Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birthday burger cupcakes

This isn't a recipe as much as it is an assembly guide. Yes, I did make everything home made, but I realized that posting 4 recipes in one may be just a bit too bookish.

Here was the idea. I wanted to create something different for my niece's birthday. I had seen these burger shaped cupcakes around a lot last year, and thought this may be the perfect time for me to give them a try. The original idea was to bring them to the race track for Amanda's first race, but the weather here had other plans.

Fawn was gracious enough to allow me to bring these to Amanda's birthday dinner, even though I didn't explain well exactly what I was doing, and she had no idea what the final product would look like. She has much more faith in me than I do -I was terrified I would embarrass my niece in front of her friends. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I made the cupcakes in mini-cupcake pans. So even though they looked like burgers, they were actually smaller than sliders - about 2-3 bites each, which turned out to be the perfect size. I thought that would be a much better portion size than a regular size cupcake, and lower waste.

I thought including a little cup of red icing to imitate the ketchup you get at the local burger restaurant would be a cute addition. The cups were a little big, but they were all I could really find. Well, that's not necessarily true. They were the only ones I could buy in quantities less than 1000. The cardboard carrier I was able to find at the local Costco. Even though I have a ton leftover, since I frequently drive sweets to my brothers houses, now they will be in those containers instead of having to do dish swap (lol).

These were a big hit with everyone in attendance. The 14 year olds loved them because they were cute and different. The adults loved them because they tasted good, and the little kids loved to dip the fries in the ketchup and lick the ketchup off their fries...

I thought the little toothpick was a cute touch. That turned out to be the simplest component. Since I have Powerpoint on my desktop, I simply created one slide, copied it 9 times, and then printed out "notes", which are a sheet of 9 slides. After cutting them out, I dipped one end of a toothpick in glue, and glued the toothpick to the cut out. If you don't have Powerpoint, you can replicate this in any word processing or graphic program you have.

For right now, I'm going to include the components. I will later include recipes for each component. I must warn you though. Even though I made each component from scratch, this project took me over 6 hours (and 2 days) to make. If that is too long for you, you can easily start from boxes and packages.


One batch butter cake (or yellow cake mix)
One batch chocolate brownies
One batch sugar cookies
One batch cream cheese frosting
Sesame seeds
turbinado sugar
Green, yellow, and red food coloring (I use gel)
20 cardboard fast food containers
20 1-2 oz plastic containers (with lids)
20 signs, made from toothpicks

Baking: Bake the butter cake in mini-muffin cups. I baked mine until golden for a more authentic look. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of your cupcakes, and they will bake in. When fully cooled, cut in 1/2 with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake brownies in a pan 1 size larger than the recipe calls for (to make the brownies very thin).

Roll out the sugar cookies to 1/4" thick, and cut thin with a pizza cutter. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on the cookies to simulate salt. Bake until golden.

Mix 1/3 c. coconut with 3-4 drops green food coloring to tint green and simulate shredded lettuce. Divide the frosting and tint 1/3 of it yellow, and 2/3 of it red. Place some of the red in your plastic containers and seal with lids. With the remaining frosting, fill ziploc bags or cake decorating bags.

After brownies have cooled, cut with a round cookie cutter. Your cookie cutter should be just a teeny bit smaller than the bottom of the mini cupcake pan.

Assembling the cupcakes: On the bottom of the cupcake, pipe some yellow frosting around the edge of the cupcake. Place a brownie slice carefully over the piped frosting. Pipe some red frosting around the edge of the brownie slice, and sprinkle with some of the green coconut. Place the top on carefully, and put a toothpick down the center for your flag.

To serve, place one of your cupcakes in the paper containers, followed by 3-5 sugar cookies and your container of frosting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge - croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I have a confession to make - I really wanted to make spun sugar and a tower like all the great pictures I saw on the daring baker forums and blogs...but....the humidity here has been terrible, and the last time I attempted spun sugar, well, I still have the scar, and it didn't come out so great either...

This challenge was great fun, though. I got a little creative with the fillings, and they went over very well. I made the pastry creams at my house, then went over to my brothers and made the pastry over there with his fiance. We had a blast!

Sometimes, my family can be fairly traditional. Since I have been shocking them with some strange recipes, I decided to play nice, and make these with chocolate and vanilla bean filling. I had to throw in a little twist though - and made butterscotch pastry cream. Much to my surprise, the butterscotch were the most popular. They were fantastic. Not that the other ones weren't great too.

Since I had made 3 fillings, I doubled the pastry recipe, and after delivering to my other brother's house, I think I ended up with about 9 of these little bite size beauties. I don't think any of them lasted more than 12 hours.


For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla (I used vanilla paste for vanilla bean crème)

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):
Add 1/3 c. cocoa powder and 1 T. coffee to your batter.

For Butterscotch Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)
Omit vanilla extract. Replace the 6 T. sugar with 4 T. brown sugar and 2 T. white sugar. Add 1 to 2 T. good scotch after removed from heat.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Blackberry Turnovers

Let's talk summer - and pie crusts.

One of the things I look forward to in the summer is little wild blackberries. They are something not to be missed. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, I can try to describe the flavor, but it will be a little difficult. They taste like concentrated marion berries, but tarter. Since they are only harvested from the forests and not grown in a controlled environment, their taste and moisture content can vary from year to year. Some years are sweeter, some are juicier. They are always delicious.

If you haven't had them already, I strongly suggest you try a piece of little wild blackberry pie sometime before you die. It should be on everyone's culinary bucket list.

I've discovered that if you want to make fruit tarts, one of the tricks is to pre cook the filling as much as possible. It allows you to control the moisture better, as well as taste for sugar content.

Now let's talk pie crust. I'm sure those of you that browse the internet have seen about a million different foolproof recipes for pie crusts. I hope I can clear up some of the confusion. The recipe I use is simple - it's from one of Julia Child's cookbooks. I just added 2 T. of sugar to help browning. The difference is the technique.

One of the things I've discovered is there is a very fine line between handling the dough too much and not enough. Not enough, and you end up with butter pieces that are too big, resulting in strange areas of your crust. Too much and you end up with a rather tough pie crust. The key really is in the butter.

I always start my pie crust with frozen butter. The difference? I don't cut my butter into small cubes, I shred it. Yes, it may sound rather strange, but since I use a food processor for my pie crusts, it's just one more step in the food processor. Once the butter is shredded, it distributes so much smoother into the flour. I highly encourage you to try my method of pie crusts, you won't be disappointed!

Little Wild Blackberry Turnover filling

2 cups little wild blackberries, picked through to make sure there is no debris
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. butter
3 T. cornstarch, disolved in 1/4 c. water

In a medium saucepan, bring the blackberries, sugar, salt, and lemon juice to boil. Slowly stir in the disolved cornstarch, until you reach a desired consistency. Taste for the correct amount of sugar, adding more if needed. Take off heat and add butter. Cool to room temperature while you shape the pie crust.

Pie Crust

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1 t. salt
2 T. sugar
6 oz frozen butter
1/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. ice water

In a food processor, pulse the flour, cake flour, salt, sugar, and shortening until well combined. Remove the blade attachment and shred the frozen butter over the top of the flour mixture. Re-attach the mixing attachment and pulse 4-8 times, until well incorporated.

Slowly pour in the ice water, and pulse. Add just enough water for the dough to form a ball. Take out of the processor and shape into a disk. Refrigerate 2 hours or up to 3 days.


Little Wild Blackberry Pie filling
Pie Dough
1 egg beaten with 1 t. water
3-4 T. pearl or turbinato sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Divide the pie dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll one piece into 1/4" thick dough. Cut with a 5" diameter round cutter. Place 1 T. filling in the middle. Brush the egg mixture in the edges of the crust. Gently fold over and seal with the tines of a fork. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet, and continue until cookie sheet is filled with turnovers.

Brush each turnover with the egg wash, and sprinkle with your sugar. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Soy glazed salmon with asparagus risotto

It's Copper River Salmon time! For those of you that don't live in the Pacific Northwest area, this is some of the best salmon you will ever eat - it's super moist, and one of the richest, tastiest salmon you will ever have. I find the flavor to be much milder, yet the fish feels very rich in your mouth. If you haven't had the opportunity to try this, I definitely recommend it at least once in your life.

Around here, I get it about once every other year - we are on a budget, after all. So, once I bought my $20 indulgence, now I must decide what to do with it. I didn't want to do too much to it, since the flavor is so nice. Since some asparagus jumped in my basket while I was shopping for my salmon, I needed to incorporate that into my meal as well.

I decided to simply pan fry my fish, and serve with a soy-ginger glaze. It was wonderful. So was the asparagus risotto I made to accompany it.

Pan Fried Salmon with soy-ginger glaze

For the fish:

4-6 oz fish per serving, sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper
1 t. oil

Heat oil in medium saute pan until hot and shimmering. Place the fish skin side down in the pan, and cook on each side 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from pan and let rest while you make the soy glaze.

Soy Glaze

1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar
1/2" ginger, finely cubed

Place the ginger in the pan you cooked the fish in. Lightly toast for 30sec, then add soy and brown sugar. Return to heat and heat until bubbly. Pour into a dish and serve with fish.

Asparagus Risotto

1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 2" pieces and blanched (I blanch in the chicken broth I use for the risotto, just to save time and space)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth, brought to just under a boil
1 cup arborio rice
2 T. finely minced shallots
1/3 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1 T. oil
1 T. butter
1/4 t. white pepper
1/4 t. salt

Heat butter and oil in a skillet on medium to medium high heat until it quits bubbling. Add shallots, and cook 1 minute. Add rice and cook until it starts to become translucent, about 4 minutes. While stirring, add 1/2 cup chicken broth to the rice. Stir until absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup chicken broth to the rice and stirring until absorbed until rice is cooked through. Remove from heat and add cheese, pepper, salt, and asparagus. Season to taste.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Are we tired of cakes yet? I don't know about you, but I'm getting there! Only 2 more, and we take a break and go back to breads and chicken, I promise!

Pineapple upside down cake is something that I enjoy making, enjoy when I have it, but don't really crave. It's nice to have a recipe for those moments where you want something a bit different.

You know what I loved about this experience? I really wanted to make individual cakes - I thought they would be cuter than a large cake. I was worried I would have to perform surgery on my pineapple rings to make them fit into my extra large muffin tins. I imagined myself carefully slicing pieces out of the pineapple, and trying to reshape it into a reasonable circle. Much to my pleasant surprise, though - they fit absolutely perfectly in the bottom of the pan I had planning on using. I just love it when things like that work out.

These were so good! They were a great little after dinner treat for my family. The lightness of the cake was a perfect compliment to the carmelized sugar and pineapple. These are best served at room temperature, with a little fresh whipped cream or a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This recipe started off from the Betty Crocker cookbook. I modified it a bit for my personal tastes. When I don't make this for family, I add some rum to the cake batter for an added touch.

Pineapple upside down cake

For the bottom of the cake:

1/4 c. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 14 oz can pineapple rings, drained
9 marachino cherries, optional

For the cake:

1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. milk
1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare the bottom of the cake: In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and heat until well combined and sugar is melted, about 3 minutes. Butter a large cupcake pan. Evenly distribute the sugar mixture to 9 large cupcake pans. Carefully place the pineapple ring on top of the sugar mixture, pressing gently to the bottom of the pan. Place cherry in the center.

For the cake: Cream butter, brown sugar, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, baking powder, salt, and egg. Add 1/2 of the milk, followed by the flour, then the remaining milk, mixing until a very smooth batter. Pour over the top of the prepared large cupcake tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is done.

Let rest 5-10 minutes only, and invert over a large plate. If you don't want to make individual cakes, this recipe will fit in a 9" round pan.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I waited a while to post this, but it was worth it, I promise. I wanted to see how well this dough would freeze. It's awesome! Freezes beautifully, and the crust crisps up and puffs just a little bit, just like it's supposed to.

I will be the first to admit here - I actually have 3 recipes for pizza dough - one for super thin crust, one for medium thick crust, and one for very thick crust. This one is the medium one - you can use it for a thinner crust, or up to about 1/2" thick. It crisps well on the bottom, yet retains a slightly chewy center.

This crust recipe is based on Alton Brown's pizza crust, with a few modifications. I didn't add as much sugar as he did, and a little less salt. I also changed the flour to all purpose, which seemed to work for me.

The pizza shown in the picture is brushed with olive oil, and topped with sliced tomatoes, some dried basil and oregano, mozarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. It's one of my favorite combinations. If you want to use a tomato sauce, I use my Spicy Marinara Sauce when I am in the mood for a tomato sauce on my pizza.

If you want to freeze the crust, make the pizza as if you were going to put it in the oven, then freeze between two sheets of parchment paper, and wrapped in foil. It will keep in the freezer for 3 months. To cook it, place in a cold oven, and turn the oven on to 425. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden.

Pizza Crust

1 T. Sugar
1 t. yeast
1 T. olive oil
2 cups flour
3/4 c. warm water

In a bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in water. Let sit for a few minutes until bubbly, to make sure the yeast is active. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until dough forms a ball. If you have a standing mixer, attach a dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. You can test the dough to see if it can stretch to a very thin membrane. If it breaks, continue kneading.

Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a gallon size ziploc bag. Add the dough, and refrigerate for up to 1 day, and at least 18 hours.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and roll as thin as you want. Don't stretch too much, or it will contract. Let rest for 30 minutes, while you heat oven to 475. Place your toppings on the pizza, brushing the edges with olive oil. Bake for 10-20 minutes, until pizza is golden. I prefer to bake on a cookie sheet or pizza pan, but if you want a crisper crust, you can bake on a pizza stone or the oven racks.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daring Cooks Challenge - Stacked Enchilada's!

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

Please forgive my not-so-great pictures. They are a work in progress. I knew when I started this blog they would be my biggest challenge, and to date, they have been. I am trying a few different things, and so far, I am happy at my improvements.

My first daring cook challenge! And, I almost forgot that I had been accepted...darn, this would have been a great thing to make for Cinco de Mayo...I remembered to check the forums 1 week before the deadline *yikes*. And, I so wanted to make a good impression with my first challenge.

Since I lived in So. Cal. for a number of years, I have experimented both with CalMex and real Mexican flavors. However, homemade enchilada sauce is something I had not tried before. Crazy, isn't it? I've made tamales and moles, both of which I consider challenging, but I always managed to purchase the enchilada sauce.

I now live in the wilds of Washington State, and was worried I would be able to find fresh tomatillo's. Never fear, I found them. My first attempt at this sauce met with disaster. It was one that I should have known, but did anyway. I purchased tomatillo's and "ancho" chili's from a local (30 miles away) vegetable stand. Well, the chili's looked kind of funny, and rather small. After roasting them, I tasted them, and they set my mouth on FIRE! After doing a little bit of investigating, I think they were hot Thai chili's. I kept one for heat for my sauce, and set out on my second 30 mile trip to civilization for ancho's.

I broiled both the chili's and the tomatillo's after coating them in oil. I used the recipe provided, for the most part. I stewed chicken thighs in a little bit of the sauce and some other seasonings, and shredded the results for the filling. I just like chicken thigh meat in dishes like this - to me, it tastes more, well, chicken-ey. I also used home made chicken stock instead of the chicken broth, so didn't use any thickener, since I used less stock.

Although I wanted to make my own tortilla's, I had some baking to do for family this week, so wasn't able to. I did, however, mix some of the finished sauce with chopped avocado's and chopped cilantro (and a little garlic, salt, and pepper) for an amazing guacamole!

The recipe below is modified to what I did from the original daring cooks challenge. Overall, this was a great experience. I can't wait until next month!

Stacked Chicken Enchilada's with green chile sauce

1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams - roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely.

7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams - peel, remove stems

2 cups Chicken stock

1 clove Garlic, minced

2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)

¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)

Hot sauce, your favorite, optional

1 lb chicken thighs, cooked in 1 t. salt, 1 t. pepper, 1 t. garlic powder, ½ c. enchilada sauce and 3 cups water until very tender

3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)

Kosher salt and pepper

12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm).

6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)

Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional


Roasting Fresh Chiles

1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.

2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.

3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.

4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.


Green Chile Sauce

1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken stock, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fawn's Birthday Cake - Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This is the second to last of April/May birthday cake posts! I have 2 more cakes to make, but one of them is the same as Matt's.

For her birthday, Fawn requested anything but white cake. Ok, done. This chocolate cake was rich and dark and wonderful. And, I finally was able to perfect my chocolatey frosting recipe. I love this frosting - it's sweet enough to be frosting, yet deeply chocolate enough to satisfy a chocolate lover.

The cake recipe originated from Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe. I have modified it quite a bit. The frosting is something I have been playing with for quite a while, since most powdered sugar frostings just aren't chocolatey enough for me. This one, however, is. It is a little soft, but it has just wonderful flavor.

Deep Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk or half and half
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup coffee
2 t. vanilla

Heat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix boiling water and coffee with the cocoa and butter. Set aside. Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla and mix until no lumps remain. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until a smooth even consistency. Batter will be very thin.

Pour into 13x9x2 prepared baking pan (butter and cocoa or parchment). Bake 35-40 minutes, until pick comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire racks. Frost with Chocolatey Frosting

Chocolatey Frosting

1/4 c. cream
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in small pieces (I use Sharfen Berger, calebaut, or ghiradelli)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 c. dutch processed cocoa
2 t. vanilla
1 T. coffee
2/3 c. butter

Heat cream and pour over bittersweet chocolate. Stir until melted and even in consistency. Let cool to close to room temperature. Pour all ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a whisk attachment until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, add 1 T. cream at a time, and mix until desired consistency.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day brings 2 recipes - Lemon Bars and Peanut Butter Bars

My Mom loves lemon bars...but my brother Matt - not so much. So for Mother's Day, when Mom requested lemon bars, I decided to make 2 desserts - and added the Peanut Butter Bars for Matt.

I have been making different variations of lemon bars for a few years for Mom. However, they weren't exactly right...until I tried Ina Garten's recipe. I modified it a little bit from her original recipe, but it's the best one I have made. Now, I have to warn you, it is VERY lemony. And, although it looks to have a lot of sugar in it, it doesn't taste too sweet.

The Peanut Butter Bars I have been working on for a while. The main reason I developed them is as a vehicle for my peanut butter frosting. I love that stuff. Also, a few weeks ago, I got these Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Trader Joe's, and ever since then I have been dying to use them on something. Originally, I was going to add them to oatmeal cookies, but they are pretty soft at room temperature, and I was afraid they would melt. However, sprinkled on the peanut butter bars, they were perfect!

Happy Mother's Day everyone out there!

Lemon Bars (Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 t. salt

5 room temperature eggs
1 egg yolk
3 cups sugar
Zest of 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together for a crust until light and fluffy. Add the flour and salt and mix together until just incorporated. Pat into a 13x9x2 pan, building up a small thin edge on all sides. Bake for 15 minutes until very very light brown.

For the filling, whisk all ingredients together. Pour over crust and bake 30-35 minutes until filling is set and doesn't jiggle. Cool until completely cool. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into small pieces.

Peanut Butter Bars

1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter (I use creamy)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 eggs


2/3 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
4 c. powdered sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 t. vanilla

For the cookie: Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter, both sugars, and the peanut butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly incorporate the eggs, milk, and vanilla until well mixed. Add the flour and baking powder until well incorporated. Batter should be smooth. Pour into a greased 13x9x2 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. If you want thinner bars, you can use a jelly roll pan and bake for 15-20 minutes.

For the frosting:

Combine all the ingredients and whip until light, about 4 minutes. Adjust cream if consistency is too thick. Spread over cooled cookies and cut into medium sized squares.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The best Banana Bread

I make a lot of banana bread. Mainly because I buy a bunch of bananas thinking - Oh, I'll eat them - yet always have 2 or 3 left over. Next time, I'm back to experimenting with my Banana Turnovers.

One of the keys to good banana bread is very ripe bananas - so ripe you wouldn't want to eat them - mostly black on the outside. Since I have a tendency to undercook it as well, the other key is to cook the banana bread for enough time. For some reason, I almost always make a few banana muffins that I over cook, then undercook the banana bread. This time, I didn't. I hope I'm over that bad habit.

I like to add a little spice to my banana bread - it gives it a little something extra. My favorite is the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg, but if you want something really different, add Chinese Five Spice instead - that is a nice change of pace.

Banana Bread

1 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 ripe bananas, mashed
4 eggs
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 cups flour
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 cup chopped and roasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, sift together baking soda, salt, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another bowl, whip butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until well beaten. Add bananas. Add dry ingredients, mixing as little as possible, but making sure your batter is well mixed.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Divide batter equally between pans, and bake 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let rest 10 minutes, then take out of pan and rest until cool.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Super Easy Tamale Casserole

Cinque de Mayo! While I'm not sure if anyone around here celebrates it, or even knows what it means, it gives an excuse to make some tasty mexican food - or at least Mexican inspired.

I must admit, until I lived in Southern California, I didn't celebrate it. Then I made the huge mistake of going to a Mexican restaurant on Cinque de, everyone was there eating and drinking. They didn't know why either, other than it was a reason to go out.

Now, while I steer clear of the mexican restaurants on May 5, I do like to celebrate a little with a Mexican inspired dish. Since I have already made tamales, I thought I would give another option - one that could easily be prepared on a Wednesday night.

I have been using this dish for quite a while in various forms. It's quick, easy, and tastes good. So, if you are looking for a change of pace on a weeknight, give this a try. The version I'm posting here is vegetarian (it does contain milk and and "cheese"), but you can easily add any cooked meat. I just didn't feel like it.

I also used corn flour rather than corn meal. Honestly, I don't like corn bread that much unless I whirl the corn meal in the blender a bit to give it a smoother texture. Enter corn meal (masa)! I could not find less than a 5 lb bag while shopping for my tamale making, so I have been substituting it when I can to use the rest of the 5 lb bag.

Another note on the recipe: I used velvetta cheese in this recipe. I had some. I was actually going to put it in the Mac and cheese, but forgot. That's really the only reason I used it. Normally I put in either 1 cup chicken broth, jack cheese, or cojita. Any of these work.

Tamale Casserole

1 can pinto beans, drained
3 cups mixed vegetables (I used a bag of frozen vegetables)
1 can diced green chiles
1/2 jalapeno, cut in small dice
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups Velvetta
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. cayenne
1 t. black pepper
1 t. salt

Mix all these ingredients together and spread into a 13x9x2 pan. Preheat oven to 350 and make the topping.

Tamale topping

1 cup corn flour or corn meal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except ap flour until very well blended. Add flour and stir until just moistened.

Pour over your vegetable mixture and bake 45min to 1 hour until top is golden brown. Serve hot with your choice of condiments.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

I love mac and cheese. But, specific mac and cheese. It's got to be creamy, and the macaroni has to be not mushy. Both of those are deal breakers for me. I guess I'm picky when it comes to my mac and cheese. Most of the times I have gotten it in a restaurant, I didn't like it. Now, I do live in the Pacific Northwest, and when I get mac and cheese in a restaurant, it usually is at a buffet.

This recipe started as one I watched in Barefoot Contessa. Now, unlike Ina, I hate blue cheese. And, I'm not going to be using white cheddar until my beloved Tillamook starts making it. But, I loved the noodles she used - they are so fun! Cavatappi - it even sounds cooler than elbow macaroni. And, if you are near, it can be purchased at Fred Meyer.

Anyway, the mac and cheese was a great hit - for the most part. I put langostino's in Brian's, and he didn't care for the texture - but hey! Poor man's lobster mac and cheese appealed to me, and it was really good.

I used a combination of cheddar and gruyere cheese in this, and it was great! I also started with a basic bechamel, and didn't add eggs. Remember bechamel? We made it when we made Fettucini Alfredo!

Mac and Cheese

1 pound macaroni, or cavatappi - cooked in salted water until about 1/2 done

1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
1 T. salt
1/4 to 1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ground mustard
1 t. white pepper
1 cup milk
1/2 c. sour cream
8 oz. gruyere, shredded
4 cups cheddar (I used an equal mixture of tillamook sharp and medium)
1 1/2 cups panko
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a saucepan, heat the 1/3 c. butter over medium until melted. Add the flour, and stir for 2 minutes until very bubbly and a very light brown. Add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne, and sour cream. Add the gruyere and cheddar slowly, and mix until incorporated after each addition.

Pour over macaroni and mix well. Place in a greased baking dish - I used a 13x9x2 pan.

In a small bowl, mix panko, melted butter, and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350, 30-45 minutes until top is golden brown.