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).