Saturday, February 27, 2010

DB: Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I made this tiramisu without any liqueur in it! I suppose if they sold alcohol in the supermarkets in Canada I would have bought some, but the liquor store is so out of the way (I'm not a drinker at all, I'm the cheapest drunk you will ever find, I would be sound asleep after 1/2 a drink - really it's true!) The end result was wonderful even without it.

I had a ton of fun making and putting together all the tiramisu components. You could buy the ladyfingers and mascarpone instead of making them if you want to save time. The recipe looks long and daunting but really it's very do-able and can be prepped in advance or in stages.

What impressed me the most was the consistency of the ladyfingers. I used to always buy them but after making them myself I now realize how much money I can save and how much better they taste homemade. I was a little nervous about the delicate batter sticking to the pan but there was nothing to worry about. I baked the ladyfingers on my non-stick baking mat (AKA Silpat knockoff) and it peeled off with no problems whatsoever. I did both piped ladyfinger shaped cookies as well as 8" rounds. I will likely use the extra for another tiramisu this week since the first one was such a hit.

I have never actually tasted mascarpone before so I don't know how this compared to storebought, but comparisons aside, it was delicious. Because of all the extra mascarpone this recipe made, I doubled the cream mixture and used it as a fruit dip. I brought the tiramisu to a get together where it was well received. I was feeling extra chocolatey so I added some grated chocolate between the layers and on top.

6 servings | The Washington Post, July 11 2007

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (I used strong coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (approx.)
cocoa powder for dusting

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

Call me crazy, but I'm not a big breakfast cereal person... and neither is my son. Cereal rarely ever makes an appearance on the breakfast table. It's more likely to be eaten dry from a Ziploc bag as a snack on the run. As a result, we always have leftover cereal lying around. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find this recipe.

Just like my Cake Crumb Cookies that use leftover crumbled cake, these cookies are a delicious way to use up stuff in your pantry. I love recycling! You could use any cereal for the cookies, whatever you have on hand or a mixture. The original recipe called for cocoa pebbles. I used lucky charms and I love how the colored marshmallows looked once they were baked in the cookie. Kinda like a smattering of sprinkles.

These cookies were on the thinner side as they spread out quite a bit. Despite how they look, they are not crispy at all. In fact they are really soft and chewy. They are the kind of cookie that would be difficult to go wrong with, even if you overbake them.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies
Makes 3 dozen | adapted from Recipezaar

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups coarsely crushed cereal (Cocoa Pebbles, Cheerios, etc.)
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream margarine and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix to combine.
3. With the mixer on the low, stir in crushed cereal.
4. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. COOKIES WILL SPREAD, so make sure you leave 2" in between.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for 3-4 minutes on the tray, then remove with a metal spatula and allow to cool completely on a rack.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Train Cake & Construction Site Cake

Happy Birthday Zachary! I love you more and more as each day goes by and your personality develops and shines through. I am constantly amazed and amused by the things you do and the talents you have. Thanks for sticking out the past 3 years with me :)

So... Today is my son's 3rd birthday. I still remember being pregnant, worrying about delivery, being HUGE and waddling around - lol. I can hardly believe 3 years has gone by and my baby boy will be starting preschool next week. I feel like the time is moving too quickly and I'm not doing enough of the things I should be doing for him. As (most) moms probably do, I worry that I'm not a good enough mother.

But for now... let's eat some cake!!! This year he was very much into trains. The Thomas set we have takes up way too much floorspace in our living room and has me constantly tripping over trains, but I guess it's worth it for the smile on his face.

How I made the cake:
  • Baked the cake 1 day in advance and refrigerated it to make handling easier.
  • Piped melted chocolate for the rail-road track.
  • I baked a regular yellow cake in 2 loaf pans and a soup can. To remove the cake from the can, just open the other side of the can and push the cake through.
  • For the engine I used 1 loaf. I cut off 2" from one end and stacked that on top of the loaf and held together with a skewer pushed all the way through. Level one side of the cylinder so it sits better on top of the loaf cake.
  • Used a marshmallow for the smoke-stack.
  • I cut the second loaf in half for the 2 smaller cars.
  • The circus car cage bars are finger-type cookies and the top of the cage is made from a graham cracker.
  • The wheels are Oreo cookie halves.
  • I frosted this cake with a no refrigeration needed frosting, recipe below. I fell in love with the consistency and ease to work with. It's not too sweet either.
  • The assembly took 3 hours (baking time excluded).

    I also made a second cake, construction site themed, for the party at his preschool. It was such a huge hit especially amongst the little boys who started digging at the Oreo "dirt" with the toy vehicles on the cake. Compared to the train cake, this one was a breeze. I used a sour cream chocolate frosting, recipe here.

    No Refrigeration Bakeshop Frosting
    Makes 3 cups | adapted from KittenCalsKitchen

    1 cup shortening
    1/4 cup powdered coffee creamer (Coffee Mate)
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla
    16 oz. confectioners' sugar, sifted
    1/3 cup water (approx.)
    food coloring as needed

    In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening creamer and extracts. Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar. Little by little add in enough water until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add food coloring until the desired shade is achieved.

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    TWD: Honey-Wheat Cookies

    Michelle of Flourchild decided on Honey-Wheat Cookies, page 81, for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. Check out her blog or Dorie's book for the recipe.

    Thanks for picking something I would normally not make. At a first glance, the recipe doesn't seem particularly interesting or appealing, but the result is a delicious and nutty little treat. They don't taste "wheaty" or "too healthy" and even my mom who is the most unhealthy eater I know, enjoyed these.

    I did make a few little changes:
    1) Added toasted, chopped hazelnuts
    2) Instead of dropping and pressing each cookie individually, I made the dough into a log, froze it then sliced and baked a few hours later.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Jalapeno Cheddar Herb Scones

    These were a success at work. I got people requesting the recipe! Please oh please don't be intimidated by the long ingredient list. Don't let that deprive you of the joy of making these. The pre-measuring takes the longest but the recipe comes together in minutes - before the oven's even done preheating! Cornmeal gives these tender scones a nice subtle texture. They are tasty on their own, to die for when slathered in butter and I also can't think of anything better to accompany a bowl of hot soup on a dreary day.

    Jalapeno Cheddar Herb Scones
    Makes 16 small or 8 large Adapted from Marcy Goldman

    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup cornmeal
    4 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tbsp dry mustard powder
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/2 cup butter, cold

    3/4 cup buttermilk
    1 egg

    1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
    1/2 cup frozen, fresh or canned corn
    1/4 cup green onions, chopped
    1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    2 tbsp minced jalapeno, no seeds
    3-4 tbsp sundried tomato pesto or tomato puree (optional)
    2 tbsp parmesan for sprinkling

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Combine all dry ingredients. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. (Can use food processor for this).
    3. Beat buttermilk with egg. Add liquids to flour mixture. Toss a few times with a fork then add in the remaining ingredients except for tomato and parmesan. Mix until dough sticks together enough to be rolled out.
    4. On a floured surface roll to 3/4" thickness. Cut into desired size squared or wedges. Dot top with tomato pesto/puree and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 10-20 mins depending on size, until golden brown and cheese is oozing.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Caramel Apple Sticky Buns

    This sweet-but-not-too-sweet bun is perfect for breakfast. The recipe is an adaptation of Pioneer Woman's version. They're like the love child of an apple pie and a cinnamon bun. Don't be put off making these due to making your own caramel for the topping. It's easy! The apples cook up tenderly in the oven, drenched in caramel, and make a beautiful and tasty topping when the pan is inverted after baking.

    Filling the pan with caramel and topping ingredients

    Rising in the pan - look at that gooey goodness!

    Caramel Apple Sticky Buns
    M2 - 9" Pans (24 small rolls) | Adapted from PW

    2 cups Whole Milk
    1 1/4 cup Sugar
    1/2 cups Canola Oil
    1 package (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
    4 1/2 cups Flour, Divided
    2 teaspoons Salt
    1/4 teaspoons (scant) Baking Soda
    1/2 teaspoons (heaping) Baking Powder
    3/4 cups Melted Butter
    4 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon

    1 stick Salted Butter
    1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
    1 Tablespoon Dark Brown Corn Syrup
    2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
    1 apple, Peeled And Finely Diced
    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    1. Dough: Heat milk, oil, and 1/2 cup sugar until warm (do not boil.) Allow to cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle in yeast and 4 cups flour. Stir gently and cover with a tea towel, allowing it to rise for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
    2. Caramel topping: Add 1 stick butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, cream. Melt over low heat until totally combined then boil for a few seconds before removing from heat. Set aside.
    3. Assembly: Roll out half the dough into a large rectangle. Pour on half the melted butter, half the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and half the cinnamon. Roll into a long roll, then slice into rolls. Spray 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Pour in half the caramel topping. Sprinkle diced apple and pecans over the top, then arrange sliced rolls all over the pan. Repeat with other half. Rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
    4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, covered in foil for the first 15 minutes. Rolls should be golden brown. Invert immediately on a serving plate. Cool slightly and drizzle with a simple glaze (milk & icing sugar) before serving.

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Chinese Peanut Cookies

    This recipe couldn't be easier. It's all done in the food processor. The results are a cross between buttery whipped shortbread and peanut butter cookies. This small cookie (about the size of a bottle top) is delicate but packs a ton of flavor from roasted and home-ground peanuts. The flavor of the nuts really comes through, so make sure yours are fresh.

    My mom thought they were really authentic, like what you can buy in Malaysia. Pop one in your mouth it will just crumble and melt into deliciousness. I don't know anything much about the history behind these cookies and I only discovered they were a Chinese new year cookie *after* Chinese New Year had passed (the same day as Valentine's Day).

    The recipe in grams but you could use a cup measure and base it on the ratio of ingredients to each other.

    Chinese Peanut Cookies
    40 cookies

    200g roasted salted peanuts
    200g all-purpose flour
    100g icing sugar (do not use granulated sugar)
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    Dash of salt (more if you used unsalted nuts)

    1. In a food processor grind the nuts to a fine paste or pulp. pulse together all dry ingredients.
    2. Chuck everything into a food processor, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil and blend at high speed until a crumbly, dry, short dough is formed.
    3. If the mix is still floury, add more oil gradually and keep blending until the "grainy sand" look is achieved and forms a solid mass if compressed. Don't add too much oil. Roll dough between your hands into little pucks about the size of bottle tops and place on a lined baking sheet. Brush each cookie with a bit of egg wash (1 egg yolk with 1 tsp water). Bake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

    Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche

    I am now officially totally infatuated with my slow cooker. Not because it helps me get dinner on the table. No ma'am. The newest reason my crockpot rocks my world is because for virtually no effort it transforms sweetened condensed milk into a decadent foolproof dulce de leche. 8 hours of crock pot magic and voilà - heaven in a can. This method makes it so there are no more worries about popping pressurized cans or watching the stove for hours and hours. The first time I made this I had no idea what to expect when I opened up the can. To put it mildly, I was nothing short of overjoyed. To little ole me, it was like magic!

    Now my only problem is deciding what to use my dulce de leche for - so many options!!! If you make this and remember, please rate it here at Dulce de Leche on Recipezaar.

    Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche

    1 can sweetened condensed milk, unopened

    1. Wash and remove the labels from your cans of sweetened condensed milk. Make sure the cans are undented and unopened.
    2. Stand your cans up in the slow cooker and pour water in to cover cans fully.
    3. Cook on low for at least 8 hours (I've gone up to 12 hours once when I forgot about the cans, results were still good). You could probably do this on high for 4-5 hours but I haven't tried it.
    4. Allow to cool fully before opening the can. Store in refrigerator.
    5. If you open the can and find that it's not golden enough (highly unlikely), scoop out contents into a saucepan and simmer on low until desired color.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Lemon Pound Cake

    This lemon cake is a little more involved than your usual quick bread. It's unique because it uses whole lemon sections for little bursts of flavor and for extra moistness it gets bathed in a soaking syrup and re-baked. The recipe is from Bill Yosses, coauthor of the book Desserts For Dummies and the White House Executive Pastry Chef.

    My shameful confession: I used bottled lemon juice for part of this recipe! Yes, the stuff in the lemon-shaped plastic container. It still tasted great though!

    Lemon Pound Cake
    2- 9" x 5" loaves | Bill Yosses via Martha Stewart

    4 whole lemons
    2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 cup heavy cream
    6 large eggs
    11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 cup granulated sugar

    2 cups confectioners' sugar
    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two loaf pans and line with parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet; set aside.

    2. Grate zest from lemons; set aside. Remove white pith from lemons. Hold one lemon over a bowl, and cut between the membranes into sections, allowing sections and any juice to fall into bowl. Squeeze juice from membrane. Repeat with remaining 3 lemons.

    3.Sift flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin mixing on low speed, then add heavy cream. Increase speed to medium, and beat in eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition, then beat in butter. Add lemon segments, juice, and grated zest. Beat for about 30 seconds to combine and break up lemons a bit. Transfer to prepared pans.

    4.Bake for 25 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut an incision lengthwise down middle of each cake (scoring the cake). Return to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes more depending on the pans. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Do not turn off oven.

    5.Make soaking syrup: In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice and sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

    6.Unmold cakes and transfer to a large baking dish. Pour soaking syrup over cakes, and very gently squeeze the cakes to help syrup absorb. Carefully turn cakes upside down in syrup, and squeeze a bit more. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack, and place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Do not turn off oven.

    7.Make glaze: In a small saucepan, combine confectioners' sugar and lemon juice. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until sugar dissolves and forms a thick glaze, about 1 minute. Pour over cakes, and return to oven for 30 seconds to set glaze. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    TWD: Creamsicle Blondie Bites (aka. My Best CCC's)

    Kait of Kait's Plate chose this week's TWD recipe, what Dorie Greenspan calls, "My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies" on p. 66 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

    I felt like exercising my creativity this week so I omitted the nuts, used white chocolate chunks, added 1 tbsp orange zest and baked this in mini-muffin tins. I also made sure to clock-watch obsessively so I wouldn't overbake them. The result was a Creamsicle Flavored 2-Bite Blondie! I was really pleased with the results - very moist and chewy with a slightly crispy top and just the right balance of vanilla/orange. I made regular drop cookies with the last few tablespoons of dough, but I prefer the denser, richer texture of the blondie bites.

    Be sure to spray your mini-muffin tins well and to remove the bites before they are fully cooled otherwise the chocolate hardens and sticks to the pan making removal a bit of a pain. I have posted the (adapted) recipe below because I made so many changes. For the original, check out Kait's blog (link above).

    Creamsicle Blondie Bites
    30 bites | Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    3/4 tsp baking soda
    1 cup butter, room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup light brown sugar
    2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1 tbsp orange zest (feel free to use more if you want)
    2 large eggs
    12 oz white chocolate chips or chunks

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease 24-36 mini muffin tins.

    Combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla and zest. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand, mix in the white chocolate.

    Press the dough into mini muffin tins. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. If they are slightly underbaked that's okay, it gives more of a moist/fudgy texture. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around each blondie bite and transfer to a cooling rack. Store air-tight.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Japanese Cotton-Soft Cheesecake

    This cheesecake really lives up to it's name. It is extremely fluffy and soft and completely unlike any of the dense, creamy North American cheesecaks we are used to. I've noticed that most Asian desserts are far less sweet than Western desserts.

    Japanese Cotton-Soft Cheesecake
    Makes 1 - 8" cake | adapted from Diana's Desserts

    140g/5 oz. sugar
    6 eggs, separated
    1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
    50g/2 oz. butter
    250g/8 oz. cream cheese
    100 ml/3 oz. milk
    2 tbsp. lemon juice
    60g/2 oz. cake flour
    20g/1 oz. cornstarch
    1/4 tsp. salt

    1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool. Fold in the flour, cornstarch, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.

    2. Whip egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the cream cheese mixture.

    3. Pour into a lightly greased 8-9" round pan and bake at 325 degrees F in a water bath for 70 minutes or until set and golden brown.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Creamy Chicken Ranch Pizza Bites

    Today the 2010 Winter Olympic torch is coming through our city - Coquitlam!!! This calls for a celebration! How about some pizza bites?

    I love these golf-ball-sized mounds of melted cheese enveloped in a golden layer of pizza crust. They are the perfect size for munching on and are simply fantabulous even without any dip. You can use whatever fillings you like or whatever you've got in your fridge. Mayo and cream cheese are favorites of mine because they make the bites so moist and rich, but feel free to use just mozzarella.

    A half batch of the pizza dough (enough for one pizza) is just the right amount for one pan of these bites (about 24 pieces). I use the other half of the dough for pizza pretzels or you could make up an extra tray and freeze it until you want to bake them at a later date. I have been meaning to make them since I saw them on Pillsbury's website. I stole the idea but adapted it quite heabily by making my own dough instead of using the canned stuff and switching the fillings. They look time consuming but don't take much longer to assemble than a regular pizza. Besides, they're so darn cute it's worth your while.

    Creamy Chicken Ranch Pizza Bites
    Makes 24 bites

    1/2 batch pizza dough (enough for 1 pizza)

    4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
    1 cup cooked, shredded chicken breast
    1 pkg powdered ranch mix or onion soup mix
    1/2 cup mayo
    1/4 cup cream cheese
    1/4 cup milk

    Olive oil, for brushing
    Italian seasoning
    Grated Parmesan

    Cream together cream cheese and ranch/onion mix. Add mayo and milk to form a smooth thick sauce. Stir in mozzarella and chicken. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate or cake pan (I used a spring form). Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Take one of the dough pieces, flatten it and top it with a heaping teaspoon of filling. Pull the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch closed. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

    Lightly brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm with pizza sauce for dipping.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Brown Sugar Cream Apple Pie

    Here's an unusual twist on apple pie which I found on the Pillsbury website. As is the case with chocolate chip cookies, everyone has their favorite recipe for apple pie and there seem to be a million versions floating around. Personally, I love variation and have yet to meet an apple pie that I didn't like. This one here features a creamy brown-sugar filling that contrasts beautifully with the tart, crisp apples. It reminds me a little of caramel apples. Usually I like my pie with vanilla ice cream but this one needed no such accompaniment. It was good enough to stand alone.

    From start to finish this only took me 1 hour including baking time! I highly recommend granny smiths in this recipe as the filling is quite rich and using a sweeter apple might make this pie a little too sweet.

    Brown Sugar Cream Apple Pie
    Makes 1 - 9" pie | Adapted from Pillsbury

    Pastry for double crust pie

    Cream Layer
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup whipping cream
    1/4 cup butter or margarine
    1 tbsp cornstarch
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 cup whipping cream

    Apple Layer
    3-4 tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/2 cup icing sugar
    5 to 6 teaspoons whipping cream

    1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare enough pie crust for a double crust pie. In a small saucepan cook brown sugar, 1/2 cup whipping cream and the butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and butter is melted.
    2. In small bowl, stir cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 cup whipping cream until smooth. Add to mixture in saucepan; cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes.
    3. In a separate bowl combine apple layer ingredients. Pour cream layer mixture into crust-lined pie plate. Arrange apple layer mixture evenly over cream layer.
    4. Cover the pie with the other half of your pie dough. Brush with egg wash or milk if desired. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and apples are tender, covering edges of crust after first 15 minutes of baking. Cool 1 hour.
    5. In small bowl, stir together glaze ingredients. Drizzle over pie. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Keep pie refrigerated.

    Cranberry Almond Granola

    Upon request from my sister, I made this super-easy granola using a modified recipe from Alton Brown (Good Eats, Food Network). My sister is one of those lucky people who can eat whatever she wants, not exercise and still look amazing. (I've always envied her for this!) Until recently, she never cared what she ate but now she's starting to eat more healthfully. I'm not sure if it's appearance/weight related or if it's just to be healthy, but either way, the change in her eating has me looking for whole grain recipes, substituting in whole wheat flour and making things like granola, which I've never made before.

    This granola has the perfect amount of crunch. It also sticks together a bit so you have lovely clusters of granola and nuts that are super addictive to munch on. My son kept asking for more granola too and between the 2 of them, the whole batch was polished off in 2 days!

    Cranberry Almond Granola
    Adapted from Alton Brown


    3 cups rolled oats
    1 cup slivered almonds
    1 cup cashews
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup melted butter
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup craisins


    1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts and brown sugar.
    3. In a separate bowl, combine honey, butter, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
    4. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add craisins and mix until evenly distributed. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    TWD: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

    Pardon the blurry picture, I was in a bit of a rush. My son got to have one of these for breakfast (hence the green froggy bowl in the picture). Im not fussy about what he eats as long as he eats something. My doctor told me that kids are smart that way - they know what they need and one week they might eat ONLY bread but then another week they might eat only meat and it ends up working out in the end. Our only responsibility as parents is to offer a variety of each food group at every meal and set good examples by eating a balanced diet ourselves. So there, I justified giving my kid a brownie for breakfast :)

    They are great even without nuts! I think nuts would detract from their deliciousness. They are fudgy and moist, not cakey. I baked mine in a larger tray so they are thinner than a lot of the other TWD bakers' brownies this week. Mainly so they would bake faster and therefore I could eat them faster. Tsk tsk shame on me :)

    I wish the picture could show you how dense and moist these are. Fudgy, dense, intensely chocolaty. For the recipe check out the host of this week's TWD: Tanya of Chocolatechic.

    ***TIP*** Use a plastic knife to cut brownies. The slippery surface of the plastic helps you get cleaner cuts. Some plastic knives can be quite sharp, depending on the serrations. Choose a sharp plastic knife if possible.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Orange Sour Cream Cake

    Here we have another winner from the Canadian Living Baking Book - A refreshing cake for sunny days ahead. I find it amusing how this winter Vancouver is hosting the 2010 olympics and yet this year is one of the warmest winters compared to the past few years. They have to transport snow from one part of BC to another for the games! One of our mountains even had to be closed due to lack of snow. Sooo... I guess this sunny cake is quite fitting for the weather!

    This cake is wonderfully orangey and so moist. I used fat free sour cream because I bought the wrong tub by accident (Argh!) and it still turned out excellent. I usually go for fat free products when I'm not baking, but for baked goodies I rarely skimp on the full fat (and full flavor) stuff. Oh yea, I am one of those inconsistent people who orders fries with a diet coke. Actually, the truth is that I like the aftertaste of aspartame and without that aftertaste it seems like something is missing.

    On a side note, I wish I were as talented as Elizabeth Baird, Executive Food Editor of Canadian Living Magazine and was the magazine’s food editor for more than 20 years. She is Canada’s expert on Canadian cooking and I am so envious of her job.

    Orange Sour Cream Cake
    1 Bundt | Adapted from Canadian Living

    1 cup butter, softened (250 mL)
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (300 mL)
    4 eggs, separated
    1 tbsp orange zest (15 mL)
    1 tsp vanilla (5 mL)
    2 cups all-purpose flour (500 mL)
    1 1/2 tsp each baking powder (7 mL) and baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt (2 mL)
    1 1/2 cups sour cream (375 mL)

    1/4 cup granulated sugar (125 mL)
    1/4 cup orange juice (125 mL)

    1. Grease a Bundt or tube pan; dust with flour. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter with 1 cup (250 mL) of the sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in orange rind and vanilla.

    2. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture alternately with sour cream, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of sour cream. In separate bowl and with clean beaters, beat egg whites until frothy; beat in remaining sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third into batter; fold in remainder. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top.

    3. Bake in centre of 325°F oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Turn out onto rack.

    4. Syrup: Meanwhile, in small saucepan, bring sugar, orange juice to boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced about 7 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Brush over warm cake. Let cool. (Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature for up to 1 day or overwrap in heavy-duty-foil and freeze for up to 1 month.)

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Pie Dough Apple Strudel

    This is almost exactly like an apple pie, just in strudel form/shape. I think the dried fruit in this recipe really makes it pop, providing a nice contrast between tender apples, flaky pastry and chewy craisins. It also travels really well and can be eaten without a fork, unlike traditional apple pie. It's not as pretty, but I can live with that.

    I used my favorite apples: granny smith. A lot of people find them too tart to be eaten out of hand but I love their bite and sharp, juicy crispness. Perfect for pie too!

    Pie Dough Apple Strudel
    12 servings | Marcy Goldman of

    2 cups flour
    1 tbsp sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 cup shortening, cold
    1/2 cup butter, cold
    4-6 tbsp ice water

    6 cups sliced apples
    1/2 cup dried cranberries and/or dried chopped apricots
    1 1/4 cup sugar
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1 tbsp cornstarch
    1 tbsp lemon juice

    Combine dry pastry ingredients. Pulse in shortening and butter until resembles coarse crumbs. Pulse in ice water, just enough to form a dough that holds together. Refrigerate covered at least 1 hr or up to overnight.

    Toss all filling ingredients together in a large bowl.

    Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll out each one out as thin as you can, about 9 x 12 inches. Transfer to rimmed cookie sheet. Spread 1/2 filling down the long end of each. Roll up, flattening slightly. It's ok if some fillig peeks through. Cut slits down the length of each to vent apples. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

    Bake at 375F for 25 minutes, rotate pan then bake another 20 minutes at 350F or until golden brown and filling is bubbly.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Cake Crumb Cookies

    Over the weekend I found a great way to use up leftover cake from leveling cake layers or cake that is starting to dry up. Make them into cookies!!! I have successfully also made this recipe using day-old muffins. Just add more sugar depending on how sweet your cake/muffin crumbs are to start. These cookies are soft, spicy and open to variation. Add more milk if your dough seems dry.

    The best part about these cookies is that you can't even tell they are "recycled". It's kinda like the sweet version of using up leftovers in a casserole. The original recipe is from ICES - the International Cake Exploration Société.

    Cake Crumb Cookies
    Makes 48

    2 eggs
    1 cup milk
    5-7 cups cake crumbs
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup margarine, melted
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice or oats
    1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Crush cake into crumbs in a food processor.
    2. Beat eggs and milk then add cake crumbs and let stand 15 minutes.
    3. Blend in sugar, margarine and vanilla.
    4. In a separate bowl sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and spices and add to sugar mixture. Fold in remaining ingredients.
    5. Drop by the tablespoonful on greased cookie sheets. Flatten to about 1/3" thick. These cookies do not spread so you can space them close to each other.
    6. Bake 10-15 minutes until edges and bottoms are golden. They won't brown much overall. Store airtight.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    TWD: Milk Chocolate Bundt Cake

    This week Kristin of the blog "I’m Right About Everything" picked Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes, pages 188 and 189. Check out her blog for the recipe.

    I don't have mini Bundt cake pans and despite how cute mini pans are, I don't have any more cupboard space for cake pans. If I did - WHOA that would be a whole new story - I would own every pan under the sun including the Wilton giant cupcake pan, the Williams-Sonoma sandcastle, mini-Bundts, etc. You know how in Sex and the City, the women want really big closets, well, I would love a really big kitchen instead! With a double-oven and a separate wok-kitchen.

    For this week's recipe, I doubled the recipe and added chunks of chopped up caramel covered chocolates to the walnut chocolate streusel in the middle of the cake. I also used a simple ganache to ice the cake. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the cross-section of the cake since my mom brought the whole thing to work for a department meeting. I didn't get a chance to taste it so I'll just have to trust that it was delicious and read about it on other TWD Blogs. I did notice that the texture was nicely tight-crumbed and I had no Bundt pan sticking issues. I wonder if anyone did a white chocolate version. Hm... something more to add to my "to bake" list.