Sunday, December 28, 2008

Le Défi de décembre du Boulanger qui ose (Daring Baker’s December Challenge)

This month the Daring Bakers went French with a French Yule Log recipe. What is the difference between a French and a typical “American” Yule Log? The “American” Yule log is made of cake and buttercream and it is rolled very similar to a jelly roll. The French Yule log is a cream based dessert, layered with different textured inserts, and served frozen (like ice cream cake).
This month’s challenge was not too challenging. It seemed overwhelming at first because there was a lot of steps and a lot of layers, but really the challenge here was organization. After reading through the entire recipe, you have to create a game plan for completion. I did the loaf over three days. You can do it in one day, but I like to spend the least amount of time in the kitchen as possible since it is the holiday season and I am home for break. So, below is the order by day of what I completed. Enjoy!

By the way- I am at home for the holidays and completed this challenge for a dinner party my mother was hosting. I got the biggest compliments about this dessert- This is just like a dessert you would pay $20 or more for in an upscale restaurant. THAT was the biggest compliment ever and brought a HUGE smile to me face!


Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond “Cake”)
This layer was pretty uneventful. I followed the directions as written. I did make my own almond meal. Score one for me!

Raspberry Crème Brulee
I have never made a crème brulee before, but if I have learned anything from “Top Chef” this season- you have to give it adequate time to cook. (All you “Top Chef” fans out there will know what I am talking about). So

- I did not have a vanilla bean. So, I used a little vanilla extract.
- By the namesake, you can tell I added raspberry puree. I pushed about 6oz of fresh raspberries through a sieve. Because raspberries are slightly bitter, I added 2 tbs of confectioners sugar (in addition to the sugar already in the recipe).
- After reading a lot of comments regarding the temperature of the oven to bake the crème brulee and doing some on-line research, I decided to bake mine at 275 degrees.

Milk Chocolate Almond Praline Feuillete
At first I was going to skip the praline part of this step. Truthfully, I wanted to be lazy and I did not want to dirty up another pan. But, then I decided if I was going to do this thing I was going to go all out.

I am at home for Winter Break and my mom is in a new house. I have to get acquainted with the new kitchen ware. One particular challenge is the stove. Our old stove and my stove in my apartment at school are both electric. The stove in the new home is gas. Gas cooks differently then electric. Long story not so short, I burnt the chocolate using the double boiler method. Instead of trying on top of the stove again, I just melted the chocolate in the microwave. And I just remembered, I forgot the butter. Oh, well. Still tasty.

- I made an almond praline paste. I used a lot more than 2 Tbs, but I am not sure of the exact measure. I just put some sugar in the pain and almonds and then ground all that down to a paste and then threw it all in the crisp insert layer.
- I used Rice Krispies cereal. (I did not have the time nor patience nor extra eggs to make the crepes myself. In the future I will, I promise :-)

White Chocolate Chantilly
I love the combination of white chocolate and raspberries. Since I did the raspberry crème brulee, I thought it would be nice to so the mousse in white chocolate. I did not make the mousse however, because the recipe called for gelatin and as a vegetarian, I don’t do gelatin (it is made from animal bones—just in case you did not know and was wondering). So, I did a chantilly instead.

- It was not intentional, but since reading must not be my forte, I misread the recipe and but in 2 Tbs of corn syrup instead of 2 tsp.

At the end of day one, I put the crème brulee in the freezer and the Dacquoise, Praline Crisp, and Chantilly base in the fridge.


White Chocolate Chantilly (continued)
I only made the base for the chantilly on day one. Today, I whipped it up. It whipped up beautifully and though I added too much corn syrup it is not overly sweet.


Assembly went pretty uneventful. I placed the Dacquoise on the bottom of the loft pan, followed by Chantilly Cream, followed by the Crème Brulee, followed by more Chantilly Cream, followed by the Praline Crisp, and the last layer of Chantilly Cream. After which, I placed the almost completed loaf in the freezer to set up before the final two steps.

I had a lot of praline crisp left over. I would suggest cutting that recipe in half.

Milk Chocolate Ganache
I was surprised of the caramelized sugar taste you could taste in the ganache layer. I am glad I decided to follow the recipe, exactly, and caramelize the sugar.
At the end of day two, the entire loaf is in the freezer and awaiting icing on day three.


Milk Chocolate Icing
This is another element that called for gelatin. I did not have access to agar agar and truthfully, I am not sure I saw the need for it. So, I decided to just forgo the gelatin, not replace it, and just make a simple ganache. The ganache icing turned out just fine. Score another point for vegetarianism :-)
All in all great challenge and it was yummy. Though I am not a huge crème brulee fan. The rest was fantastic.

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

And that means COOKIES!

Making roll out and decorated cookies is always an event in my house. Prepping for days- Do I have parchment paper, decorating bags, time, etc... So, these cookies were 4 days in the making with a few hick-ups that I over came along the way. I will not get into the details; the wounds are still too fresh :-)... Just kidding.

But, I am so happy with the results. (And yes, I am in the middle of exam season. But I can honestly promise, exam study did not hender my cookie making... Opps, umm... I mean, Cookie making did not hender studying for my exam.... Yeah, that's it!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful for the Daring Bakers' November Challenge

This months challenge was truly special to me- 1) Because I have not made a true layer cake in so long, I forgot how much I feel in love with cake decorating. I cannot wait until I am closer to all my decorating supplies. 2) I never cook with butter. Going vegan a few years ago drew me to a baking margarine that I love and I usually use that. But, because we had to brown the butter I decided to use the real deal… Now, I can see why Paula Dean puts butter in EVERYTHING! Minus the negative cholesterol and blood pressure properties, it smelt and tasted so yummy! 3) I got to share this cake on Thanksgiving day (and the day after) with great friends.

This months DBer's challenge was a caramel cake and a caramelized brown butter icing. All information regarding the host, recipe creator, and the recipe itself can be found at the end of this post. But, I will delineate where I made changes (or had difficulties).

Caramel Syrup
This is only the second time in my life I have had to brown sugar in a pan. Once for the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream challenge in July 2008 and for this challenge. And in true form, I burnt the first batch in July and the first batch here. Just to see the difference, I have included this picture. Can you tell which picture is the burnt one? Exactly!

Also, after reading about having tons of caramel syrup left over, I halved the batch. That was enough for the cake, icing, and to pour some between the layers and on top with no leftovers.

Caramel Cake
I did make a few changes to the cake.
1) I used 1 ¼ cup cake flour and 1 cup all purpose flour for a lighter less dense cake.
2) I used rum extract instead of vanilla. I thought the rum would enhance the caramel flavor.
3) I used a home made cranberry puree between the layers. (Boil 1 cup water and sugar together in a pot. Add cranberries and let simmer until mixture is red, foamy, and the cranberries have burst open. Next let cool for 5 minutes and mash through a sieve to extract the juices and softened cranberry pulp. Lastly whisk in powder sugar to taste and cornstarch to thicken the puree.)
Caramelized Brown Butter Icing
Browning the Butter is a MUST! It releases some hidden flavors of goodness I did not even know butter had! I did not use all the powdered sugar recommended in the recipe and I added more cream. My icing yielded just enough to cover an 8 inch triple tier cake.

Challenge Info:
Helping Dolores ( host this month are Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food (, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (

The leading lady this month is Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater ( and her signature caramel cake.

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( Shuna Fish Lydon's recipe (

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I am a Pizzaiolo… okay Amateur Pizzaiolo

Daring Baker October Challenge

This month’s Daring Baker challenge was to make pizza. I am not a huge pizza fan, nor am I a big fan of yeast. But, once again I decided to dive into the challenge, because that is what a daring baker does :o).

I actually did not run into any problems with making the dough. I am actually itching to make pizza again and have dough in the fridge as we speak... um, read!

The first pizza I made is topped with mushroom alfredo sauce, broccoli, veggie “sausage” pieces, and cheddar cheese.

The second pizza I made is a dessert pizza topped with raspberry sauce, streusel crumb topping, and cream cheese icing. The icing was suppose to be a drizzle, but I accidentally tipped the bowl and it all came out. It looks a little lumpy but it tasted so good.
Be sure to check out the the other Daring Baker yummy pizza creations!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Baker’s Challenge was Lavashing

When I bake 99 times out of 100 it is something sweet, but this month two of our Alternative Daring Bakers choose something savory. The alternative part- vegan and potentially gluten free- did not shake me. I am pretty alternative in my baking and only use eggs when I have to. I never use butter. Anyway, the part that worried me the most was that the dish was savory. But I took the challenge head own, with great success might I add and toot my own horn… BEEP, BEEP!
Sesame Seed Lavash Crackers with Pesto Tofu Dip.

Lavash Crackers
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs water, at room temperature
- Sesame Seeds for topping

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough of the water to bring everything together into a ball.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter (or wax paper covered counter) and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 20 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should be satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Mist the a piece of parchment paper lightly with spray oil and transfer the half of the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Place another piece of parchment paper over the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is paper thin (construction or heavy weight “paper thin” will achieve a less crispy, but still tasty cracker). At these times, lift the dough from the parchment and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes.

5. Remove top sheet of parchment paper. Snipe of excess to make the dough fit onto sheet pan. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the dough and press-in by rolling the rolling pin over the dough. Using a pizza-rolling cutter, slice the dough into pieces. I did square/diamond shapes. Carefully lift dough and parchment onto baking sheet.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, in a preheated 350 degree oven or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart.

7. Repeat with other half of dough.

Pesto Tofu Dip
- 3 cups fresh basil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- chopped garlic or garlic powder: to taste
- salt and pepper: to taste
- 1 package silken tofu

In food processor:

1. Pulse together pine nuts and basil into a course but chopped-up consistency.

2. Drizzle in olive oil.

3. If using fresh garlic, add now.

4. The pesto part is now complete. The pesto should not be as liquid-like as a pesto to be served over pasta.

5. Add the silken tofu, cut into large cubes, into the pesto mixture. Pulse together until creamy.

6. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

7. Place in the fridge for a few hours to set-up a little more. Take out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes before serving.

8. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds for garnish.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time for baking, yet no time for posting!

School started and I have a moot court brief due on September 24th, in addition to all of my regular class work. Why all that info? To explain why below you will only see pictures, no recipes, and no witty stories.

Snicker Cookies
A mini snickers bar baked into the cookies, topped with honey roasted peanuts and chocolate drizzle.

Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes
Yes there is vanilla custard inside of each cupcake. Use you imagination :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Éclair Nightmare: Daring Bakers’ August Challenge

The selected challenge for August was Éclairs, specifically a recipe by Pierre Hermé from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan called Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé. Initially I was excited for this challenge. I have never made an éclair and I thought it would be fun. My schedule has been completely crazy with the return of law school classes two weeks ago. So, I do not have time to try multiple batches.

I made a raspberry pastry cream with fresh raspberry puree and folded in a little whipped cream to lighten it up. I glazed the top of the éclair with a white chocolate ganache. (I was going to make semi-sweet chocolate ganache, but with all the disappointment, I did not want to open a new package of chocolate to use such a small amount. I used white chocolate from a package already opened.) Also, if you have been paying attention you realize that I have been using éclair in the singular. That was deliberate and on purpose. Out of the two batches of chox pastry dough that I made, I only had ONE éclair shell that did not deflate. So, I filled and glazed that one shell and claimed completion of the challenge on a technicality.

Challenge #2 technically complete. I give my self a C+ for completion, but always an A for effort!

Photos of both batches of deflated shells.

One successful shell full and sliced in half.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Butter Milk that Wouldn’t Die (or The Bottomless Buttermilk)

I bought buttermilk to make the red velvet cupcakes. Buttermilk does not come in small sizes. The smallest I could find was 1 quart. I hate to let anything go to waste, so I decided to make something else using buttermilk. I know the obvious are buttermilk biscuits, but I wanted to make something sweet, not savory. Next, I used buttermilk and made a fabulous Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake. But wait, even after using it twice it still was not near empty. I was reaching the sell by date, and to be honest I past the sell by date. It still smelled and appeared okay, so I was determined to use the rest of the buttermilk. To make a long story short, I combined buttermilk in a recipe that I wanted to try for a while and ended up with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. But the kicker, I still had buttermilk left! I was too through with trying to make buttermilk laden recipes and tossed the rest down the drain.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Cookie Dough (click for recipe)

After cookie dough is prepared, roll the dough into balls. The larger the muffin tin, the larger your balls can be. Freeze the cookie dough balls.

Once you have made enough balls for the cupcakes. Bake the extra dough to use for cookies in the frosting and garnish.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
3 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup margarine (melted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Beat together the margarine, sugar, water, vanilla, and vinegar. Add in half of the dry flour mixture. Add in the buttermilk. Add in the last half of dry flour mixture. Lastly beat in the egg.

File each cupcake liner half full. Place a frozen cookie dough ball in the center of each cupcake. Spoon over the cookie ball a little cake batter. Use the back of the spoon to spread batter out evenly. Cupcake line should be 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Using a Texas sized muffin pan, I baked mine about 40-45 minutes. This recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.
Cookies and Cream Frosting
6 tbs margarine (room temperature)
2 tbs shortening
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
dash of salt
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Baked chocolate chip cookies

In the food processor chop the baked and cooled cookies. Set aside. Cream together butter and shorten. Beat in powder sugar, vanilla, and salt. If he icing is too stiff pour a little bit of the heavy cream (NOT whipped) into the batter. Beat until smooth and good icing consistency. After icing is smooth, beat in chocolate chip cookie previously chopped in food processor. Fold in whipped cream until combined.

Place icing on top of completely cooled cupcakes.

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cup + 4 tbs cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup margarine
3 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon juice and zest
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare one tube or bundt pan. (For me this recipe yielded an entire bundt pan and two mini tube pans).

Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat margarine with sugar. Mix in the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and the vanilla extracts, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Gently mix in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk; Start and finish with the flour.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes.
Lastly, to kick in some tart lemon test- mix in powdered sugar with lemon juice concentrate to taste. Pour glaze over the cake.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Bakers Challenge

First, lets say Woohoo! I completed my first daring baker’s challenge. Second, lets be real! This was so difficult. Honestly, I have seen the previous challenges. They did not look easy, but they looked manageable. Then after I sign up for the challenges, there is a heck-of-a challenge. If it was not for my mother visiting me and pushing me to take on the challenge, I would have been defeated before even starting. So, BIG thanks to MOMMY!

Now, about actually making the cake. It was fun and not as overwhelming as I thought. My favorite part of this cake- Praline Swiss Butter cream. Out of everything I made for this cake, the Butter cream will be the only recipe I foresee using again. It is unbelievably tasty and no too sweet like an ordinary butter cream. And that is from the girl who does not like ordinary butter cream at all.

Lastly, were my recipe deviates from the challenge recipe:
1. I used almonds instead of filberts.
2. The cake is suppose to be 3 layers. I halved the recipe however, and used a pan slightly too large for the half recipe. So, my cakes is only 2 layers.
3. Other substitutions might have been made based on my ingredient preference or realizing I did not purchase the necessary ingredient and I was mid-recipe. :-) All changes have been annotated.


(Almond) Gateau with Praline Buttercream
Adapted From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

All the parts needed to assemble the cake:
1 Almond Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with Grand Mariner
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Peach Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
Toasted, slivered almonds to garnish

Almond Genoise
1/2 cups almond meal/ flour
1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided 1/8 & 3/8 cups
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. grated lemon rind
3 lg. egg whites
1/8 cup warm, baking margerine

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 8" X 3" inch round cake pan.

Mix together almond meal, cake flour, and all purpose flour. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3/8 cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 1/8 cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another 30 seconds.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm margarine in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected margerine remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You'll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Butter cream
1 recipe Swiss Butter cream
1/3 cup praline paste

Blend 1/2 cup butter cream into the paste, then add to the remaining butter cream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.

Swiss Butter cream
2 lg. egg whites
3/8 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. margarine, slightly firm
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not over beat*. Set aside.

Place the margarine in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the margarine at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not over beat or the margarine will become too soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Praline Paste
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup Sugar (I used 1/4 cup by accident)
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Peach Glaze
1/3 cup thick peach preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
3 oz. (good) semisweet chocolate
3/8 cup heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
3/8 tsp. vanilla

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn't thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn't get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Divide the cake into 2 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline butter cream and set aside.

Spread the peach glaze over the bottom layer. Next, spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining butter cream. Moisten the cut side of the top layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the ganache.

Place parchment paper sheets under the side of the cake, ensuring that the cake board is adequately covered. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake's center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing. Remove the parchment paper sheets from under the cake.

To garnish, take a #32 decorating tip with the Praline Swiss Butter cream and equally space rosettes around the exterior of the cake. Place a sliver of toasted almond in the center of each rosette. Using the same tip place a star boarder around the bottom of the cake. In the center pipe a flower and fill in with left over almond praline paste.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red “as soft as Velvet and as smooth as Cream Cheese” Cupcakes

After the recent failures, I wanted to redeem myself. Of course, I am not the one to just throw together any old thing. So, I decided to take on the red velvet cake I have been planning to make for months.

After a long day, I was tired and though I wanted to make the cake, I did not feel like waiting for the cupcakes to cool completely to ice them. Not to mention, I did not want to pull out the hand mixer to make the icing. Then I thought what if I baked the “icing” right into the cupcake. I had momentary flashbacks to an episode of I Love Lucy where Fred made a seven-layer cake and icing all in one pan and it came out flat as a pancake. I decided to treat the red velvet cupcakes like the black bottom cupcakes I made in the past. The results were fabulous, if I do say so myself!

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Cake Batter
- 1/2 cup margarine (or butter) @ room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 bottle red food coloring (about 1/2 ounce)
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 5 tbs unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vinegar

Mix together the dry ingredients- flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the margarine and sugar. Once creamy beat in the apple sauce and eggs. Lastly, add the vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar to the wet mixture.

Into the wet mixture- Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and whisk until combined. Add in about 1/2 of the buttermilk and whisk until combine. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture whisk until combined. Add the last 1/2 buttermilk whisk until combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and which until combined. Set aside the red velvet cake batter.

Cream Cheese Filling
- 8oz cream cheese
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Warm the cream cheese in the microwave to soften. It should be soft and easily stirred with a fork, but not runny. Add the egg and vanilla and beat together. Lastly add in the sugar.


Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with the red velvet cake batter. Then spoon on (or pout) the cream cheese filling until the enter top of the red velvet batter is covered. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for nearly 40-45 minutes. When a toothpick is inserted in the center and comes out clean the cupcakes are finished. Also, the cream cheese will began to take on a slightly light brown color. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, drizzle melted white chocolate across the top for an added touch of sweetness and décor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Bad Baking Happens to Usually Good Bakers

Lately, my baking has been one disaster after another… Hence no post. However, I decided to at least let you in on the failed concoctions, but they did not last long enough to even show you visual evidence… So, sorry no picture.

Failure #1: On the food network, I saw a cookie challenge show and one of the contestants made a chocolate chip cookie with caramel Hershey’s kisses. I decided to recreate (or destroy) her cookie. Even though all the kisses were fully intact when they hit the oven, the caramel melted and oozed out all over the pan, making it one big sheet cookie of a mess. They actually tasted okay, but they did not look edible.

Failure #2: I wanted a simplified chocolate moose, more like a chocolate whipped cream. I found simple directions on-line. Melt the chocolate and fold into the whip cream with sugar if desired. Easy enough, right? Nevertheless, not within the bounds of common sense. Chocolate has a solidifying point of about anything under 93ish degrees. The whipped cream was fresh, just whipped from cold cream out of the fridge. Warm chocolate + cold chip cream= Whip cream with little solidified chocolate pieces in it. Not creamy, chocolaty goodness!

Failure #3: I made some homemade cherry preserves over the weekend and I wanted to wait for just the right dish to showcase them. I wanted to make cherry shortbread bars. All the recipes I found, called for grating the dough to make light bars. I don’t have an appropriate size grater, so I found a recipe that did not call for a grater and used almond meal as well. After I used all the margarine I have in my house and exchanged a little more almond meal for all-purpose flour then the recipe called for, I ended up with a big oily mess! Almond meal does not absorb oil the same way flour does, so by increasing the almond meal I made it impossible for my bars to absorb the margarine called for.

So, what have I learned from this experience- I have wasted 1 pint of whipping cream, 4 cups of brown and white sugar, 1.5 pounds of margarine, 5 cups of flour, and 4 evenings after work over the last two weeks- I should have just went to bed!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Best Way to Eat a Vegetable

The best way to eat a carrot is in cake!

Carrot (Cake) Cupcakes
3 cups all purpose flour
4 medium-large finely grated carrots
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/8 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Toss carrots in dry mixture until they are well coated (this will keep the carrots suspended in the batter and disperse them evenly throughout the cake).

In a different bowl cream together the sugars, eggs, and ricotta cheese. Add applesauce and oil, mixing until all ingredients are smooth and combined.

Add the wet mixture to the carrot mixture and fold until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full. Depending on the size, they will need about 20-25 minutes to cook. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 stick margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add in vanilla. Shift in powder sugar and beat until smooth. Refrigerate the icing for better spreading or piping.

Using a giant Texas size muffin pan, I baked 10 cupcakes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Just had to have the Almond Paste

I have been trying to expand my culinary repertoire. I have been using ingredients I am not familiar with and trying different combinations of food that I would not have combined on my own. Usually, there is something that just doesn't go right. Case in point, the cupcakes. I decided that I wanted to do almond cake. Almond extract was no good enough for me; I just had to go hardcore with the almond paste. I wanted authentic almond flavor.

Side note: Because I am in school and planning on returning home in less than a year, I refuse to purchase too many unnecessary or duplicate kitchen appliances. Therefore, I do not have a food processor or stand up mixture.

I cut the almond paste into large square pieces and use my hand mixer to break up the pieces per the instructions. Well, that was a fiasco. What little bit I did manage to break up keep flying out of the bowl. I am assuming this process would have been easier with a food processor or stand-up mixer. With traditional cake making logic, I kid you now, I though all I need is some liquid to break down the paste. After I added the sugar- not liquid- I added the ricotta, still lumpy; added the room temperature butter, still lumpy; added the eggs, still lumpy. Wet ingredients finished and I had a mixture that was the consistency of split pea soup (before it is strained). I used the hand mixer to beat the mixture as much as it could stand, but to no success. There were still a lot of small pebble size almond paste lumps in the batter.

I was hoping that the paste pebbles would dissipate as it cooked, like flour clumps usually do. The cupcakes came out fantastic, with little undetectable almond nuggets through out. So, it worked in the end. But I advise you to use a stand-mixer or food processor when preparing this recipe.

Raspberry Almond Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
- 1 stick butter
- 4 eggs @ room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 cup raspberry

Beat almond paste at low speed to loosen it up, then gradually add sugar. After beating for 1 minute add ricotta cheese and beat to combine. Continuing beating adding butter 1 tbs. at a time. Continue to beat for 2 minutes until fluffy, scrape down the side of the bowl when necessary. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract. Continuing beating for another 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and baking powder into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. With a rubber spatula fold in raspberries. Scope batter into cupcake liners, filling to about ¾ full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Icing

- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 stick margarine
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 box powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cream cheese icing. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"S" is for Syrup... but "B" is for Baklava

No great story here. I found some phyllo dough on clearance. So, I decided to whip up, or rather, grind out a quick baklava. I have made Baklava several times before, but this particular batch is not my favorite. I poured on too much syrup… Usually, I pour a little syrup wait to see if the baklava absorbs it, and then pour a little more if needed… Oh well, it is a little sweet, but still edible. You can find several baklava recipes on-line, so I will not post one here, particularly because I do not generally use a recipe for baklava. A little sugar here, a brush of butter there, and sprinkles of ground nuts.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pound Cake Frustration

So, I bought some fantastic strawberries from Trader Joes over the weekend. I forgot to but something to go with the Strawberries however. After two days of strawberries and whipped cream, I wanted something spongey and cake-like to soak up the strawberries juices. Since my class got out extra early tonight, I decided to run to the store to get the little sponge Hostess snack cakes. Well, the Safeway that was closest to my house did not have any. So, I thought I would look for a plain loaf cake or angel food cake in the bakery section. They did not have any. So, next I decided to try the Entenmanns’s baked good section for their pound cake. They had 4 different type of cakes with icing and 6 different types of donuts and donut holes, put no pound cake. So, then I decide to try and look in the frozen dessert section for a Sara Lee pound cake. Finally, there was something in stock, but they wanted 6 dollars for a frozen pound cake! I refused to pay that much. As a last option, I thought what about a cake mix. The last time I bought a cake mix, they were $.89 a box. A cake mix box of pound cake by Better Crocker was priced at $2.89. I was not going to pay that either. So after walking the entire store several times (and did I mention I even though of trying to make a strawberry short cake British style and use crumpets), I left frustrated and no closer to some cakey goodness.
When I first got home, I decide to just forget it. No cake for me. But that is not like me; I do not give up that easy, or more like it, my cravings don’t give up that easy. So, I decided to whip out a pound cake for scratch. So, this strawberry shortcake/pound cake answered that call. Pretty tasty if I say so myself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So far in '08

For my Birthday this past January I received The Cookie Bible. Though most recipes are not from this book, it inspired me to bake a different treat every week. With all the stress and time commitments of law school, the “Cookie a Week” Idea fell by the way side. However, I wanted to post the treats I baked the first few months of the year. So, this post is a tribute to all the treats I have baked in 2008 so far. For some of the treats I have misplaced the recipes I created, but enjoy the pictures and hopefully, I will locate the recipes soon.

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

** I was at home during Christmas break and discovered a Value Size bag of Craisin in a friend’s pantry. I got to thinking that they would be fabulous in oatmeal cookies instead of raisin. I am not a raisin fan. So, this recipe was born.**
2 sticks butter (I use a great baking margarine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs (I use an egg replacer to make the cookies Vegan)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups Old Fashion Oates
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups Craisins

Preheat over to 375F. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda then add to creamed wet ingredients. Stir in nutmeg, cinnamon, and oats. Fold in Craisins. Bake cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes.

Peanut Butter and Jelly BarsI wanted a Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookie. At first the only recipes I could find sandwiched the jelly between two already baked cookies. I wanted the treat to come out the oven complete. Luckily, I stumbled upon a great recipe by Ina Garten.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
** I like to take a simple chocolate chip cookie base and exchange or add to the basic chocolate chip part of the recipe. My basic Chocolate chip recipe follows with pictures of several variations on the basic recipe.**

2 sticks butter (I use a great baking margarine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (I use an egg replacer)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat over to 375F. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda then add to creamed wet ingredients. Fold in Chocolate chips. Bake cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet for 12 minutes.

Mint Chocolate Chip CookiesIn this variation I added 2 cups of Mint Chips to the basic Chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Holiday Oreo Cookie Cookies
In this variation I replaced the Chocolate chips with crushed Holiday Oreo Cookies (Oreos with red cream centers).

Kissable Cookie Sandwich
In this variation, I added Hersey’s Kissables to the basic Chocolate chip cookie recipe. Then to really make it special I sandwiched vanilla ice cream between two cookies and rolled the edge of the sandwich in chocolate chips.

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
In this variation I added 2 cups of Health Toffee Chips to the basic Chocolate chip cookie recipe. Since these cookies were for a special occasion, I dressed them up with drizzled melted chocolate.

Cheddar and Dill Scones**Have you ever tried a treat from your favorite coffee shop, loved it, but the next time you went back they did not have it? Take that situation and repeat it about 50 times and add the fact that the coffee shop is 30 miles out of the way. I really wanted this treat and finally decided to break down and make my on. Now, I will never be disappointed after driving 30 miles again!**
4 cups flour
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 lb cold butter, diced
4 eggs
1 cup cold cream
1/2 lb cheddar, diced small
1 cup fresh dill

Preheat over to 400F. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into the flour mixture. Add eggs and cream. Mix in cheddar and dill. Roll out dough to 3/4 inch thick on floured service. Cut dough into triangles, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash (1 egg + 1 tbs milk or water). Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Coconut Macaroons
**This was a particularly difficult week when it came to choosing a treat to make. Usually, an idea just over takes me without even trying and I fixate on what treat to bake all week. However, I could not get a feeling for anything this particular week. I eventually decided on this cookie because it was something different. They were fantastic- coming from a person who doesn’t like cherries and can only tolerate coconut.**

14 oz coconut (I used sweetened coconut and reduced the sugar)
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 maraschino cherry for each cookie

Preheat oven to 350F. Beat egg white with mixer until it starts to get foamy. Slowly add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until stiff peaks are formed. Fold in the coconut. Spoon cookie mixture onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place cherry half on top of each cookie. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Snicker Doodle Cookies
** I had the best Snicker Doodle cookie from a local organic foods store in Virginia. I could not find a cookie of comparable quality near school so I decided to make my own. I thought a Snicker doodle was a kind of obscure and little known cookie, but as soon as I made a batch I heard so many people say it was their favorite. I don’t have favorites, but this cookie is definitely high on my list.**
1 cup butter (I use a good baking margarine)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (I use an egg replacer)
1 1/2 cream of tarter
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
Topping: 2 tsp nutmeg, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tbs cinnamon
Preheat over to 375F. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tarter then add to creamed wet ingredients. Roll cookies into balls and completely cover in topping mixture. Bake cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
** These probably are my favorite cookies of the year. During Easter one of my friends gave up sweets for Lent. Her favorite Easter candy was Recess peanut butter eggs and she mentioned how this would be the first sweet to pass through her lips when Lent was over. This inspired by to want to make a cookie form of her favorite treat. The cookies are made from a basic peanut butter cookie recipe. The chocolate covering and decorating is done with Wilton candy melts.**

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter (I use a good baking margarine)
1 egg (I use an egg replacer)
1 1/4 flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F. Cream together butter, sugars, vanilla, egg, and peanut butter. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder then add to creamed wet ingredients. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours; overnight is best. Roll out cookies to a 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Bake cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. After cookies have cooled, follow instruction on Candy Melt package to melt candy. Decorate according to taste.
Brownie Bites
** Since I am in school and plan to return home in a few years, I try not to purchase to many kitchen appliances and bake ware. While at a recent trip to Wal-Mart, I noticed a mini muffin pan on sale for $.75… 75 CENTS… I just had to buy it! Then once I bought it, I had to try it out to make sure it worked. I made brownie bites to ensure the pan worked ;-). The recipe I used was from Bakers Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares Box, their one bowl brownie recipe. And just to put a twist on the brownies and to ensure people knew I made them and did not purchase them from the store, I drizzled melted white and milk chocolate on top.**
Valentine’s Day Cookies **For valentine’s day, I wanted to bake some special cookies to give a V-day trinkets to friends. I thought chocolate and sugar cookies were a great combination. I only make roll out cookies on special occasions. And just to put a special touch on these cookies, I boxed them in V-day boxes with a transparent window and tie red and white ribbon around them. Everybody deserves to get a beautifully presented, sugary sweet on V-day. I also rolled out some white and milk chocolate chip cookie dough and made hearts. Below is my basic sugar cookie recipe.**

1/2 cup butter (I use a good baking margarine)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (I use an egg replacer)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375F. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extract, egg, and milk. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder then add to creamed wet ingredients. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours; overnight is best. Roll out cookies to a 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Bake cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. After cookies have cooled, follow instruction on Candy Melt package to melt candy. Decorate according to taste.