Monday, September 27, 2010

Welcome September: Daring Bakers’ Challenge

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. We also had to incorporate the theme of September.

September means many things to many people. In the Northern Hemisphere we are headed into fall, so a lot of bakers used fall as an inspirations, such as leafs and acorns. In the Southern Hemisphere they are headed into spring, so a lot of bakers used spring as an inspiration, such as flowers, birds, and bees. And for other bakers September meant celebrating loved ones, so heart cookies rained galore. For me, September reminded me of the State Fair. I have been looking forward to the Fair coming for a year now.

So, to celebrate the Fair I made cookie lollipops in tribute to all that great Fair food! I can remember as a kid my mommy buying me a huge swirly lollipop, as big as my head and it took me days to finish it! So, I took this great memory and turned it into a cookie. I make decorated sugar cookies all the time, so I wanted to challenge myself to do something a little different. That is where the cookie-on-a-stick idea came in. I have always wanted to try it

Also, this sugar cookies recipe was different then my standard recipe. The challenge recipe did not use any leaving agent. (My standard recipe calls for baking powder.) I actually really liked how easy this dough was to work with and that the cookies did not spread during baking. Lastly, the cookie was firm enough to support itself on the stick yet soft enough to eat and enjoy. I have a new go to recipe.

Lastly, I took time to read through hours of materials on making royal icing. I definitely discovered a few mistakes I have made in the past: 1) I never mixed my royal icing long enough in the mixer (until it is light and fluffy with a matte finish), 2) My piping consistency royal icing was too firm and I could not get clean, straight lines, and 3) My flood consistency icing was too thin and contained a lot of air bubbles. So, in completing this challenge I solved those issues and I am a better cookie decorator for it.

So all in all a GREAT challenge with ABSOLUTELY YUMMY results. You can check out the other Daring Bakers’ creations at the Daring Kitchen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

5. Banana Pudding

The baking (or cooking) bug has struck again! I can cross another item off my Top 100 list. Having this list has definitely inspired me to create new and exciting things!

So, today’s adventure was truly a delight. I have made banana pudding several times in the pass, consisting of Jell-o pudding mix and Cool whip. But it has always been my goal to make a banana pudding from scratch. I thought making the pudding would be hard and hence why I have put it off. Yet, this recipe was easy to follow (and deviate from, which I did) and came together quite nicely. Making pudding from scratch is so easy; I will never use the box stuff again!

Most recipes for banana pudding consisted of a vanilla pudding or custard. I am still not sure why vanilla is the flavor of choice in a “banana” pudding. I like the banana flavor and think the fresh bananas are enhanced by a banana flavored pudding. Lastly, I did not want to do the traditional southern style pudding with the meringue topping. I am not a fan of meringue; so I topped the pudding with whipped cream (I found a recipe to stabilize the whipped cream with cornstarch as opposed to gelatin).

The pudding was good tonight after I made it and I am sure it will be even better tomorrow after it has had time to sit :-)

Banana Pudding
Adapted from Oh My! Sugar High

3 ripe bananas
4 large egg yolks
2 cups of half and half
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour (2 TBS of cornstarch in bottom of measuring cup then fill with flour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 box of mini Vanilla Wafers
Whipped Cream

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine flour, sugar and salt.

2. Add the egg yolks and slowly mix in half-half a half a cup at a time while gently combining with a wire whisk.

3. After about 4 minutes you’ll notice the mixture starting to thicken. Continue gently whisking for 2 more minutes until it’s nice and thick with little bubbles.

4. Add vanilla and banana extracts.

5. Remove from heat and set aside.

6. Assembly- Alternate layers of pudding, vanilla, wafers, and bananas, beginning and ending with the pudding. Top with whipped cream.

Stabilized Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat combine powered sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream until dry ingredients are dissolved.
2. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
3. Pour remaining heavy whipping cream into bowl and whip.
4. Stream in the cooled mixture from above and whip until stiff peaks are formed.
5. Top banana pudding with whipped cream.

Monday, September 06, 2010

2, 3, & 4 Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Meringue Buttercream

I accomplished 3 of my Top 100 in one Saturday afternoon. YAY Me!
2) A Birthday Cake for Mommy
3) Lemon Curd Filling
4) Swiss Meringue Buttercream (new recipe)

So now let us “chat” about this wondrous cake. I make a lot of cake for a lot of people, but I have never made a cake for my own mother. My mother is not really a cake person, but this year I asked her “Mom, what kind of cake would you like for you birthday?” Her answer and I quote “Lemon cake with lemon filling and a yellow icing.” I was thinking, wow, that is a lot of lemon all together. I tried to talk her into a fluffy white cake, so the lemon curd filling would be the star lemon flavor. But she wanted her lemon cake (and would have been okay with store bought filling… I wasn’t having that, however!), so she got her lemon cake. Lastly, I asked her to choose between two frosting recipes one with Lemon and one without Lemon. You know she choose the one with lemon. So, that explains why there are 3 lemon flavors in one cake. Oh and one last note, I wanted to break up some of the lemon flavors with a fresh burst of fruit like raspberries or blueberries. Mommy being a traditionalist wasn’t having it; she actually frowned her face up at the proposition and told me I could put them just on my piece.

The cake was lovely. There was a strong lemon flavor, but not overwhelming as I thought it would be. My mom took one bite of the cake and the first words out of her mouth were “It is not tart enough,” followed by “Its good.” See coming from my mom that is a compliment. She does not want me to get a big head, so usually whenever I bake she just tells me that the dessert is “fine”. So upgrading to “good” is reserved for things truly special.

This lemon curd recipe was divine! I am a horrible critic of lemon curds because most of them taste egg-y. This one did not taste like eggs at all. It was nice, creamy, and tart. Plus, unlike other recipes which used a whole carton of egg yolks, this recipe used 3 whole eggs, so no extra egg whites.

The icing was great as well. It reminds me of the consistency of an icing I used to get at my favorite dessert place back in California. I stopped eating desserts from there because I thought the icing was a stabilized whipped cream, stabilized with gelatin which I do not eat. But now I realize that the bakery used an egg white based buttercream. The lemon flavor was delicate and not overwhelming. Plus, the icing was not overly sweet like the “American” or shortening style buttercreams I have made (and don’t like) in the past. [Completely just a few items of my Top 100 have already taught me so much. I never knew there were different types of buttercreams.] I believe Swiss Meringue buttercream will be my new go to buttercream recipe!

Lastly, I know the candied lemon where just a garnish, but they were so good. The first thing I tasted on the cake was the candied lemons. From the pictures you can see five on the cake, but I candied seven lemon pieces :-)… I wonder where they went?


Lemon Curd

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tps finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick (6 Tbs) unsalted butter

1. Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.

2. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

3. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Lemon Cake
from Martha

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.

4. While cakes are baking, bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate. Stir remaining 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.

5. Using a toothpick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely. Prepare frosting, substituting 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice for vanilla extract. Frost cooled cakes and top with candied lemon slices.

Lemon Buttercream
from Country Living

3 large eggs egg whites
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1. In a large stainless-steel bowl placed over a pot filled with 1 inch of simmering water, place the egg whites and sugar. Use a whisk to beat the mixture until it is very hot to the touch (about 160 degrees F).

2. Remove from heat and, using a mixer set on high speed, immediately begin whipping the mixture until it is cool, thick, and glossy and has tripled in volume -- about 5 minutes.

3. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add the butter -- about a quarter cup at a time -- allowing 5 to 10 seconds in between each addition.

4. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy.

(5. Since my mother wanted yellow frosting I added a few drops of yellow gel icing color to the frosting.)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

1. Chocolate Soufflé

The first thing I conquered on My Top 100 list is the dreaded Chocolate Soufflé. I have heard rumors that soufflés are temperamental and easy to screw up, but I decided I was up to the challenge. I found a recipe on-line and it looked easy enough. So, easy in fact that I decided to make my soufflé after a long day of work when I was dead tired.

So after melting the chocolate, whipping the egg whites, genteelly folding the ingredients together, and baking for 15 minutes, I was treated to a delicious treat. There was a delicate crisp sugar halo around the soufflé and a light fluffy interior texture. It tasted like heaven, which is big coming from me. I am not a chocolate lover, more of a chocolate tolerater. It kind of reminded me of a much lighter and delicate version of a flourless chocolate cake I made in the past. I have never had a soufflé prepared by a true chef, so I have no comparison. But to me, mine was A+ material.

Chocolate Soufflé checked off the list!



1 oz Heavy Cream
4 oz Dark Chocolate
1/2 Tbs Butter
2 Large Eggs (Separated into whites and yolks)
Pinch Cream of Tarter
1/6 cup sugar


1. Using a little extra butter and sugar, coat the inside of the ramekins with butter and granulated sugar.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F).

3. Melt butter, cream, and chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Turn off hear once chocolate has melted.

4. Whisk the two egg yolks into the chocolate mixture. (The resulting mixture may look like the chocolate seized, but don't worry, it will smooth out once the egg whites are folded in.)

5. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.

6. Add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

7. Without over mixing, fold the egg whites into the meringue in 1/3 batches.

8. Pour the batter into the two prepared ramekins. (This recipe yielded 3 ramekins for me.) Fill them at least 3/4 of the way up.

9. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

10. Serve immediately and enjoy.