Monday, March 26, 2012
Two years ago today I stumbled into the blogging world. Back then I didn't know where blogging would take me or how it would become such a huge part of my life. I still don't know exactly where blogging will take me, but I do know that I love every minute of what goes into The Ginger Snap Girl.
The Ginger Snap Girl is....
an incredible creative outlet.
my biggest fan.
my toughest critic.
a connection to great online friends.
a photography teacher.
always finding a new adventure in the kitchen.
a keeper of my thoughts.
a recipe box.
part of a wonderful community.
my alter ego.
making my pants hard to button.
a journal of sorts.
an excuse to make ridiculously decadent desserts (a difficult sacrifice me and my skinny jeans make for my readers!).
my happy place.
The last two years have sped by faster than I care to admit. Though this blog has been a wonderful documentation of stories and recipes, my real mission is to inspire you to get in the kitchen and cook or bake. The most gratifying part of the blog is hearing that someone has made something I posted about. It doesn't always turn out perfect. But it strikes a conversation. How can it be tweaked next time? How can you customize it suit your tastes. That's what I love.
I hope when you are reading about my three year blog anniversary next March that....
The Ginger Snap Girl has moved to her own domain name (already purchased...just need to make the leap).
GSG has gotten a little makeover (nothing drastic like a face lift...but maybe a little boxtox here and there).
I've challenged myself to be a better photographer and storyteller.
I've lost 5 pounds and my skinny jeans fit again.
I'm developing more and more of my own recipes.
To celebrate two years I wanted to make something I've never made before. Cheesecake.
In the realm of desserts cheesecake is not one that I typically gravitate to (plus it seemed intimidating to make). I often find cheesecake to be too rich and dense for my taste. But I had a cheesecake over the Christmas holiday that turned me into a believer! My brother's girlfriend, Lindsay, brought homemade cheesecake to Christmas Eve. When I took a bite it was light and soft and melted in my mouth. I devoured my slice in short order. Welcome to the family Lindsay! Lucky for me she was kind enough to share her family recipe with me.
This recipe is easy to make so don't let cheesecake intimidate you like it did me! What is nice about it is that it doesn't require you to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Allow yourself plenty of time to make this because the baked cake needs time to chill completely in the refrigerator which takes at least 4 hours.
The base of the cheesecake is a graham cracker crust studded with finely chopped pecans (or toasted almonds in my case). The cheesecake layer is simply cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. In the final minutes of baking a topping consisting of sour cream, sugar and vanilla, goes on over the nearly baked cheesecake and then back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes of baking (or about 8 minutes in my case). I love tartness of the sour cream layer which pairs perfectly with the light, fluffy, sweet cheesecake. I topped my cheesecake with homemade lemon curd (link to recipe below) and fresh sliced strawberries. Pure indulgence and totally worth undoing the top button of your jeans to make room.
I'm excited to say I conquered my cheesecake fears and will most definitely be making this again. This is a great base recipe that can be tweaked with various flavor profiles. Like a chocolate cookie crust and caramel sauce or chocolate ganache or both on top. Or a gingersnap crust with lemon curd. A graham cracker crust with apple compote or fresh berries. So many options...
Here's to cheesecake and another great year!
Ingrid's New York Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans (I used toasted almonds)
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
For the filling:
3 eight ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (I used 2 teaspoons)
For the sour cream layer:
16 ounces sour cream (don't use light or low fat)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and assemble a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan (I used a 9 inch pan). Place the spring form pan on the lined baking sheet.
Start by making crust. Mix graham cracker crumbs, pecans and sugar into a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until well combined. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom of your spring form pan to form the crust. No need to bring the crust up the sides of the pan.
Next, make the cheesecake filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese on medium for 2-3 minutes. Slowly stream in the lightly beaten eggs. Next slowly stream in the sugar and beat until fully combined, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Pour cream cheese mixture on top of crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until cheesecake is just set, but slightly wobbly in the center.
About 5 minutes before the cheesecake is done baking, make the sour cream layer. Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl until fully combined. Let the mixture sit at least 3 minutes and then pour on top of the baked cheesecake and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes. The topping will appear glossy and will be just set. Once set, turn oven off and prop open the oven door using a wooden spoon. Allow cheese cake to cool in the oven for at least 20 minutes. This should prevent the top of the cheesecake from cracking. Unfortunately mine still cracked anyway!
Transfer cheesecake still in the spring form pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least four hours or overnight. Do not take cheesecake out of the spring form pan until you are ready to serve it. Top the cheesecake with your favorite topping. Some ideas are fresh fruit, fruit compote, curd, chocolate ganache or caramel sauce.
Click here for the lemon curd recipe I used to top the cheesecake.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Attention chocolate lovers. This ooey gooey rocky road cookie is for you. Grab a cold glass of milk to go alongside because this cookie is decadent. It's rich. It's uber chocolaty. In fact it's the most chocolaty cookie I've ever had...out-chocolating even this cookie. I'm not exaggerating...not even a little. This is serious chocolate business!
Where did this amazingly delicious ooey gooey cookie come from? A fabulous (new to me) blog that I discovered through Secret Recipe Club. Before I tell you more about this fab blog, here's a little bit about Secret Recipe Club. Once a month Secret Recipe Club members are each assigned another member's blog. You check out your assigned blog, find a recipe, bake it or make it and then blog it. Your assignment is a "secret" until everyone reveals their posts on the same day and time. It's a great group, founded by Amanda Formaro of Amanda's Cookin' that grew from a dozen or so members to 300+ members in the past year. The group has gotten so large there's a waiting list to participate. If you are interested in joining, head over to the SRC site and check out the "Join SRC Section." I always look forward to SRC every month. It's fun to get your blog assignment and start browsing. Choosing which recipe to make is probably the hardest part! My problem is I usually find 3 or 4 or 10 I really want to make. That was no exception this month.
I had the pleasure of being assigned Joanne's blog, Fifteen Spatulas. Fifteen Spatulas is beautiful blog containing an abundance of recipes, both savory and sweet and is named after her expansive collection of her favorite kitchen tool, the spatula. Joanne's blog is filled with what she calls scrapeworthy recipes. If her photos are any indication...they are indeed worthy of scraping your plate clean and possibly licking it too. I loved reading about Joanne's journey and I totally admire her for following her passion...food. To read about her story click here. Joanne's passion comes through in every aspect of her blog, from her gorgeous photos, to her detailed yet approachable recipe instructions. Joanne believes in teaching her readers the reason why a recipe calls for certain techniques and she even has a number of fun instructional videos. I went a little nuts and bookmarked 9 recipes I wanted to try.
But this ooey gooey rocky road cookie recipe drew me in. Rocky road has always been a favorite ice cream flavor and the cookie version looked pretty stunning. With a fudgey flourless chocolate cookie base studded with toasted almonds and chocolate chips, topped with golden brown gooey marshmallows, I knew this cookie would be a winner. It has a crackly exterior and a positively gooey interior. Gooey is a good thing in my book. As stated previously, this cookie is not for the chocolate faint of heart. Luckily I'm a chocolate girl through and through.
The dough/batter comes together easily. But I did I encounter a couple of issues in execution...I had trouble removing the cookies from the parchment paper once they were baked. This recipe has no fat (i.e., butter) in it which usually helps a cookie slide right off parchment paper. I think the gooey marshmallows melted down through the cookie and stuck to the paper. Next time I make these I will spray the parchment with non stick cooking spray. I also under baked the cookies the first go round. It was hard to tell they were under baked until they were cooled and I attempted to remove them from the baking sheet. When half the dough was raw on the underside, they had to take a trip back to the oven. Despite my challenges, the cookies still tasted fantastic. Did I mention these cookies are amazingly chocolaty? The almonds add a nice crunch and the marshmallows are pillows of sweet gooey goodness. Delish! I'm thinking these cookies would be great alongside vanilla ice cream.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Joanne's has a great video on how to make these cookies. Click here to check it out.
Ooey Gooey Rocky Road Cookies
from Fifteen Spatulas
Makes 24 cookies
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 extra large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2.5 ounces chopped or slivered, toasted, almonds (to toast almonds, heat oven to 350 and place almonds on foil lined baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes)
1 cup mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk in salt. Add egg whites and vanilla and whisk until combined and batter is smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds. *Chill batter in refrigerator for 1 hour to help prevent spreading in the oven. Using a medium size cookie scoop, portion out 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Place 4-5 marshmallows on top of each cookie. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 5 minutes (or fridge for 10-15 minutes) to chill cookies to prevent them from spreading too much in the oven. Bake cookies for 12-13 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for at least 5 minutes and then transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: My cookies stuck to the parchment paper and were very delicate to remove. Next time I make these I will spray the parchment with non stick cooking spray.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The bad news is my blog posting schedule has gone to hell. Sorry for those of you expecting to see new content every Tuesday and Thursday. I've completely fallen off the wagon. Mabye a schedule is overrated? Or, maybe I'll just climb back up on the wagon. I can't give up that easily, right?
There is good news though......the strawberry streak continues!
I can't seem to get enough of these sweet treasures. I stocked up again this past weekend at the farmer's market and immediately started thinking of ways to use my berries. So many options....
I recently made scones for the first time and wanted to try another variation at home that would somehow incorporate strawberries. Have you ever tried the orange cranberry scones from Trader Joe's? It was TJ's scones that converted me to the pro-scone camp. In my anti-scone days, my experience with this tea time treat was a dense, dry, doughy, under-sweetened biscuit. Something that certainly wasn't worth the calories, I'll take a donut please! For some reason I picked up a package of TJ's scones a few years back and they won me over. Their scones are tender on the inside, laced with sweet orange flavor and tart cranberries. But the best part about them is the glaze or icing drizzled on top. That extra sweetness is where it's at! I love how the glaze crackles a bit when you bite into it...totally worth the calories. That got me thinking about a strawberry glazed scone...
I went in search of basic scone recipe to start with. My Cook's Illustrated Cookbook provided several options and I decided on the "Simple Cream Scone". I especially liked the "simple" part and it had potential for a variety of flavor options. I dressed up the scone dough with lemon zest and lemon juice. A nice match for a sweet strawberry glaze. Now, I had to figure how to make strawberry glaze. A faint memory brought me to my Sweet Melissa Baking Book and a fresh strawberry sauce recipe. Add a little powdered sugar and you have glaze.
The scone recipe turned out just how I had hoped, golden and slightly crunchy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside with the faint aroma of lemon. The strawberry glaze wasn't "crunchy" like the TJ's scones. I could have remedied that with adding more powdered sugar. But ultimately I went with a thinner glaze to maintain the bright, fresh strawberry flavor.
Some scone tips...don't overwork the dough. Work it just until it comes together and start forming the disc you will cut into wedges. The more you work the dough, the tougher it become. Bake until just golden without overbaking to ensure your scones stay moist. Scones are best eaten the day they are made or the next day at the latest. If you know you won't eat all the scones before they pass their peak, wrap the baked scones individually in foil and store in a ziptop bag with the air removed in the freezer. When you are ready to enjoy a scone, preheat the oven to 375, remove foil and place the scone(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until warmed through (bake for 10 minutes if scones are thawed in the fridge first).
A fun twist I plan to try next time is to make mini scones and serve the strawberry glaze as a dip for the mini's.
Lemon Cream Scones with Strawberry Glaze
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Cook's Illustrated recipe is titled Simple Cream Scones. Their recipe includes 1/2 cup of dried currants which are listed as optional. I omitted the currants and added lemon zest and lemon juice to my version to compliment the strawberry glaze.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup of heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and pulse a few times until combined. Add the chilled butter and lemon zest and pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal, about 12 pulses. Dump mixture into a large bowl. Stir lemon juice into the cream and pour into dry mixture. Stir to combine and dough begins to form.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured workspace and knead until a sticky ball forms, only 5 to 10 seconds. Pat dough into a inch round circle and cut into 8 even wedges. Place wedges onto the prepared baking sheet evenly spaced apart. Bake about 12 - 15 minutes until scones are lightly golden on top, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for each 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the Strawberry Glaze
The base of this recipe comes from the Strawberry Sauce recipe in the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I added some powdered sugar to turn it from a sauce into a glaze. Note, the strawberry sauce recipe makes more than you will need for the scones. You can use the leftover sauce as a topping for ice cream or to make homemade strawberry lemonade (another recipe you can find in the Sweet Melissa Baking Book).
1 pint of dry strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold water
Place all the ingredients in a small food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer and discard the seeds.
To make glaze:
Combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 1/4 cup of strawberry sauce in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Note, this makes for a very loose glaze, but it retains a nice bright red color and strong strawberry flavor. For a thicker glaze add an additional 1/4 cup or more, of powdered sugar.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
I did it. I ate all three baskets of strawberries I bought last Sunday at the farmer's market.
It took me 6 days and three breakfasts of strawberries, yogurt and granola, one breakfast of berries with a Nutella scone, two desserts of strawberries dipped in Nutella and the finale was this strawberry tart. And surprisingly, I am not sick of strawberries! I am actually a little sad they are gone. I might just be heading back to the farmer's market this week.
Storing Your Strawberries - Tip of the Day
I mentioned earlier this week, I've struggled in the past to store strawberries for more than a day or two without them growing mold or looking sad and sickly. I've tried several methods which have all proven to be unsuccessful. Some of these unsuccessful methods have included, storing them in the fruit drawer of the fridge in the packaging they come in; storing them in a cool, unrefrigerated, spot in the packaging they come in; washing the berries, removing the green tops, allowing them to fully dry and storing them in the fridge in a zip top bag with as much air removed as possible (this is the most successful of the unsuccessful methods).
Now that you know what doesn't work, I am happy to say I can now tell you what does work. The lady who sold me the berries at the farmer's market shared her preferred method for storing these crimson beauties. I tried her suggestion and I got 6 full days of beautiful berries. I had eaten them all by day 6, but I have a feeling they could have gone at least another day or two, possibly more. Here's the method:
- Don't wash the berries until you are ready to use them
- Remove any berries that are already soft or where the skin is broken and discard or set aside to eat (you could use these in a smoothie, strawberry sauce or strawberry puree)
- Place a paper towel on the bottom of a tupperware container (with a tight fitting lid) large enough to hold all your berries
- Place the dry, unwashed, unblemished berries on top of the paper towel, in a single layer, preferably not allowing the berries to touch and top with another paper towel
- Layer paper towels and berries until all your berries are stored, finishing with a paper towel on top of the last layer and store the tupperware in the refrigerator
Did you know....
- 1 cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange?
- Strawberries are high in fiber, potassium and anti-oxidants (all good things from what I'm told)
- 1 cup of halved berries is approximately 50 calories and low in sugar
- Strawberries can be used for beauty purposes too...make a strawberry face mask consisting of berries, heavy cream and honey....sounds a lot like dessert to me!
- Strawberries are delicious (okay, this more my opinion than a fact)
Now let's talk tarts. I pulled together two recipes I've had success with to come up with this personal sized strawberry tart (or you can also make one large 9 inch tart). Back when I made these lemon tarts, I froze two mini tart crusts. Figured it was about time to use them. And remember the Boston cream pie I made late last year? And how I RAVED about the pastry cream? Yep, I made the vanilla pastry cream for this tart (though the chocolate pastry cream would be equally tasty).
The sweet almond shortbread crust from the tart makes a great base to fill with thick, creamy vanilla custard. It's like eating cookies and pudding. Top it with fresh strawberries and you have a pretty irresistable dessert on your hands.
You can make this recipe over two days, making both the tart dough and pastry cream the day ahead. You can either bake off the tart crust the day before and then wrap it in plastic wrap for filling the next day...or bake it the day you serve it.
Strawberry TartYields 4 mini tarts or 1 nine inch tart
Note: If you make the entire recipe in the same day, start by making the pastry cream since it needs to chill for a few hours.
For the vanilla pastry cream filling:
adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked Explorations
Note: Only half a recipe is needed to fill 1 large tart or 4 mini tarts. The full recipe is listed below. This custard is delicious all on its own so feel free to make the full recipe. You could even dip berries in it.
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light rum (I omitted)
Set aside a medium heatproof bowl and fine mesh strainer.
Whisk egg yolks, half of the sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium bowl until the mixture is pale, thick and smooth.
Bring the milk and remaining half of sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture boils remove the pan from the heat and very slowly whisk 1/3 of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously (you don't want scrambled eggs). Slowly pour the tempered egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk while continuously whisking. Place the pan back on the stove over medium heat and continue to stir until mixture boils for 2 minutes (or until thick, like pudding). Be careful not to overcook or burn the pastry cream or it will have a bitter aftertaste.
Remove the pan from the heat and strain the pastry cream into the medium bowl you previously set aside. Stir in the butter and vanilla (and rum if using) until butter is melted and fully incorporated. Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and then place plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep a skin from forming on the pastry. Refrigerate until fully chilled and set, about 4 hours or overnight.
For the tart dough:
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 ½ cups all purpose flour (or 1/4 finely ground almonds or another nut and 1 ¼ cups flour) - I used nuts and flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Place the flour (and ground nuts), sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in pieces of cold butter and pulse until mixture has pea size lumps of butter. Stir the yolk in small bowl and add it slowly to the flour mixture through the feeding tube, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is in, hold the pulse button down for 10 seconds at time until the dough looks like curds. Once you reach this point, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Using your hands, knead the dough very lightly to incorporate all the dry ingredients.
Dorie recommends pressing the dough into a buttered 9-inch tart pan (or 4 mini tart pans) with a removable bottom, pressing the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Be gentle with pressing the dough into the pan allowing the pieces to just come together. Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
The method I used is to gently roll the dough to 1/4 thick between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment, laying the dough into the buttered pan(s).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use cooking spray or butter to coat the shiny side of aluminum foil and place it buttered side down, against the crust. Place the tart pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes for mini tarts and 25 minutes for a large tart. Remove from oven and gently remove the foil. If the crust puffs up just gently press it back down with the back of a spoon. Return to oven and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes or until set and golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
For the strawberry topping:
3 cups of sweet, ripe, strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and sliced vertically into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices.
Assemble the tart:
Wait until you are ready to serve your tart(s) before assembling so the crust does not get soggy. Fill the tart(s) full with vanilla pastry cream. Top the tart(s) with the sliced strawberries, in a circular pattern starting from the outside of the crust and working your way in, allowing the strawberries to overlap slightly. Serve immediately.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Nutella has become a staple in my pantry. I mostly spread it on English muffins and graham crackers. But recently I took it to the next level and merged Nutella into the baking world. Sort of. Making frosting isn't technically baking. I made a banana cake and topped it with Nutella frosting. Banana + Nutella = heaven, by the way. And now I can say I have officially baked with my favorite chocolate hazelnut spread with these chocolatey scones.
This week our Club: Baked hostess, Lorraine of PhDcupcaker, selected Nutella Scones for the group to bake. I have been looking forward to this recipe because a.) I have never made scones before and b.) a new way to incorporate Nutella into breakfast is a good thing.
The recipe reads pretty simply. It doesn't require a mixer or any fancy tools. But apparently it requires a little finesse. It definitely wasn't easy as I thought it would be. The authors of Baked Explorations caution you to not over mix the dough to ensure you have nice tender scone. They also recommend using your hands to knead the dough. I don't know about anyone else, but my dough was beyond sticky and I spent quite a bit of time trying to keep the dough from forming a giant chocolate mitten on my hand. Next time I would keep a little flour on hand to help with the sticky fingers. Now that I have one scone run under my belt, I'm looking forward to trying other flavor combinations.
I did make a couple of small alterations to the recipe. The original recipe calls for toasted chopped hazelnuts to be added to the dough. I omitted the nuts and to dress it up a bit, I sprinkled coarse raw sugar on top for a little sparkle and crunch. I made half the recipe (yielding 6 small scones) but still added the full amount of sugar (only 1/4 cup in total) because some other bakers had noted that the scone wasn't very sweet. Even with the extra sugar, I still thought it wasn't very sweet. But that's okay, the Nutella drizzled on top brings up the sweetness to just the right level. The scone is tender and almost cakey inside with a little crunch on the outside. Good stuff. This is my kind of breakfast.
To get the recipe head over to Lorraine's site. To see how other Club: Bakers' scones turned out click here.