Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

In lieu of something new.... I resurrect a cake from Halloween past.

The Grim Reaper cake is by far one of my favorite cakes to date. Because it was a donation cake for the boy scouts to raffle off to raise some cold hard cash, I got to make whatever I wanted.

If you want to see some details of the cake you can head over to my website by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nut Job

I remember when I was a kid my mom had two favorite treats that she would tend to keep to herself. You know a secret stash unsuitable for ankle biters like us. Peanut brittle and Good & Plenty, of which the latter I could live without because licorice is one of those things that doesn't agree with me. I once snuck into the stash and proceeded to covertly chew the candy coating off the little buggers. Alas the outside being as thin as it was would always give way to licorice flavored tar-like centers before I could get any satisfying amount of the candy shell down my little gullet. Whenever my mom would share (never finding the holy grail of brittle myself) some of her brittle with us it was such a treat.
Now that I got skills (probably in my own mind) to make brittle on my own I usually throw in Cashews instead of peanuts, you know cuz their fancy and make up an extra batch to spread the love.

Small Batch Nut Brittle~Double it up if you want to share with your kids.

  • 8 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 oz. Corn Syrup
  • 4 oz. Water
  • 1 c. Nuts
  • 1 oz. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt

In a large heavy sauce pot combine sugar, water & corn syrup and cook to a light amber color. Add in the nuts and cook until it becomes darker amber in color, remove from the heat and add in butter, vanilla, salt & baking soda. Stir to combine and spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and stretch it to thin it out and break it up a bit. Allow to cool completely and break into bite size pieces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

I make cupcakes from time to time, but I have to confess that I don't really like cupcakes (shhh...don't tell anyone). They quickly became the bane of my existence at CSCA. My chef instructor loved to have buffets you see, and our class being Patisserie & Baking students were tasked with creating the dessert buffet, which in theory sounds fun because who doesn't love dessert. But while the other Culinary students slaved away on interesting exotic dishes from Mexico or Morocco we had to make cupcakes.... lots and lots of cupcakes. And not pretty beautiful interesting cupcakes.... just the boring run of the mill make sure you crank out 10 dozen stat sort. This buffet of burden actually did teach me one thing that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise.... I could never work in a commercial bakery, in my mind it would be akin to working in the post office, a never ending assault of cupcakes that would eventually make me go postal. A little while after graduating from Pastry school, a friend of one of my classmates got in contact with me to do their wedding cake and wouldn't you know it they wanted cupcakes! When they uttered these words a vision of my classmate laughing maniacally flashed before my eyes...bwahaha.... call Nicole, she lloooovveesss making cupcakes!

I thought of many a reason not to make the recipe chosen by Clara at I Heart Food 4 Thought, from it being 90 degrees outside to several reports of these cupcakes being on the dry side over at the Tuesdays with Dorie blog. I put my cupcake issues aside and made them anyway...mostly because my honey is grouchy, and maybe a chocolate chocolate cupcake will put him in a better mood... I added extra chocolate chips in the batter just in case. They turned out pretty good, very crumbly but not dry, maybe leaving two whole eggs instead of the 1 yolk 1 whole egg per the recipe will keep the crumb intact. The recipe for the glaze was stingy at best, I would surely make a double batch next time because there was just barely enough to coat each cupcake in a very thin layer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The One With Phoebe's Cookies

If your a fan of the show Friend's you know of the episode where Monica diligently dissects the lost cookie recipe of Phoebe's grandma, only to find out later they were just (insert bad french accent) "Nesleetolhause".

I've been craving home made Nestle Tollhouse Cookies since Christmas of 2007, I even included them on my wish list to Santa. Nestle chocolate chips are not on my usual shopping list but a few months ago me and my honey succumbed to the allure of the giant yellow bag from Costco and they've been calling me ever since.

I haven't made this recipe measure by measure since I was about 12 years old (my family would argue that I never measured whilst baking, my cookies were and still are affectionately called hockey pucks by my dad). I think I miss the tang of the inevitable miss measure of baking soda. Or the extra saltiness you get from using margarine because we would never have such exotic ingredients as unsalted butter in our house. Or maybe sometimes cookies are just better when your 12....

Monday, October 20, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

I would have waited all night too if I knew such tasty morsels were to be had.... I can't even remember if they ever saw the great pumpkin in this movie (I just remember all the waiting) but I do know that this weeks Tuesday's with Dorie recipe has certainly appeased the pumpkin gods.

I used the organic pumpkin puree from TJs and threw in some walnuts, but skipped the raisins. I'm so glad that I did because raisins in muffins give me the heebie jeebies. I also skipped the sunflower seed topping and added a little sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top instead, but will probably be a little more liberal next time.

Thanks to Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! for the fantastic pick (you can go over to her site for the full recipe). I will definitely be making them again in the very near future.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bacon & Asiago Cheese Scones

In an attempt to redeem myself after some horrifyingly bad biscuits I made a few weeks ago (I think the pastry flour had gone south for the winter or something) I decided this morning to whip up some Scones. Using what we had in the fridge as motivation I created these super tasty Bacon Asiago Cheese Scones... and consequently tried not to eat them all. My honey is probably taking a scone induced nap as we speak.

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. AP Flour
  • 1 oz. Corn Meal
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • 2 oz. Unsalted Butter - Cold
  • 1 ea. Whole Egg
  • 4.5 oz. Whole Milk (variable)
  • 5 ea. Slices of Bacon - Cooked, cooled & crumbled
  • 2 oz. Aged Asiago Cheese- grated

Preheat your oven to 350 and prep a sheet pan with parchment sprayed with a bit of olive oil.

Measure and mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, cut in butter until the butter is about the size of peas. Use a fork to mix in the egg its gonna get sticky and anything else will be useless in a second... mix in the milk until the mixture comes together but it not slumpy or overly wet (you may not need the entire 4.5 oz depending on humidity etc.). Mix in the Bacon and cheese, use a scoop to portion out the scones onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown all the way around.

*I used Asiago cheese slices from TJs, so I just cut the slices into a fine dice. But

Monday, October 13, 2008

TWD: Cranberry Almond Biscotti

This weeks recipe of choice on Tuesday's with Dorie is Lenox Almond Biscotti. Typically found in a plastic wrapper at our local Starbucks, they are always in need of a severe dunking before they are even edible not the case with the homemade version.

These were surprisingly simple to make with few ingredients (so few that I added some dried cranberries) but the twice baked cookie didn't quite agree with my impatient lazy side so adjustment had to be made.
  • Your supposed to divide the sticky batter into two nicely shaped logs...I didn't, I just left one big loaf so I have super-sized biscotti.
  • Bake until lightly golden and cool for 30 minutes....a whole 30 minutes, you got to be kidding me! So I waited for 10 tops before slicing.
  • Stand them up like a marching band.... eh? do what now? I didn't exactly know what that meant so they went back onto the baking sheet to crisp up.
For not following the directions, they came out pretty just the same. I can't wait to see how the other bakers faired on the whole marching band business, yes it actually says that in the directions. This are so much better than thier plastic wrapped cousins. The crunchy texture achieved from the cornmeal is so agreeable that I have to get them out of the house before I eat them all. Yum!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

YWP: I Love that Movie! Part 2

Polar Express Pie

A cool pepperminty chocolate layer paired with a layer of soft creamy milk chocolate in a Sugar Cookie crust.

Crust:
Bake some of your favorite sugar cookie recipe or use store bought cookies. Process them into fine crumbs in a food processor. Mix approx 8-10 oz (depending on your pie pan size) with about 2 oz. of butter. Press mixture into the sides and bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Filling:
16 oz. Whole Milk
4 oz. Granulated Sugar
1 ea. Egg Yolk
1 ea. Whole Egg
1.25 oz. Cornstarch
2 oz. Milk Chocolate
2 oz. Peppermint Chocolate Chips*
4 oz. Heavy Cream
1 oz. Powdered Sugar

Optional to garnish:
Chantilly Cream
Shaved Chocolate

In a heavy sauce pan bring milk and 1/2 sugar to a scald. In a heat proof bowl, whisk together remaining sugar, eggs and cornstarch. Pour about 1/2 of the scalded milk into egg mixture, to temper. Pour back into the pan and cook until thickened. Pour 1/2 (approx. 11 oz) into a bowl with the milk chocolate and 1/2 into a different bowl with the peppermint chocolate. Mix each until the chips are completely combined and the mixture is completely smooth. Cover milk chocolate mixture with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the surface of the filling so that it doesn't form a skin. Pour peppermint chocolate directly into the prepared pie crust, smoothing into an even layer, cover with plastic wrap. Put into fridge to cool and set. Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar to stiff peaks and fold into milk chocolate when it has cooled sufficiently. Spread evenly over the peppermint layer. Cover with plastic and chill overnight. Decorate with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

*I used York Peppermint Patty Premier Baking chips, I don't know where you could get these, I've looked online and can't even find them on the Hersey's website. You could probably sub in other peppermint flavored chips or reg. dark chocolate with a bit of peppermint oil.

YWP: I Love that Movie! Part 1

I joined another dessert inspired group called You Want Pies With That? Who doesn't like pie and who doesn't love a good challenge right?

First challenge ever is a tough one "I Love that Movie!" aka Movie inspired pie. Movies with pie in the title.... American Pie, gross! Movies with pies in them..... Sweeney Todd, double gross!! Having to change my thought pattern immediately; I tried to think of movies I loved first, then a pie I could create. Totally drew a blank, no inspiration, boo!

So of course I ask a few friends, swiftly dodging the aforementioned pie themes. My honey suggests Pineapple Express. Eh? How does that inspire a pie? I've never seen the movie but I know for sure it has NOTHING to do with Pineapples, but I could make this work. Pineapple pie sounds good.... never seen the movie but still love the name just the same. Dammit, do I create a themed pie on a movie I don't love?! (I know way to much angst over a pie) Then it came to me as I was drifting off to sleep as many things do Polar Express.

Its chilling away in the fridge, posting can only happen on the 8th.... Why the 8th? Well, Pi = 3.14. 3+1+4=8. (Trust me I didn't know this before I joined the group)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dark Chocolate Cherry Pecan Cookies

We were at Trader Joes today and my honey wanted to buy some cookies. How rude! He has a perfectly good pastry chef at home and he wants to BUY cookies! It's a drizzly rainy perfect for baking kind of weekend so I said I would make some.

I took a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe but filled them with dark chocolate covered cherries (cut in 1/2) and toasted chopped pecans.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and I must say they were way better than the hockey pucks in a plastic tub he was trying to sneak into the cart.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chocolate Stout Cake

I'm not a beer drinker, and have never in my life taken a sip of a deep heady stout. But when I saw this recipe it sounded so strange I had to try it, beer drinker or not.

You start by melting the butter, stout and cocoa which fills your house with a fabulous chocolatie beery smell unlike any beer I've ever smelled. This would be perfect to whip up on a chilly autumn night of which I was devoid of in the crisp 99 degree fall weather of good ol' So. Cal.

This cocoa, stout, butter slurry is cooled a bit then mixed into eggs and sour cream. Then the dry ingredients are mixed in until just incorporated. I think this quick mix of dry at the end and the sour cream give this a super moist texture because there isn't much time for the gluten to develop in the batter. Everything scooped into cupcake pans and baked up to a fluffy glistening finish.

However tasty they looked, I was scared even try it and since my dogs can't talk, I waited for my honey to come home and try it first. He says it rivals his most favoritest chocolate cake! You can smell the stout but you can't really taste it, and I'm not sure that anyone will even know if I didn't tell them. I'll test that theory on the guinea pigs at work tomorrow....I hope all the alcohol is cooked out ;)

I can call myself a stout fan now....as long as its mixed up with loads of Valrohna cocoa, butter and loads of sugar.