Saturday, February 26, 2011
These cookies are super easy to make and they are delicious. They are a moist and cakey cookie. A marriage of 2 perfect foods....banana bread and chocolate chip cookies. They are very delicate and so moist that they had to be separated by pieces of parchment for storage. And speaking from experience, they make for a nice breakfast!
If you have a brown banana calling out to you.....click here for the recipe.
Monday, February 21, 2011
I have been making a pretty poor attempt to keep up with the weekly cooking and baking for the online group, French Fridays with Dorie. The goal is to cook and bake our way through Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Around My French Table. Though with more than 300 recipes (according to the tag line on Amazon.com) in the book, making 52 recipes a year, we'll be done sometime in 2016! Good grief. I have never done the math on that before. Anyway, if you are interested in joining the fun click here. That probably wasn't my best effort to convince you to join our group! The nice thing about this group is there are no frequency of participation requirements. So cook and bake along as it suits you. Ok, that's a little better.
The group made Dorie's Orange Almond Tart on February 11th. So I'm only a couple of weeks behind. I'm clearly engaging the bake along as it suits you concept. This recipe was a stand out and I knew I wanted to make it, even if it's a little bit late. I love oranges and have had a constant supply of them in the fridge for the last month and half. I've never a seen a recipe with baked oranges, so this was definitely intriguing. This is also my first time making a tart so I had to go out and purchase a tart pan.
This recipe has been described many of the FFwD folks as "fussy". And it is. This isn't something you can just throw together. It's best made over the course of 2 days. You can do all the prep on day 1 and then assemble and bake on day 2.
The preparation starts with making a sweet tart dough. The dough is made in a food processor and then can either be pressed into a buttered tart pan or it can be chilled then rolled out and laid into the pan. I opted for the press in method.
I don't think I got the same thickness all around, but it still worked out ok. Once the dough is pressed in, you prick the bottom all over with a fork and then freeze it for at least 30 minutes. It bakes for about 25 minutes until the crust is lightly golden.
The second step in preparation is cutting and segmenting the oranges. This also has to be done in advance because the oranges need to dry out on paper towels for an hour or more, or Dorie even suggests overnight. I went for overnight.
The third step is preparing the almond cream. This part of the recipe also comes together in a food processor. The almond cream really isn't technically a cream, however, has a creamy texture. It's a mix of almond flour, butter, sugar, vanilla and egg.
The fourth step is assembly. The cream goes in the tart shell.
The orange segments get distributed in a design of your choosing on the top.
Finally, you are ready to bake!
60 minutes in the oven or until the almond cream puffs up around the oranges and turns lightly golden brown. Mine took the full 60 minutes.
So? How did it turn out? To be honest, it was a little weird. The almond cream is amazing. It's almondy and creamy and has a rich brown sugary taste (even though there is no brown sugar). It almost reminded me a little of pecan pie filling. The tart dough was thick and on the "tough" side. I think I overworked the dough (Dorie warns against this). But the taste of the tart dough is nice, just slightly sweet and shortbread like. The oranges were the "weird" part. When baked they had a slight bitter flavor. They were hard to cut through and were almost chewy. Dorie also suggests trying this tart with other fruit, such as pears or plums. Both would be a wonderful compliment to the oh so delicious almond cream.
Good enough to make again? Yes! With variations and hopefully a little more finesse on my tart dough.
For the recipe check out Dorie's book, Around My French Table.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Can you say chocolate? More chocolate? Then more chocolate? A little peanut butter for kicks? It's intense. And it's good. I have had my eye on these cookies since Christmas day when I cracked open one of my gifts, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. She describes them as "the moistest, most intensely chocolate chocolate chip cookies in the world." Wow. That's serious. And these are serious cookies. They have a rich deep dark chocolate flavor...much like a brownie.
The batter is fudgey.
When they bake up they get that nice crackly top like a brownie.
Then you break one of these bad boys open.....
The batter is fudgey.
When they bake up they get that nice crackly top like a brownie.
Then you break one of these bad boys open.....
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
These really taste like Cheez Its...but better. I think the French really have it goin on with gruyere cheese. It's worth every penny of the $10.99 a pound it goes for. The cheese makes these crackers. And for an extra cheesy zip I snuck in 1/4 cup of fresh grated parmegiano reggiano.
These crackers are easy to make too. All the ingredients come together in just a couple of minutes in a food processor.
You have a few options to form the dough into crackers. You can roll out the dough and cut it with a cookie cutter, roll it into logs and slice off rounds or you can press them into a mold and then slice. Keep in mind you have to refrigerate it for a good couple of hours before slicing. I actually refrigerated mine overnight. I had these cute little appetizer dishes that I thought would make the perfect mold for these cheesy crackers. Just line the mold with plastic wrap and press in the dough.
Refrigerate, remove the dough and slice into 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick crackers.
Place on a baking sheet...you could space them closer together than I did. They don't expand much in the oven.
And serve! These make a great snack or appetizer. A nice glass of sauvignon blanc would be the perfect accompaniment. These little bites are addictive, so don't even bother making only half a batch. They keep for several days in a sealed container....but they really won't last that long because they are so stinkin good! Even my picky Hubby gave the Cheez is ish Crackers a thumbs up.
The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's book, Around My French Table. An excellent cookbook if you are in the market for some great recipes and entertaining reading. It rates among my top 5 most used cookbooks.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I spent this past Saturday enjoying an awesome day with my 2 nieces and nephew. One of the activities we did was to decorate heart shaped sugar cookies. The cookies were simple...a Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and a variety of store bought frosting. Throw in a little food coloring and some sprinkles and you have cookie master pieces in the making! And a little bit of mess. But that's half the fun right?
We packaged up the cookies to give to the kids parents. The kids did a great job and we all had a blast.
Happy Valentines Day!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
You might not be able to tell from the photos, but these are homemade oreos....on steroids. They are 3 times the size of a standard oreo. When I saw these in Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook, I thought they would be soft chewy cookies with cream filling. But they have a crunchy crumbly texture...with a delicious cream filling.
I didn't set out to make oreos, but it turned out to be a nice detour. This recipe calls for scooping out dough with a 1 1/4 inch cookie scoop then flattening out the cookies to 1/8 inch thick using the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. This makes for a huge cookie. Next time I make these, I will roll the dough out and use cookie cutters.
After baking up a the first batch, I thought the cookies would look nice with a little extra sparkle so I dipped each flattened cookie in sugar before baking. They don't really look like oreos with the sugar coating, but they are still tasty. Messy (when they crumble), but tasty.
You can also dress these up with a little decoration by rolling the edges in colored sprinkles or candies. I rolled some in blue sanding sugar to give as a gift for a the parents of a new baby boy.
To get the recipe click here.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
A birthday isn't a birthday without chocolate cake with orange frosting. By those standards I almost didn't have a birthday this year. But never fear, the birthday was made complete almost a week after the fact. January is a busy birthday month for my family...2 cousins, my niece, my nephew, my sister and me. And though my own came and went without my favorite cake...I got together with my sister this past weekend to celebrate both our big days, which was the perfect opportunity to make our traditional cake.
My grandma made this cake for most family birthdays for as long as I can remember. It is truly my all time favorite. This year I made cupcakes and decided to try out a new recipe for the cake. Truth be told, grandma always used a boxed chocolate cake mix. And I had a box of Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake on hand. But I wanted to make it a little extra special and I found a version on Duncan Hines website that called for sour cream. (On a side note, I was browsing the Duncan Hines site and saw a lot of great recipes, several of which I bookmarked.)
The cupcakes baked up nice a full with a soft springy texture to the touch. My batch only made 18 cupcakes (rather than 24) because I think I was a little generous filling them. The sour cream makes the cupcakes incredibly moist. Though I thought the cake didn't have enough chocolate punch so I decided to make some chocolate ganache to fill them.
Filling a cupcake is easy (this was my first time). Cut a cone shaped cylinder out of the center of each cupcake and fill with your desired jam, frosting, ganache or other tasty filling.
Once filled, place the piece of cake you cut out back in.
Since this was my first time filling cupcakes I didn't think to keep track of which cut out went with which cupcake.
But it really doesn't matter because you are going to cover them up with delicious frosting.
The ganache sets up and the center of the cupcake is just like a soft dark chocolate truffle.
I didn't have enough ganache for all 18 cupcakes so 6 of them went ganache-less.
The frosting is homemade cream cheese frosting with the zest of two oranges mixed in. If you haven't had chocolate and orange together before, you must try it. So delicious!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Orange Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
1 box of Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
Blend cake mix, water, oil, eggs and 1 cup sour cream in large bowl. Beat at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds). Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full of batter. Bake and cool according to package directions. Mine baked for 20 minutes at 350.
from Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy
6 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1. Coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream until scalding, or until the cream is steaming and tiny bubbles have formed along the edges. Do not boil.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup.
Cut a 1/2 inch cylinder in the middle of the top of each cupcake and reserve the cut outs. Fill a pastry bag or ziploc bag with ganache filling and pipe about a tablespoon of filling into each cut out. Replace reserved cake cut out over the ganache filling.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick of room temperature butter
1 8 oz container of room temperature cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb of confectioner's sugar
Zest of 2 large navel oranges
Beat butter and cream cheese together. Add confectioner's sugar in batches until completely combined. Beat in vanilla and orange zest. Spread a generous portion of frosting over each cupcake.
Monday, February 7, 2011
This is one of those recipes that always impresses me. The first time I made it I took the first bite and paused...then I turned to my husband, and said "Wow!". For some reason (that I cannot figure out)I haven't made it for probably a year....and tonight, I said to hubby, "Damn, this is good!". Heavenly really. I'm still reeling in the delight of tonight's dinner. The sauce is luscious and has a wonderful depth of flavor. Garlic and red onion almost melt into the pureed tomatoes. A pinch of red pepper flakes give the sauce just the slightest note of heat deep in the background. This goodness simmers for a bit, marrying all the flavors together. The sauce is finished by stirring in cream and evaporated milk. Then topped with fresh chopped basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese and this dish reaches perfection.
Want to hear the cool part? This is a healthy version of Penne Vodka and comes from the Cook Yourself Thin Ladies over on Lifetime. They call it Penne alla "Not-Ka." If you are interested in tasty lower calorie versions of recipes, I recommend checking out the recipes on Lifetime's website or the Cook Yourself Thin cookbook. One of my other favorite CYT recipes is their absolutely delicious Meatballs. I have even served the meatballs with penne alla not-ka in the past. The meatballs are light and pair nicely with the tomato cream sauce. Of course I think the tomato cream sauce is good enough to drink straight up. Man, this is a good sauce!
A few tips for this very easy recipe. Use red onion. Not yellow, white, sweet or spanish. It's gotta be red. Don't overcook the pasta...it will continue cooking when it gets transferred to the sauce. Remember to set aside some of the pasta water to get just the right consistency of pasta and creamy sauce. And lastly, I almost always double the recipe to ensure lots of tasty leftovers for lunch or another quick dinner.
Penne Alla "Not-Ka"
from Cook Yourself Thin
Serves 4, Calories per serving: 371
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes in juice, pureed in a food processor
Pinch red pepper flakes
8 ounces penne
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons evaporated nonfat milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the penne.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 teaspoons oil with the garlic over low heat until the garlic begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 more minutes. Add the tomato, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer very gently 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and evaporated milk and simmer 1 more minute.
3. Meanwhile, after the sauce has cooked 5 minutes, add the penne to the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the drained penne to the saucepan and simmer until the penne is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if the mixture is dry. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, along with the basil and black pepper.
4. To serve, divide pasta among 4 serving bowls. Drizzle each serving with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Two weeks ago we made the Speakeasy from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I used that opportunity to also make this week's pick, the Sacher Torte. Sacher Torte is a very minor variation on the Speakeasy. The only difference is you split the cake into two layers and fill it with a generous portion of apricot jam. I had enough batter left over to make a 4 inch mini cake for the Sacher Torte. My torte used triple sec instead of brandy (I'm thinking Amaretto would be nice too). The triple sec, orange flavored liquor, was a good compliment to the apricot filling. I liked creating this version with just a little jam twist. This is a good cake, but I'm not sure I will be making it again. Too many other recipes on my to do list.
Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for selecting this week's recipe. Pop over to her site for the recipe. See how other SMS bakers.