Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolate Covered Caramels

The first Christmas after Ann was born, I started dipping my own chocolates.  They make a wonderful gift and are a lot of fun to make.  Some of my friends and family know of my obsession with See's Candies.  Their chocolates are my absolute favorites ( I turn up my nose at Godiva and others that try to be fancy, but just don't taste as good).  But sadly my closest See's is in Chicago, a quick 5 hour drive away.  So I try to make a couple on my own.  Jared's and my favorite are the vanilla caramels with almonds in them.  They so yummy and chewy, I can sit down and eat them all.  This recipe in and of itself can explain my holiday weight gain so far this year.  So this recipe is my attempt to make something delicious for my family.  I've discovered that Ann isn't a fan of the caramel if it has nuts in it, but loves them plain.  Evelyn will eat anything if it's covered in chocolate. 
Learning how to do my own chocolates has been a work in progress and I feel like I've learned a little more each time I do it.  I think the best piece of advice I can give is to use the best ingredients you can.  That especially goes for the chocolate you dip them in too.  I have been using Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate, but would use Guittard if I coud find it out here.  Using good quality ingredients makes a surprising difference. 
Things you will need- Candy Thermometer, and if you want, a Chocolate Thermometer, and Parchment Paper.

Vanilla Almond Caramels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 C light corn syrup
1 C granulated sugar
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 C almonds (roasted, salted, I prefer Diamond brand)
Tempered dipping chocolate

Place parchment paper in 13x9 in pan and spray with pam.  Set aside.
In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, combine milk, corn syrup, sugars, butter, and salt.  Place over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil.
Clip on candy thermometer.  Stirring constantly to precent scorching, cook to 242 degrees or soft ball stage.  remove from heat and immediately pour in vanilla and nuts, stirring quickly.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cool at room temperature until firm. 
Remove from pan and cut with a good strong knife into squares.  Dip into tempered chocolate.
For an extra touch, sprinkle on a little kosher salt before the chocolate cools.

Store in a cool dry place or else they will 'bloom' (when they get streaky or grey).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday drinks

Well, obviously I have taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging recently.  I've been taking a class online this semester which required me to post to a class blog three times a week.  So I've been all blogged out, which is a shame because this time of year is such a great time for baking! 

So let's see if I can catch up a bit and to start things off, I'm going to share a couple of my favorite drinks.  There's nothing better than enjoying a hot cup of something delicious when it's cold outside.  Hot Mulled Apple Cider makes the whole house smell amazing and couldn't be easier.  I've also recently discovered a new hot chocolate recipe that I'm really enjoying.  It's a bit untraditional, but I love it.  Having a drink like one of these just seems to make any evening or get-together that much more special.  The girls love it and have been very spoiled with excellent hot chocolate, no water and carnation instant packets for us! 

Hot Mulled Apple Cider
3 whole cloves
2 strips of orange peel
2 whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece (1/2 in) peeled fresh ginger
12 Cups of apple cider
1/2 C apple jelly
1/4 t nutmeg

Place first five ingredients in a piece of cheesecloth and tie to close.  Add everything to a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours.  Tastes wonderful and serves a crowd!

Nutella Hot Chocolate
1 1/3 C whole milk
3 T Nutella

Yup, that's it.  Heat the milk until almost boiling( I will also often use half and half) then add the Nutella and whisk until creamy.  To make it even more decadent add a handful of dark chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli 60% cacao.  Let them sit for a few minutes in the hot milk, then whisk together. 

The Nutella adds a great hazelnut flavor that I'm really loving lately.  Just try not to think about the calories!
This recipes serves one or two.

Also, I know I've mentioned this before, but I absolutely love to use a blender or immersion blender when making hot chocolate.  It makes it so creamy and frothy, it seems like you got it at a cafe.  Just put the nutella or chocolate chips in the blender, then when the milk is fully heated, pour it over the chocolate and turn on the blender for a full minute.  Simple, but makes a huge difference!

Eating Nutella makes me think of when Jared and I were in Paris.  After going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we found this great crepe stand and got a huge banana-nutella crepe.  It was amazing, and became a great memory.  A lot of my favorite memories are attached to food...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apple Turnovers

Although they're mostly considered a breakfast food, apple turnovers are good as a snack pretty much anytime.  Growing up we used to 'make them' with the Pillsbury can we bought at the store.  You unroll the dough, squeeze on the fruit filling, seal, and bake.  Well, this recipe honestly wasn't very difficult. The only time consuming part was peeling and cutting the apples. 
This also gave me an opportunity to use one of my favorite store bought products- frozen puff pastry dough.  I love using this stuff because it tastes great and looks impressive.  This with the combination of the homemade apple filling made a delicious turnover.  And don't forget the icing! I also love the combination of apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg which makes it very fallish.  Perfect for the weekend.

Apple Turnovers
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 T butter
3/4 C brown sugar or dark brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 t lemon juice
1 T cornstarch
1 T cold water
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

1 C confectioners sugar
1-2 T heavy cream (or milk if you prefer)
1 t vanilla

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, then put the apples in.  Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice.  Stir together cornstarch and water, then pour it into the skillet and mix well.  Cook until sauce has thickened.  Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Unfold puff pastry sheets.  Mine are the shape of a large square, so I cut mine into 4 smaller squares.  You can cut them into 8 if you prefer mini turnovers.  Spoon the apples into the middle, then fold over and seal.  Putting a little water around the edges with my finger helped seal it together nicely.  Place turnovers on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about an inch of space in between. 
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until puffed and lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack.
TO make the glaze, mix the sugar, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Drizzle over turnovers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chocolate Almond Tart

When I think of fall foods and flavors, things like pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg come to mind immediately, but I think that nuts also definitely have a fall feel to them.  I'm severely allergic to pecans and walnuts (which sadly often leaves me out of a delicious dessert) so my go-to nut of choice is obviosly almonds.  But hazelnuts are also on my okay list, and when I came across this recipe I had to try it.  You can use either nut (almonds or hazelnuts) for this recipe without any changes though hazelnuts can be harder to find. 
It came out beautifully with this awesome crispy crust on top, while the middle stayed soft and chewy.  Perfect texture, and very decadent.  Be sure to wait until it's mostly cooled ( I know it's hard to wait, but with this one it's a must), otherwise it will be too runny and gooey.  You can pop it in the fridge if you're too impatient!  I'm told that this is a bit similar to a Pecan Pie, but seeing as how I've had to run away screaming from that type of thing for most of my life, I'll just take their word for it. 
Also, I feel like I say this about most of my recipes, but this was seriously easy with no skill required.  Anyone can whip this up quickly and it's sure to impress if you have guests.

Chocolate Almond Tart
1/2 C sugar
2 T flour
3 eggs, beaten and at room temp
1 1/2 C chopped hazelnuts or almonds
1 C semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate is just too sweet for this recipe)
3/4 C light corn syrup
2 T melted butter
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt (if your nuts are salted, you can skip this)
pie crust (store bought or home made, your choice)

In large bowl mix together the sugar and flour.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir together until blended.  Pour into crust and bake at 325degrees for 1 hour.  Cool on wire rack.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall is here! least for the moment

Well thankfully the heat has passed and the leaves are falling.  It is beautiful outside, but I'm suddenly reminded of just how much fun it wasn't raking an acre of leaves last year.  Oh well, my pumpkin bread makes up for it!  I love pumpkin recipes.  I have more than I can post on here, but I will start this week by posting my favorite pumpkin bread.  I made it last night (2 loaves) and by late morning, we were down to one.  I can't think of anything better to make my house smell wonderful.  I have had this recipe for a long time.  I can't remember if I got it in high school or college, but it's always been a hit.  And thankfully, it's ridiculously easy (anyone who knows me well, knows I have an odd aversion to yeast).

Pumpkin Bread
1 can pumpkin (16 oz)
1 2/3 C white sugar
2/3 C veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
 3 C flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt 
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t apple pie spice or ground cloves
1/2 t baking powder

Blend together the first five ingredients.  In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients to be sure there aren't any lumps.  Then stir into the wet ingredients.  Grease two loaf pans ( I use Pam with flour, it's awesome) and separate the batter.  I use a measuring cup to be sure of even distribution. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. 

To make it a bit healthier, you can substitute in some whole wheat flour.  As a general rule, you substitute a third without a big difference.  I also suggest using Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  It's ground much finer and it's even less noticable.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No-Cook for a Hot Day

Hot day, no cooking recipes were not exactly what I had planned to post on this time of year.  I was so excited to get into my fall recipes, but then our airconditioning went out, no big deal right?...then here comes an unusual heat wave for this time of year in Ohio.  So I won't dare do anything that would heat up the house.  I'm so eager for pumpkin cookies, rich hot chocolate, and apple tarts, that I'm definately dissapointed.  But I can't just not make anything!  That's not an option.  I remembered a recipe I saw on the food network a few months ago, and decided to try it out with a couple of substitutions.  It's easy, yummy and requires no 'cooking' aside from the microwave.  Perfect for a hot day. 
It's called Cookie Candy, and is very rich (everything I make is rich).

2 sticks butter, softened
1 C crunchy peanut butter
3 C confectioners sugar
1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/2 C peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 C semisweet chocolate chips

Line 13x9 in pan with foil, then spray with pam.  In mixer combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, graham crackers crumbs, and peanuts until it starts to form a ball.  Press into foil lined pan with spatula.
Melt chocolate chips in microwave (I use 30 second intervals, stirring in between).  Spread evenly over cookie layer in the pan.  Refrigerate for a few hours.  Cut into peices.  Enjoy!

With that list of ingredients it has to be good right?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Product review for a Lazy Day

Even I, who loves to bake, wants to make something lazy sometimes.  I thought it would be fun to do something different and do a product review of a couple lazy day products I've used recently- Krusteaz cookie mix, and Papa Murphy's cookie dough.

The other day I was at the grocery store and the 'New Item' tag caught my eye.  It was for this Krusteaz brand Bakery Style Chocolate Chunk Cookie mix.  I was intrigued by the words 'Bakery Style' and the picture definately looks good, so I grabbed it.  It's easy enough, just add softened butter and one egg, mix it up and bake.  While they were baking, of course I had to sample the dough.  That alone got me kinda excited.  The dough was very yummy and that's usually a good sign.  Once baked, they had a good strong vanilla flavor, but the texture was more cakey than I usually like.  All in all, pretty good for a mix, and I'll probably try it again.

Every Friday night at our house is Family Pizza and a Movie Night.  I stopped by Papa Murphy's to grab a pizza (not Jared's favorite, but it's cheaper, so there ya go) and while I was in there I picked up a tub of their premade chocolate chip cookie dough.  I overheard the cashier saying they actually make it in the store themselves, so that was a good sign.  The dough wasn't quite as tasty to eat raw (okay, I know you're not supposed to do that, but let's just be honest, it's one of the best things about making cookies, and we all do it).  But once baked I really loved the crispy texture even though they didn't actually get hard.  And really, can you beat just scooping it straight onto the pan?  It doesn't get any easier.

So final verdict?  Papa Murphy's had the best cookies, but Krusteaz made better dough, and was a better deal for that matter.

It's funny though, because I've been thinking about writing this blog for a few days now, then yesterday I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies and decided to try it out.  It took me all of 5-6 minutes to get the dough together and in the oven, which made me think- do I really need those lazy day products?  Is 5-6 minutes really that hard even when I'm tired or whatever?  And one of the things I love the most about baking is the actual process, learning new skills, or perfecting techniques.  So does this mean I'll never buy another tub of Papa Murphy's cookie dough?  I'm sure I will, because I know that I have those moments when scooping something onto the pan is the most effort I want to put into it.  And it's a pretty decent outcome for such little effort. 

Coming Soon....Fall Recipes!!  Yummm, my favorite baking time of year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adventures in Cake Decorating

Ann's fifth birthday was last week and we had a tea party to celebrate. I'm not a cake decorator at all, I usually keep it pretty simple, but this is a birthday cake so things are different. She was going to be wearing a pretty yellow hat for the party, so I decided to make a cake to match (same ribbon and all). I was pleased with how it turned out considered it was a first attempt with no trial run or anything. It wasn't perfect, but Ann loved it and that's what really matters.
The recipe I used didn't turn out to be anything special, in fact, I was dissapointed. I got it from the Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes book, but it turned out rather dry ( I probably overbaked). But the buttercream recipe was good and worked well.
It's hard to see from this picture, but the texture on the hat turned out nicely. I used a trick I learned at a class a couple of years ago. You wait until the frosting is dry enough that it won't stick to your finger when you touch it, then you use a paper towel and place it gently on the cake. Then gently rub your finger over the surface, and this transfers the texture from the paper towel. It gave it a nice finished look and the texture really looked like a hat would.

Here's the cake recipe I wish I would have used. I've used it in the past when a friend recommended it and it comes out nice and rich, and very moist. It's also super easy. It's great for a layered cake, I usually make it in two 8 in rounds.

Chocolate Cake
2 C Sugar
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C boiling water

Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, powder, soda, and salt. Make well in center, then add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium for two minutes. Stir in boiling water.
Pour evenly into pans (I usually use cup measures for this part).
For two 8 in rounds, bake on 350 for 30- 35 minutes. Cool for ten minutes in pan then remove to wire racks.

As another tip, I'm usually adament about using parchment to avoid sticking, but I've fallen in love with Pam for Baking that has flour in it. It works perfectly. I used it on the hat cake (which was a pizza pan and a pyrex bowl), and both came out without sticking at all. Love it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chocolate Mousse...need I say more?

When I think of the perfect, rich dessert, my mind goes to mousse. It's elegent, it's rich, and so creamy. I came across a recipe a few years ago that is still my favorite. I've tried other recipes, but this has become the standard that I set all others against. Some recipes use gelatin, but I don't like the texture. Some are more like a chocolate whipped cream, which doesn't have as much depth in my opinion. I prefer recipes that use eggs. I know some people obviosly don't like to consume raw eggs ( I live on the wild side) so if you're one of those, you can substitute in refridgerated egg product for a similar result. Also, I think using superfine sugar really improes the result. It dissolves quicker and doesn't taste grainy. Another tip I got (courtesy of Alton Brown) is to have both the whipped cream and the melted chocolate as close to room temperature as possible. That way the chocolate won't seize up when you mix the two together. I've found this to be really important and since I discovered this trick it has saved me a headache or two. This is always a big hit at parties or showers and it's easier than you think.

Chocolate Mousse

8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 eggs

1/4 C superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C whipped cream

Melt the chocolate you're favorite way then set aside to cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes, or until thick and pale and increased in volume.

Beat the melted chocolate and vanilla into the eggs.

Gently fold in the whipped cream until just combined. There may still be a few streaks.

Spoon into dessert cups and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve as is or top with a strawberry, chocolate curls, a cookie, or whipped cream.

Now doesn't that sound easy?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lemon Custard Berry Tart

I know this is a deviation from my usual intensely chocolate desserts, but there were all of these beautiful berries on sale at the grocery store, so I felt inspired. We had a BBQ to go to at one of Jared's professors homes and he had said I would bring dessert, so this is what I decided on. The picture doesn't do it justice, it was so pretty I didn't want to eat it! But it was delicious and pretty easy. I've decided that pastry dough like pie crusts and tart crusts are so much easier if you have a pastry cutter and use wax paper to roll it out on (one piece on the counter, one piece on top). So here's a very summery recipe to give a try.
Tart shell
1 1/4 C flour
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C butter flavored shortening
4 T cold butter
3-4 T cold water
After rolling out the dough and placing a in a tart pan with a removable bottom, line the crust with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes at 425, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Lemon Custard Filling
1 large lemon (you want 1 tsp lemon peel, and 2 T juice)
6 T butter
1/3 C sugar
1 T cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1 C heavy cream, whipped
Berries for topping
In saucepan over medium heat, heat butter, sugar, and cornstarchuntil it thickens and begins boiling. Boil 1 minute.
In small bowl, beat egg yolks, then pour in a little of the hot sugar mixture and stir well. Then pour the eggs back into the saucepan with all the sugar mixture, stirring quickly. Return to simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 1 more minute, until it coats the spoon well. Remove from heat and stir in lemon peel and juice. Refrigerate until very cold, about an hour. Then fold in whipped cream. Pour into tart shell and top with berries. Done!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Truffle Cookies

Oh my! I have had this recipe for a long time, but just made them for the first time today. Almost five years ago I was wandering around this fun street in Portland with Jared (I was still pregnant with Ann) and we stumbled across a cool little bookstore. Of course, I was checking out their cookbooks and found this collection of pamphlet type cookbooks for only $4. I of course chose the one all about chocolate (It's called 'Anne Wilson, Classic Essentials, Chocolate' and totally worth it), and it has turned out to be an all-time favorite with some of the best recipes. The kind of stuff that's truly indulgent and feels gourmet. Well Yum. These cookies were kind of like a dark chocolate brownie, and pretty easy to make. If you like the brownies on the edges of the pan, then you'll love these. Each cookie is like getting a corner brownie. They were nice and chewy and especially good while warm. Give em a try!

Triple Chocolate Cookies
3/4 C butter
5 oz semi sweet chocolate ( I use chips)
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 C brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder, then stir in the sugar. Set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture with the eggs. Then stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonfuls (I am loyal to my cookie scooper, like a mini ice cream scoop) then flaten slightly with hands.
Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool on pan for about 5 more minutes before cooling on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dark Chocolate Brownies!

I haven't updated in a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been baking at my usually rate. The other day at school, one of the residents asked Jared how often I bake something. He told them that I probably make 7 things a week, that I may not bake every day, but some days I bake multiple things. I'd say that's about right. I try to make some old favorites, and try out new recipes too. But I'm usually happier with the old favorites...they're favorites for a reason.

So one of the new things I tried out was a recipe from the food network called Smores Brownies. They were touted as one of the most popular recipes on the website, so I was excited to make them. They turned out looking just as delicious as the picture, but they didn't really taste like anything special to me. So that was a little disappointing. So I'm going to share my favorite brownie recipe that I've been in love with for the last few years. I use bittersweet chocolate, but for some that can be way too intense (I think I've been desensitized over time) so you can substitute in semi sweet chocolate instead. I used to think that scratch brownies weren't as good as a box, but these definately changed my mind!

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken up

1/2 C butter

1 C brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

3/4 C plus 2 T flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C semi sweet chocolate chips

Prepare an 8 in square baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Stir the brown sugar and vanilla into the chocolate. Add the eggs and mix well.

In a bow, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir it into the chocolate mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes until done.

I know it's hard to resist, but I think these taste best once completely cooled. Yum!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stake Visitor's Cake...What? You've never heard of it?

Stake Visitor's Cake is a family recipe that I think originated with my Grandma (Bonga) Eastin. I don't know the whole story behind the recipe but I know that when she lived in downtown Salt Lake City on the same block with many of the Apostles at the time, she served this anytime they or any other stake visitors came over. Hence the name 'Stake Visitor's Cake'. My mom made this all the time growing up and us kids always loved it. It's basically a chocolate snack cake, but calling that doesn't seem to explain just how yummy it is. Any time I make it, it gets gobbled up in a day, easy. I suppose I only have myself to blame there.

Stake Visitors Cake
1 1/2 C Boiling water

1 C oatmeal (not quick)

1 C brown sugar

1 C white sugar

1/2 C butter or margarine

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 T cocoa (I often throw in an extra Tablespoon)

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C chocolate chips (plus extra to sprinkle on top)

In a large mixing bowl pour the boiling water over the oatmeal. Add sugars and margarine or butter and let sit for ten minutes. Stir to combine well. Stir in eggs. Combine remaining dry ingredients and then stir into oatmeal mixture. Stir in 1/2 C chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9x13 pan then sprinkle some extra chocholate chips over top.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until cake just comes away from edges and springs back in middle when you touch it. It can be hard to toothpick test this cake because of the chocolate chips.

I dare you to make it and not love it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Molten Lava Cakes

Jared bought me a set of ramekins for Mother's Day last year, but because we moved just a couple weeks later I didn't get the chance to use them right away. Unfortunately they sat in a box for a while and finally emerged recently after Jared pointed out that I had never used them. So I decided to try out these cakes. I've always wanted to make these, but put it off because I didn't realize how easy they were. I decided to test out a few recipes so I could keep one in my regular recipe rotation. I tried one from Paula Dean, one from the internet, and one from a cookbook. Each recipe is surprisingly easy and quick to throw together, for awesome results. yum! Who doesn't love a molten lava cake?
2 sticks butter
4 t sugar
12 oz bittersweet chocolate (use semisweet if this is too rich for you)
1 C flour
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
6 eggs
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour 8- 6 oz ramekins. Melt butter and chocolate togehter. In large bowl combine dry ingredients wiht eggs, yolks, and vanilla. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Pour evenly into ramkeins.
Bake 12-14 minutes. They will look puffed on the edges but still jiggly in the middle. Let sit for 5 minutes before turning out onto plate.
This recipe is very easy to half as well.

The cool thing about ramekins is that they create a nice individual dessert, and they're perfect portion control! This way I don't just eat and eat and not realize that I've eaten half a pie or something. I also used my ramekins also on Mother's Day this year and made some awesome little berry crisps. Everyone loved them, so check out the recipe here...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Story Behind the Pie

I think it's true that sometimes what you're denied is what you want the most. I think this is how French Silk Pie became my absolute favorite pie. Growing up in Chicago, my parents would sometimes stop by Bakers Square and pick up one of these amazing pies. They looked so good to us kids, with all those chocolate curls covering the top. Unfortunately, looking is about as much as we got to do with it. My dad believed that we were too young to really appreciate it and should just have ice cream or something instead. So they would bring the pie home and it would sit in it's box in the fridge, and one by one each of us kids would open the door and steal a chocolate curl. We assumed that our parents would never notice, even when there were very few curls left. Looking back, I'm pretty sure they caught on but humored us anyway.

So when I started getting into making desserts, I decided that I had to master this recipe since it's difficult to find at most restaurants or stores. Besides, it's always better when you make it yourself. I discovered that it's really not that difficult to make, and that since there's only a few ingredients in it, what makes the real diffierence is using really good quality ingredients. Use a chocolate that you really love, because that's what it's going to end up tasting like. Also, using superfine sugar makes the texture so smooth, it's definately worth it. So here is the recipe to one of my absolute favorite desserts...enjoy!
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
3/4 C butter, room temp (sweetcream, unsalted)
3/4 C superfine sugar
1 t vanilla
3/4 C refrigerated egg product
Sweetened whipped cream
Chocolate curls
Melt chocolate, set aside. Beat butter and sugar for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat in egg product 1/4 C at a time until well mixed inbetween each addition. Pour into previously baked pie crust. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Before serving top with plenty of whipped cream and chocolate curls.
Tips for whipped cream- Always start with a very cold bowl and beaters. I usually put the bowl with the beaters and whipped cream in the freezer for about 5 minutes before whipping. Using a whisk attachment makes it go a lot faster too. Fresh whipped cream doesn't keep well for more than a day so, so if you make the chocolate for the pie a day ahead, don't put on the cream until before serving.
Tips for chocolate curls- I usually place some foil on a plate, then melt the chocolate and pour it onto the foil. Then I freeze it until set. Using a sharp knife or potatoe peeler, scrape off curls at an angle. You can cheat and use a store bought chocolate bar too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sunday Cookies

At the beginning of January I was called to teach Sunday School to the 12-13 year olds. There are about 12 of them and they're a fun group, but I quickly discovered that they need a little additional motivation to participate and answer questions. So I started baking cookies each week and they get one if they answer a question, read a quote, etc. It certainly does the trick, plus it's one extra excuse each week for me to bake. So I decided to share three of my favorite cookie recipes, two were a big hit, and one...was not so big a hit. But I'm still sharing it because it's one of my favorites (and my mom's), but I guess it's more of a grown-up's cookie than a teenager's cookie.
A few thoughts on the way I make cookies...
In the past few months I've been trying out dark brown sugar a lot more and loving it. I don't know why I never tried this before, but I love the rich molasses flavor. The only thing about it is that the dough is a little darker, so it's harder to tell by sight when the cookies are done, because they're just going to be more brown. So be careful not to underbake them.

Another thought about cookies...I like a softer cookie, chewy but not crisp. In order to get this I tend to take them out right when the edges are getting brown, then leave them on the pan for a while until they're getting cool. Then I remove them to a wire rack. I think the texture is what makes the difference. If you prefer a crisper cookie, leave them in a little longer, obviously.

Also, I only bake cookies at 350 degrees. I know most recipes say 375, but I think this makes the outsides cook too quickly. I just think they bake more even at a lower temperature, this goes for cakes too.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are sooo good and Jared's favorite. I don't remember where I came across a version of this recipe a few years ago, but they're really great and I only had to tweak the recipe a little bit to get it where I wanted it.
1 C butter, room temp
3/4 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
1 package (small) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips (I do half milk, half semi sweet if I have both on hand)
Beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in pudding mix until well mixed. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and chocolate chips and mix well.
Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

These would be great with nuts, but as I'm allergic to walnuts and pecans, I haven't tried...
These also make great big cookies, try a 1/4 C measure or large cookie scoop.

Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are my absolute favorite cookies right now. This is also probably my most asked for recipe. My mom got this from a college roommate forever ago. With this recipe I am very brand loyal for the margarine and peanut butter, I have noticed a real difference when using other brands, I don't know why. Also, be sure to use milk chocolate chips, if you use semi sweet or dark, it overpowers the peanut butter flavor.

1 1/2 C (3 sticks) margarine (Imperial) don't use butter, they'll be too crisp
1 1/2 C chunky peanut butter (Skippy)
1 1/2 C white sugar
1 1/2 C brown sugar (sometimes I use dark)
3 eggs
3 3/4 C flour
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
milk chocolate chips to taste

Beat margarine, PB, sugars, and eggs. Blend in flour, soda, powder, salt, and chocolate chips. Spoon onto baking sheet (this recipe traditionally says to refrigerate, roll into balls, etc, but I skip all that and just use a cookie scoop and put it right on after mixing and it works great).
Bake 350 degres 10 - 12 minutes. Makes 9 dozen.
I usually bake half the recipe, and refrigerate the rest to bake a couple days later.

Tart Cherry and Oat Cookies

I was so excited to discover a great bakery, or should I say 'dessert boutique' while wandering around German Village a few months ago. I've really missed all my favorite bakeries from Portland, so I was so happy to find a replacement in Columbus. I don't usually go for this sort of cookie (meaning one without chocolate), but I tried it out and loved it. So I started searching for a recipe I could make at home. These aren't an exact replica, but they're very good and my mom loves them. These were not a big hit with the twelve year olds, but I still stand by them. The base of this recipe is so good, you could take out the cherries and replace it with chocolate chips or something else.
1 stick of butter
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 plus 2 T white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C oats
3/4 C dried tart cherries, chopped

Beat butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Combine flour, soda, powder, salt, and oats. Mix in well. Stir in cherries. Bake 350 degrees 11- 12 minutes. yum! This only makes two dozen, so you might want to double it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Baking

A holiday for me is pretty much an excuse to bake something special. So in addition to making easter cookies with the girls, I decided to make a few other things. We started off the day with French Toast Kabobs. They girls loved them. You just have to cube the bread before dipping it in the batter. I have a great recipe that is pretty sweet, so you don't even need to use syrup.

2 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1 C 1/2 and 1/2 or whipping cream
1 t vanilla
It's best with sourdough bread. Yum!

Now on to the Easter Baskets. I love to dip my own chocolates. So I thought it would be fun to make all of the chocolates for the girls' Easter baskets myself instead of buying it. I made praline eggs, rice crisp bunnies, whole hollow bunnies, and white chocolate pretzel rods with sprinkles. These were all really easy and the girls thought they were really fun.

When I was trying to decide what to bake, the first thing that came to mind was my favorite flourless chocolate cake. Sometimes I think I should try something new, but I always come back to this recipe. I think one of my favorite things about this is how imperfect it looks. I think it makes a striking presentation. But best of all it is sooo rich and moist. I've tried several flourless chocolate cake recipes but this is my favorite by far.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
12 ounces Ghiradelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 large eggs, separated
1/2 C white sugar
1 t vanilla

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3 T unsalted butter
1 T whole milk
1 T light corn syrup
1/4 t vanilla
1/3 C chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 9 in springform pan, and line with parchment paper, then butter the paper(I also love Pam with flour).
For the cake, melt the chocolate and butter (I usually use a pan on the stove on very low, use a double boiler if you have it). Stir until smooth, remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, 2 T of the sugar, and the vanilla. Beat lightly until well combined. Add egg mixture to chocolate, whisking together until well combined.
In a separte bowl, beat the egg whites and remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar with an electric mixture until soft peaks form. Pour in the chocolate mixture and fold to combine. Pour batter into pan.
Bake on lower shelf for 30-35 minutes. Watch towards the end and when it just begins to crack on top, then it's done. Don't overbake or it will be dry. Cool on rack, once cooled, then remove sides of pan.
For the glaze, melt the chocolate and butter (again, I usually just do this on the stove on very low heat). Stir until smooth, then remove from heat and add the milk, syrup, and vanilla. Pour over cake and let it run down the sides (for this I leave the cake on the rack and put the rack over some foil to catch what drips off). Then sprinkel the top with the chopped almonds. (I use salted almonds because I'm allergic to other nuts, but just use your favorite nuts). Put in refrigerator for about 10 minutes to set the glaze.

I also thought I should add something more springish, so I made an old favorite of my mom's, a lemon pound cake. This was a first for me since I I've never made a pound cake at all. First we hunted around for a recipe similar to one my mom used to make. It was really pretty easy and I could tell just from the batter how good it was going to be. It was a big hit! Here's a link to the recipe I used:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Discovering the Food Network

Well, up until my mom moved in with us in August, we have never had cable. Now I'm sucked in. I've discovered the Food Network. Also, we now have a DVR which is also draining away my life. So now I record the shows I like so I can watch them at night when the girls are asleep. I'm a big fan of Paula and Giada. So I thought I'd comment on a few things I've made of theirs recently or plan to make soon.

First up is Paula (who reminds me so much of my friend Katy's mom). I'm not a health nut, so she's my kind of girl. The other day she had a chocolate show and I tried out a couple of the recipes. First I tried the 'Workaholics Hot Chocolate'. It had a million great reviews, but I thought it was too thick and sweet. As it got a little cooler it thickened more, it was like drinking warm pudding...not so appetizing. Also, it was too much work for hot chocolate. I'm a purist. All you should need for fantastic hot chocolate is a few really good quality ingredients.

This is the hot chocolate recipe I stand by (and have had lots of requests for the recipe, so I guess I'm not the only one who likes it). I got it out of a cookbook called Paris Sweets...

3 C whole milk
1/3 C water
1/3 C sugar
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat the milk, water, and sugar until just boiling. Place the chocolate in a blender then pour the milk over the chocolate. Blend for 1 minute. Top with whipped cream.

I've decided that the blender is essential for all hot chocolate. It makes it so smooth and frothy, it's sooo good. If you want to feel like you're really in France, dunk a baguette in it, Jared introduced me to that and it's yummy. We always get extra baguettes from Panera. Just remember that when you're making hot chocolate, you have to really like the kind of chocolate you're using, because that's what it's going to end up tasting like. I like Guittard.

Next up is Paula's Truffle Pie. I made this when we had the missionaries over and it was really good. Though I have to say I prefer my French Silk Pie. It was really easy to make and everyone seemed to like it. Although I wish more of it had been eaten because I ended up eating the last third of the pie for breakfast the next morning. Yikes! That's no way to lose the baby weight! Here's the link...

Giada made some Chocolate Orange Rice Pudding a few weeks ago that looked really good. My mom used to make rice pudding growing up. I thought, of course chocolate would improve rice pudding...but I was wrong. I tasted the pudding with the orange in it before I added the chocolate, and it was really good at that stage. So I would just leave it at that. I know, I can hardly believe I'm saying that something was better without chocolate, but this just was. Also, my mom always served it cooled, but I think it's best warm. So here's a yummy rice pudding recipe without chocolate...
3 C half and half
2 C whole milk
2/3 C Arborio Rice
3/4 C sugar
Zest of one orange
1 t vanilla
In saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring ocassionally. Serve warm or spoon into bowls and cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating.

Starting a baking blog

Well, I've decided to start another blog. More for my fun than anyone else's. I'm sure not many people will be interested in what I've been baking lately and whatnot, but I thought this would be a good way to put my thoughts in one place and use it as a reference for things I've made. Hopefully I'll keep up on it. I'm sure I could do a better job on keeping up on our family blog too.
Also, I really hope that people will leave comments and suggestions. I always like more ideas!

To start off, these are a few random pictures I've taken over the last several months. I don't have pictures of the really good stuff, but these were fun times. The picture below was taken when we made halloween cupcakes for our neighbors. I got the spiderweb decoration idea from a magazine. I thought they were the cutest. Of course, the girls have their own decorating ideas!

These were some seriously yummy pumpkin muffins. I love pumpkin recipes, not just in the fall, but all year round. I think I got this recipe off the internet. But they turned out fantastic. I sprinkled sugar on before baking and that gave them a really great texture. yum! Here's the recipe- 1 1/2 C flour, 1 tsp baking powder, sift together and set aside. Mix together 1 C canned pumpkin, 1/3 C vegetable oil, 2 eggs, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 C sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 t salt. Stir in flour mixture. Spoon into muffin pan. Stir together 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 T sugar. Sprinkle over top of each muffin before baking. 350 degrees 25- 30 minutes.

Evelyn enjoying the muffin, wow, her hair has grown so much since the fall!

For her birthday, Ann really wanted a mermaid cake, so this is what I came up with. Obviously, the water is just icing dyed blue. The sand was fun though, first you frost the area, then cover it with crushed graham crackers so it really looks like sand. Ann loved it. I also just picked up a few decorations to stick in it at the local cake decorating shop (oh how I miss The Decorette Shop back in Portland).

These are the best pumpkin chocolate chip cookies ever. I got the recipe from a co-worker back when I lived in Provo. Here's the recipe if you're interested - 1 C canned pumpkin, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 C margarine, 1 egg beaten, 1 C sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 C flour, small bag of chocolate chips. Beat pumpkin, baking soda, and margarine until creamy. Add the egg and sugar, mix well. Add flour, spices, and chocolate chips, mix well. Bake 350 degrees 12- 15 minutes.

Well, I already know what I want to do on my next couple of blogs, so hopefully I'll get to that soon and it'll be a bit more interesting (and not all fall related recipes).