought a big basket of peaches she’d bought at a roadside stand.  I made it for dessert then, and haven’t ever strayed.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it can be made with canned peaches just as easily, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peaches (i.e., in the middle of winter).

This recipe doesn’t make a huge amount of cobbler, only about 4 good-sized servings.  But it can easily be doubled or tripled if you have a lot of guests (or really like cobbler).  You could also easily add blueberries or raspberries for complexity!

Freshly-baked cobbler, warm and bubbly straight from the oven! (I had to use my Henn pottery, since it was a Gramma recipe).

Easy Peach Cobbler

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (or 1 large can, drained)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter – mix lightly (it doesn’t need to be entirely incorporated).  Place peaches at the bottom of a greased, small – medium baking dish.  Top with spoonfuls of “batter”.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Serve warm with good vanilla ice cream!

Served warm with vanilla ice cream. Divine.

(As a side note:  The hardest part of this whole recipe was deciding which scoop to use for the ice cream – cow or penguin?)

The penguin and cow ice cream scoops. I ended up going penguin, in case anyone is dying to know, for no particular reason at all.

~ Josie

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Buttery Shortbread with an Oat-y Twist

April 18, 2011

Well it has been a while since I posted, but Josie has been keeping up with some very tasty stuff. Lately I have found that I have shifted again from cooking more savory dishes to making more desserts. Not necessarily a bad thing, but just haven’t been trying as many recipes lately.

Anyway, this week I bring you and oldie but a goodie. Well, old being that I came up with this one last year. One of my friends is obsessed with rolled oats, so much so she even has a cute little song about them. I dare not publish it here as she trying to keep it hush-hush while trying to peddle it off to a little brand called Quaker—you may have heard of it. Well I have found that through our friendship I seem to have fallen on board with the obsession. I really do love me some rolled oats. I also love me some shortbread . So I put these two together to make some tasty rich shortbread with the warmth of oats.

Thoughts:

-To make rolled oat flour, put about a cup of oats in the food processor and pulse until it becomes flour. That simple and it adds so much flavor. You can pulse a bunch to have on hand to mix into any recipe you want some oat-y goodness in.

-I add a tiny amount of cinnamon just to suggest some spicy warmth, but not overpower. You can add up to ½ tsp depending on how much you love cinnamon.

Rolled Oat Shortbread with Sea-Salt

  • ¾ c flour
  • ¾ c rolled oat flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), cold cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup of oats to cut in and for sprinkling
  • Sea salt, raw sugar, and cinnamon for dusting

The recipe is pretty traditional for shortbread.

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl place your flours, salt, cinnamon, sugars, and vanilla. Add the butter and begin to cut it into the flour using two knives or a pastry blender. Once it really starts coming together add vanilla and about half of the oats for texture and cut it in as well. It should work into a thick dough.

Now, you can spray and flour a cake pan or 8×8 baking dish if you really want to, but these generally have no problem whatsoever coming out of the pan. Press the dough into the pan and sprinkle sea salt generously followed by some raw sugar. The raw sugar will give a nice crunch and the salt will bring out the earthy oat flavors. Sprinkle the remaining oats and a little cinnamon. Gently press into the dough. Bake for 1 hour and it will be a nice golden brown hue.

When you remove from the oven, score the shapes you want your shortbread pieces to be: wedges, squares, dinosaurs—Go crazy. Whatever you decide on remember these are some rich cookies; bite size morsels are good. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then break on the scored lines and enjoy.

~Erik <(^_^)>

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How Very En-scone-cing…

April 2, 2011

Ah, the scone:  British teatime staple.  Warm, sweet, biscuity deliciousness.  What else could I possibly say?  Nothing.  Not even going to try.

Scone dough, rolled and cut.

There has been quite a lot of blogging going on at my house lately, what with trying to keep up with this blog and Erika revamping her site.  It’s a wonder our new cooking buddy, Edward, can keep up!  (many thanks to him, once again, for the lovely pictures — they make these scones look much fancier than they really are).  Though, what they lack in pretension, they more than make up for in deliciousness and ease of preparation.  I promise, this one is a no-brainer.

Brushing the tops of the scones with cream before baking.

It’s a very simple ingredient list, and quick and easy to make.  I was surprised to discover how much baking powder goes into the recipe (5 teaspoons, woah!), and I felt like I was doing something wrong.  Though, it’s not altogether surprising given that it’s pretty much the only leavening agent.

When you make these (and I know you’ll want to), feel free to use whole milk or half and half in place of the cream in this recipe to lighten it up.  I’m partial to cream…

Mmm...baked scones, fresh from the oven!

Don’t forget, also, the many many many possibilities of flavor combinations there are yet to be explored.  Blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon, cran orange, chocolate.  Personally, I can’t wait to experiment with savory scones.  I’m thinking cheddar cheese, (soy)bacon or sausage, chopped jalapenos…I could easily get carried away with this.  Whatever variety you decide to make, have fun with these muffin/biscuit hybrids!

Drizzling the scones with a quick glaze.

Now, the recipe:

Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

5 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, cold and cut into pieces

1 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing

1 egg

½ cup cranberries

½ cup white chocolate chips

(1/2 cup chopped nuts would be delicious as well – I recommend pistachios)

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry blender (or two knives) cut butter into flour until you produce a fine crumb.

Beat egg into cream.  Blend all at once into flour/butter mixture – a wooden spoon would be best for this.  Work it all together into a dough.

Lightly flour your work surface.  Divide dough in half, shaping each half into a disc.  Flatten each disk to a 1-inch thickness, and slice into 8 wedges.

Transfer to a baking sheet, brush the top of each scone with cream.  Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes, or until slightly golden on top.  Remove from oven, and cool on a cooling rack.

If you’d like to make a glaze for your scones, whisk 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3-4 tablespoons of milk or cream and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.  Drizzle over the tops of the slightly-cooled scones.  Enjoy!

This is where it gets a little excessively fancy (read: obviously staged photo).

~Josie

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Case of the Reverse Red Velvet

February 24, 2011

So recently I was really craving some red velvet in my life. The problem is I get bored of the same things over and over again. For example, my dad absolutely loves chocolate chip cookies. He also likes most of the random cookies I’ve pieced together like Tazo Passion Chips, Triple Chocolate Tangelo, and White Chocolate Pistachio, but always defaults to requesting chocolate chip. Sure they are wonderful and delicious and homey, don’t get me wrong, but what they lack to me is a challenge. I’ve realized I like challenges. A lot.

Which brings me back to my dilemma; I wanted something that filled the void of being red velvet, without being red velvet per se. Thus came the idea for a reversed red velvet cake. In my head this cake would be cream-cheesy in the center and red chocolaty goodness on the outside. I feel this cake does just that, but left me a little “whelmed.” It turned out quite tasty and I was so happy to make a red icing without having to use a whole lot of dye (Pure red can be a quite the task to make, as more often than not it comes out pink or really fake nuclear red). The downside though, is that it just became a vanilla cake with a creamy filling and red chocolate frosting. It wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined.

Not all my ideas work out 100% of the time. At this point I’d like to quote one of my favorite teachers of all time.

“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” ~Ms. Frizzle

In baking and cooking, it’s important not to just have ideas, but to run with them. Make them into a reality. Worst-case scenario is that you make a wonderful mistake of a recipe (see here) or you learn how to improve your recipes slash realize they are awful. <(^_^)>

I may have lost this challenge to myself, but as a result I have even more new ideas that I want to try out.

Thoughts:

-If you don’t want to use cake mix in the frosting, you can substitute in a 2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder, an extra cup of powdered sugar, and red food coloring until you reach your desired level of crimson to chocolate ratio. Warning: You may need a LOT of red dye.

-This cream cheese pastry cream is fantastic! It reminds me a bit of the filling inside of those cheap and tasty Costco cakes, but hey — you can make it yourself! Woot woot!

-Trying out the cheesecake flavor of LorAnn oil I have discovered an essential flavor for my pantry. It tastes more like cake-batter than anything else. I foresee a lot of cake-batter flavored sweets and treats in the future.

-Next time I would cut each of the 8 inch cakes in half to have a total of 3 layers of pastry cream. That stuff is good. I could seriously eat it like pudding…well it kinda is just that.  <(>.>)>

Reverse Red Velvet Cake

Cake:

  • 2 c soymilk
  • 2 tsp. vinegar (apple cider variety if you have)
  • 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. canola oil
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 drops of cheesecake flavor LorAnne oil (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.

Mix together the soy milk + vinegar and set aside to curdle for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the oil, sugar, and flavoring to the curdled soymilk and beat together. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until the lumpiness is gone.

Separate into the 2 cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Cream Cheese Pastry Cream

  • 2 c. soymilk (or milk)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 oz. cream cheese (¾ of a brick)
  • ½ tsp vanilla ( I used vanilla bean paste for some flecks)

In a medium saucepan warm the milk until scalding. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until light in color. In a small bowl, heat the cream cheese in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted and smooth. Now, slowly whisk the milk into the egg mixture until it all comes together. Return to saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue whisking for 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Whisk for 1 additional minute then remove from the heat. Fold in the cream cheese, cover with some plastic wrap, poke some holes and refrigerate for an hour or until chilled (The plastic wrap should touch the surface of the cream, so a skin doesn’t form while chilling).

Red Velvet Frosting

  • 1 c. butter or margarine (softened at room temp)
  • 1 ½ c sifted red velvet cake mix
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • ¾ c. soymilk or milk (more may be necessary)

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Sift in the cake mix along with ¼ c. of the milk. Slowly alternate additions of the powdered sugar and the milk. The resulting frosting should be a nice spreading consistency. If too thick add more milk, if too thin add more sugar.

To assemble: fill layer(s) with the pastry cream, frost and enjoy!

~Erik <(^_^)>

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D is for Demerara Sugar (Raw raw raw ahh ahh)

February 5, 2011

That’s just fancy talk for raw sugar. It probably seems like a rather simple ingredient, and while it is, it is a welcome addition to a recipe IMHO.

Demerara sugar typically has a light golden brown color, similar to that of brown sugar but its texture is actually more like that of regular white granulated sugar. It has a much nicer crunch factor though. So what makes demerara sugar so different (I kind of want to call it D-Shugg)? Well, I’ll tell you <(^_^)> ! All sugar is not created equal. D-Shugg comes from pressed sugar cane juice that is steamed and then becomes a thick syrup. This syrup is dehydrated and voila! in its wake it becomes crunchy, slightly molasses-y, and delicious. Fairly simple and natural process right? It’s sad that it is generally more expensive that refined white sugar <(T_T)>.  Wamp wamp. On an interesting note, its name comes from the Demerara colony in Guyana where it was originally sourced. Use this tidbit to impress that special someone at the next party you go to. <(^_~)>

Also, here in the U.S. we have our own version of raw sugar referred to as turbinado. For this type, the cane juice is spun in a turbine or centrifuge. It has a slight taste difference than demerara but they are pretty interchangeable. Regardless of your choice of sweetness, raw sugar has a higher moisture content so try and store in an airtight container like you would brown sugars.

This is a large granule raw sugar my parents bought me on a trip to Hawaii.

This is the more commonly available sugar in the raw. It has much smaller granules and is lighter in color.

Raw sugar is excellent way to play with the texture of a recipe that may need a little extra something to break up its uniformity. Enter baked goods! Lots of sweet baked goods such as cookies, muffins, and scones benefit greatly from the power of D-Shugg. Give it a chance. Oh hey—look I’ve even included a simple recipe that is amazing with our new found friend! Yah!

Thoughts:

-I got this recipe from my friend Kelly via Josie. Be careful. They are addicting.

-One of the most widely available brands of turbindo is “Sugar in the Raw” if you can’t find Demerara anywhere.

-If you want a heartier cookie, substitute 1 c whole wheat flour+ 1 c all purpose for the flour.

They're just so Sparkly! ❤ <(^_^)^

Kelly’s Molasses Ginger Chews

  • ¾ c butter, softened at room temp
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • ¼ c molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ c flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • Raw Sugar (demerara or turbinado) For Rolling

Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. My favorite method of doing this is using a large wooden spoon and mixing and smashing until it is light in color and combined ^_^ Alternately you can use a mixer and cream together. In another bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

Stir in molasses and egg into creamed butter until well combined. Then add 1c flour mixture. Stir then add in remaining flour.

Rolling on the mix of the two raw sugars I had.

Chill for 15 minutes in the freezer. Scoop out dough and shape into balls and roll in raw sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until “lovely”.  Should make about 2-3 dozen depending on the size of your rolled scoops.

They really are lovely! So good! Om nom nom.

This cookie has it all. Sweet, spicy, chewy, crunchy. Noms.

~Erik <(^_^)>

 

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A Cake for Chocoholics and Celiacs

January 29, 2011

Sitting down to write this post has got me thinking about food trends.  You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – stuff that your grandparents (and in some cases even your parents) have never heard of (and certainly didn’t find in their Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks growing up) but are all the rage in trendy restaurants and specialty grocery stores.  Stuff like chorizo, chipotle seasoning, pomegranates, and bacon in desserts.  Sure, they’ve always been around, but were never hot items like they are now (the way jell-o molds, fondue, and various meat and seafood mousses were in the 70’s).  Of course, all this boils down to is my observation that food trends change almost as often  as clothing, music, and hair trends.  Plus it serves as an elegant segue into the topic of this post, and one of the top trending foods of our day:  the flourless chocolate cake.

This recipe in particular is one that I hadn’t even heard of until a couple years ago, and even after I had, didn’t have any particular interest in trying.  I imagined it would be a very dense (which it is), cheesecakey-tasting (which it’s not) concoction that would stick to the roof of your mouth and leave you feeling less-than-satisfied.  Think again.

Chopped butter and chocolate, ready for melting!

It’s a deliciously rich, dense, melt-in-your-mouth experience that satisfies even the most ferocious of chocolate cravings.  Plus, it’s topped with crème fraîche – a close relative of sour cream and my ultimate dairy vice – how could I resist?  I couldn’t.  So, I finally broke down and made it after it turned up in the November issue of Real Simple (and I was bored one Friday night) Original Recipe Here.  I made it 100% per the recipe the first time, but on subsequent trials altered the recipe slightly (see below).  It’s relatively simple to prep, doesn’t require too many ingredients, and only needs one piece of specialist equipment – a springform pan (generally not too pricey or difficult to come by).

Oh, and I haven’t even told you the best part about this cake!  Though, for those of you among us who know someone with Celiac Disease or have it yourself, you already know…it’s gluten-free!  This is certainly a good go-to dessert to have in your repertoire for entertaining occasions when, say, your gluten-intolerant aunt and your mom’s gluten-intolerant friend are coming to the same Tupperware party you’ve been asked to prepare food for (to give a random example, off the top of my head).

Melting the chocolate and butter.

The Recipe:

Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark), plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

“Crème Fraîche”

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with ¼ cup of the heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding.

The eggs and sugar anxiously await the chocolate.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream with the sour cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Serve cake with crème fraîche.  Accept graciously the compliments of your guests, you deserve them!

The Finished Product: Yes, it's in its nature to look a little deflated and pathetic. No worries!

~Josie