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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

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Recovering from a hard week of work with wine, cake in a cup and Jeopardy.

The Wine

NC cabernet 008

Random bottle of Merlot from World Market, surprisingly good!

The Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a Cup. Found this  recipe because, damn it, I wanted cake with my wine. Surprisingly, not a bad recipe.

My Date

Alex-Trebek

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In hindsight, substituting egg roll wrappers for phyllo dough was not a good idea.

This weekend I tried to make chocolate and coconut filled samosas. I had the bright idea of using left over egg roll wrappers to replace the phyllo dough required in the recipe. Ironically, the egg roll wrappers came from another disastrous recipe, Avocado Egg Rolls. As a side note, putting avocados in an egg roll and deep frying it ruins everything that is good and holy about the avocado. Spoiler Alert: Fried avocado tastes like mushy canola oil.

The chocolate-coconut combination made for a delicious filling, but the egg roll wrappers created a tough, crunchy exterior that did not make for an attractive dessert.

See what I mean?

I didn’t want to spend the next hour producing dense samosas. I also didn’t want to waste that yummy chocolate-coconut filling (sitting down and eating it with a spoon wasn’t an option because of those darn eggs).

Then it occurred to me…eggs + sugar + butter + flour = cake.

Turning failure into opportunity, I took this banana cupcake recipe and added a dollop of the chocolate-coconut filling to each cupcake. Baking times and temperatures were not affected by the addition of the filling.

The addition of the chocolate, sour cream, coconut, and bananas made for a very moist cupcake. Now I just needed something to dress it up. I didn’t want a cream cheese frosting because, frankly, I didn’t have any cream cheese in the house. A chocolate frosting would be too rich, but peanut butter, that wouldn’t be too rich, would it?

OF COURSE IT WOULD. That’s why I had to do it.

Et viola, that is how you turn a samosa into a cupcake.

For those of you that want to try this at home, here are the details:

Chocolate-Coconut Filling

Ingredients

  • 3.5 oz unsalted butter, softened (7 tbsp)
  • 3.5 oz granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3.5 oz unsweetened shredded coconut (11/3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp AP flour
  • 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate (in bar form, you’ll be shaving it later)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Step 1: Beat sugar and butter together.

Step 2: Stir in 1st egg.

Step 3: Stir in the shredded coconut and flour.

Step 4: Stir in the second egg. Continue to beat until smooth.

Step 5: Shave the chocolate into the filling. Once incorporated, stir in the cocoa powder.

Step 6: Incorporate to another base cake batter, such as this one. Follow baking temperatures and times from base recipe.

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar

This one is easy. Cream the butter and the peanut butter together. Add the confectioners’ sugar. Now go decorate some cupcakes!

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Biscuit Joconde is French for “recipe that is way over your head.” My French must be rusty judging by the way I confidently jumped into making this recipe.

Biscuit Joconde is a decorative almond sponge cake often used to surround another delicious dessert. It often makes for an impressive display, which Martha Stewart shows off in the picture below.

Yeah…my version didn’t look like that.

I originally planned to surround a lemon cheesecake with the decorative sponge cake. The cheesecake turned out great. The sponge cake, however, looked like a pile a grits before going into the oven. The lines in the batter are my lame attempt at decoration.

To make a long and painful baking story short, the finished sponge cake did not show any decorative pattern. I tried to salvage the situation by cramming both the lemon cheesecake and the sponge cake into a spring foam pan. Pretty, non?

Guess what is more fun than cramming two cakes into one pan and trying to make it look good? Taking the aforementioned cake out of the pan and STILL trying to make it look good.

You can see the confidence in my face.

At least the damn thing tasted good. I couldn’t waste the glutinous amount of eggs that went into this train wreck, so the next day I transformed it into white chocolate covered lemon cheesecake balls. Cake balls may not be fancy or French, but at least you don’t need a culinary arts degree to make them.

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Did anyone else get a visit from the Easter snake?

He did not come with chocolate eggs, but that did not stop this guy from crashing our Easter lunch on the patio.

Speaking of Easter lunch, I had the great idea of cooking a ham this year. I recommend trying it if:

A) You have the refrigerator capacity to soak a 7 lb ham over night in two gallons of water.

B) You enjoy keeping an oven on for four hours in 80 degree weather.

C) You really, really, really like ham. 7 lbs of ham is a lot of ham.

D) You want a ham that doesn’t taste like the Honey Baked Ham version.

Despite the trials of baking the ham, I did have success with a strawberry cake. Unlike the ham, I will definitely make this again.

I hope that everyone had a happy Easter! Hopefully the Easter snake was good to you ; )

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We aren’t shy about sugar in my family. We put sugar on our fruit, we always have ice cream in the fridge, and our Christmas dessert spread would make Paula Deen shake her head in embarrassment.  “Christmas dessert spread” correctly implies that there is more than one dessert at our Christmas table. Traditionally we have a big dessert, usually in the form of a rich cake. Then there is fudge, a Christmas requirement, in addition to a box of chocolates (this year from Lindt). Add to that list cookies from the office cookie exchange, some sort of sweet bread (coffee cake this year), and at least one chocolate Santa Claus/reindeer/snowman. Oh, and it isn’t Christmas without a few Lindt Lindor Truffles in your stocking. We ain’t afraid of no diabetes!

This year’s big dessert came from a spice cake recipe I found on Epicurious. The recipe made for an impressive centerpiece but a less than stellar cake. The reviews warn that the cake is dry, which I ignored hoping the criticisms were due to the personal tweaks of the reviewer (such as replacing cake flour with AP flour). In the end the reviews were right. Perhaps reducing the baking time would have made a difference. Overall the recipe is fine, but there are better spice cake recipes out there.

Pessimism aside, I had fun decorating the cake and was pleased with the final presentation. I took my time and trimmed the cake layers for a more uniformed look. Dan happily ate the scraps.

I then added a “crumb layer” of frosting to the layers. A “crumb layer” is a thin coating of frosting that captures stray crumbs that would otherwise clog up the cake’s outer layer of frosting. Using a rotatable cake stand makes a huge difference. The spinning cake stand makes it easier to create a smooth finish on the outside layer of frosting. I do not have a rounded metal spatula but a small, stiff plastic spatula served well as a substitute.

Here’s the before photo with the crumb layer…

…and the after photo with the final layer of frosting.

Slap on a few nuts and you have yourself a fancy cake!


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I only have 31 precious days a year to get my child like fetish with Halloween out of my system. More accurately, as a working adult I have to cram my Halloween themed baking into 5 short weekends. Ack!

I’m kicking off this year’s Halloween Bakingpalooza with pumpkin spice cupcakes. This is a great recipe. The combination of brown sugar, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree makes a light yet moist cupcake. The frosting recipe, which calls for 8 oz of butter and 6 cups of powdered sugar, is FANTASTIC. You will want to make this recipe again.

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Fear is in the air. Co-workers exchange rumors of up to 40 inches of snow and where to find shovels. Will we survive? Will we have enough food? Are the meteorologists apart of a government conspiracy to hide the true magnitude of the storm from the public?

I too feel the need to run to the grocery store before the storm of the century locks me in my 900 sq ft apartment. But I join the crazed masses not for necessities, but for éclairs.

Oui, c’est vrai.

Snow in excess of 12 inches is guaranteed to bring copious amounts of down time. I have never been a fan of down time. I fear boredom. As my husband puts it, I don’t idle well. The possibility of being trapped at home for more than a day makes me search for activities that both: a) consume a ridiculous amount of time and  b) involve pain staking detail. My activity of choice for this snow storm will be éclairs (and the last book in the Harry Potter series–just as delicious as éclairs).

I can’t write this entry without acknowledging the last (and only) time I made éclairs. It took place in high school at Sarah’s house, a house that witnessed a lot of my culinary growing pains. The pastries came out of the oven as hollow, crispy shells incapable of holding any sort of filling. We ended up tossing the pastries and eating the filling straight from the mixing bowl. Here’s hoping a stand mixer, a few more years of experience, and lots of free time produce better results.

The recipe comes from Butter Sugar Flour Eggs.

Ingredients

Filling

  1. 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
  2. 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  3. 6 egg yolks
  4. 2/3 cup sugar
  5. 1/4 cup cornstarch
  6. 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Pastry

  1. 1 cup water
  2. 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  5. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  6. 3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed

Egg Wash

  1. 1 egg
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons water

Chocolate Glaze

  1. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  2. 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions

Filling

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. You can see my custard below.

Let the custard cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Pastry

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Your dough will look like this:

Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. Your dough may still cling to the beaters after two eggs (like in the picture below):

If the dough still clings to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated. Your dough should look like this:

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.

Egg Wash

In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps or points of dough that remain on the surface. The picture below shows the raw pastry after the egg wash.

Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees. NOTE: the recipe indicates that you should bake the pastries at 375 degrees until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. I found that the pastries only needed 15-20 mintes at 375 degrees. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. Here is what my pastries looked like after they came out of the oven:

Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don’t stuff them full). You will know that the pastries are full when the filling starts to bounce back against the piping tip.

Glaze

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.

Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.

In the end we gave about half of the eclairs to some kids in the neighborhood. It was the least we could do in exchange for the hard labor they put into our sweet igloo.

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