Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins

This was a nice small-sized recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen. They use an 8" square pan but I made muffins and got 8 from the recipe. These had tons of banana flavor peppered with burts of chocolate. They probably leaned closer to being a cupcake than a muffin, lol. If you want to be healthier, just leave out the chocolate or swap for nuts. Simple, fast, tasty, perfect for lunchbox planning.

Maybe this makes me seem odd but I'll say it anyway. I am genuinely happy to know when others eat and enjoy the food I make, even if I'm not there to 'witness' it or to hear any compliments from it. Even the simple fact of knowing that my son will be eating a muffin at preschool which I have baked with love makes me feel closer to him. And of course it doesn't hurt when he proclaims to the world, "I love my mommy's cooking. She makes good bread." Way to make my day!

Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins
Makes 12 | America's Test Kitchen

2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (2 lg.) mashed bananas
1 cup (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chunks/chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8" square pan or line 8 muffin cups. Combine flour, powder and salt.
2. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and mashed bananas until well combined. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and combine. Stir in chocolate chips and scrape into prepared pan.
3. Bake 45-55 minutes (35-45 for muffins) or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before removing from pan.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ricotta-Topped Blueberry Cake

This cake is like a layer of not too sweet cheesecake on top of a dense, blueberry studded cake. A little reminiscent of danish filling in a blueberry muffin. The original recipe says to serve at room temperature but I found them also really nice after a few hours in the fridge, fully chilled. They cut nicely into neat squares and they also store well. These are a nice twist on cheesecake - lighter and more subtle. The cake base is like a dense, sweet blueberry muffin. I thoroughly enjoyed the cake alone and I would honestly be happy just eating the cake without the ricotta layer too.

Ricotta-Topped Blueberry Cake
9" Square Cake

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (5 1/5 ounces) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) milk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" Square Pan.

Batter: In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, oil, egg and vanilla, beating till smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the blueberries on top.

Topping: In a small bowl, beat the eggs till frothy, then beat in the cheese, sugar and vanilla. Spread this mixture evenly over the blueberries.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool to lukewarm then refrigerate to chill fully before cutting into squares.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

DB: Piece Montée, deconstructed

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I must apologize... I am under a ton of stress right now so I didn't make this the real Daring Baker's way. I did cream puffs and a separate batch of toffee that I crumbled into bits to sprinkle on top of the whipped cream/ice cream to serve.

My stress is due to a HUGE due date coming up - the final report for my Accounting designation. If I pass this (last year's pass rate was 70%), I will be done done done with school. I will be a full fledged accountant!

I really enjoyed making the choux pastry and wondered why I don't make it more often! It's one of those little things that brings a smile to my face as the choux pastry "magically" rises in the oven into a light, fluffy, hollow pouf that is ready to be filled with whatever you can dream up. I've seen them used in savory applications although I think being the sugar-addict I am, I'll stick to sweet fillings.

I filled these with a simple vanilla pastry cream and made a separate batch of toffee brittle (instead of the hard caramel sauce). I think I'm going to fill the extra puffs with vanilla ice cream and freeze them for anytime-treats. I used Martha Stewart's recipes for both the pastry and pastry cream.

Check out the DB blogroll for real awesome croquembouches, unlike my cheater version.

Choux Pastry
Makes 2 dozen | Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white if needed

1. Bring butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in flour. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from sides and a film forms on bottom of pan, about 3 minutes.

2. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium; add whole eggs, 1 at a time, until a soft peak forms when batter is touched with your finger. If peak does not form, lightly beat remaining egg white, and mix it into batter a little at a time until it does. Use immediately.

3. Using a large plain piping tip, pipe 2" circles of pastry onto parchment paper or silicone-lined baking sheet. They don't need to be spaced very far apart as they don't spread, they just puff! Freeze for at least 30 minutes or once frozen, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Bake from frozen at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Store air tight at room temperature. You can also freeze these after they are baked and then to serve later, bring to room temperature and re-crisp in the oven for a few minutes.

4. Slice them in half and fill with sweetened whipped cream or pastry cream (recipe follows).

Pastry Cream
Makes 1 1/2 cups | Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg yolks until smooth in a large bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium. Stirring constantly, gradually add milk in a slow, steady stream, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one third of the milk mixture into egg yolks (this step is called tempering, which keeps the yolks from curdling). Pour mixture into remaining milk mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

3. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Toffee Recipe from Recipezaar

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD Rewind: Lenox Biscotti (Almond Biscotti)

Today is my TWD 1-year anniversary! Almost exactly 1 year ago or just about. The cinnamon squares were my first TWD-bake. To celebrate, I have opted to do a TWD rewind and make something that was chosen before I was a member. Lenox Biscotti. Originally chosen on Oct. 14, 2008. It's still likely going to be 1 yr before I get a chance to pick, but I'm having a great time. Thank you all for being so awesome and inspiring and encouraging.

I love making and giving biscotti as gifts. They look gorgeous piled into a pretty jar, balanced on the rim of a coffee mug or simply wrapped up in a cellophane bag and tied with a brightly colored ribbon. They are always so expensive to buy from the store yet so easy to make at home.

There are so many variations of biscotti that I have yet to make the same recipe twice, however, I may make an exception for these Lenox biscotti (The Lenox is one of Dorie Greenspan's favorite restaurants in New York City) from her book, Baking: from my home to yours. I whipped up this batch to give to my amazing co-workers. They say I spoil them with my baking. I say, thank Goodness I have peple to pawn my baking off on otherwise I don't know what I'd do with it all.

The cornmeal in the recipe gives a nice little crunch. Unlike some biscotti, these are crisp yet not so hard that they are difficult to bite into. I enjoyed them even without dunking them in coffee or tea. I hope you try these. they are really delicious in a simple, no frills kind of way. However, if you wanted to dress them up you could easily drizzle them with melted chocolate. My quest for the perfect almond biscotti recipe ends here.

Lenox (Almond) Biscotti
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sliced almonds

1. In stand mixer cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal and add to the butter mixture. Fold in the almonds.
3. Scrape half the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a spatula and your fingers, form the dough into a log, 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Repeat with the second portion of the dough.
4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the logs are light golden but still soft to the touch. Let cool for 30 minutes but keep the oven on.
5. With a long serrated knife cut 3/4 inch slices diagonally from each log and stand them up, spaced slightly apart, on the baking sheet. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes until firm and golden. Store airtight for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Linzer Tart

When I pulled this out of the oven, my heart did a little jump because of how pretty it was. I was definitely proud to serve this tart and I got a lot of "you MADE that" comments because apparently it looked storebought!

The fragrant nutty tart pastry comes together in seconds and the filling is nothing more than simple raspberry jam with a splash of lemon. This tart is much more than the sum of its parts.

Linzertorte originated in Linz, Austria and is often served around Christmas. But... knowing me, I often make recipes out of season, like pumpkin cheesecake in the summer! This torte has stood the test of time since the 1700's with only a minor change that now many people include ground hazelnuts in the crust (I stuck to almonds though). Blackcurrant jam is most traditional but nowadays most common is raspberry.

The recipe comes straight from the book Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker. No alterations and none needed next time either except that her recipe makes one 11" tart but I made one 9" tart and a baby 3". They were soooo cute beside each other. Of course my 3 year old had the baby one and it was 'just the right size'.

Linzer Tart
11" Tart | Flo Braker

2 cups flour
2/3 cup dried bread crumbs, fine
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/4 tsp allspice (optional)
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
zest from 1 lemon

1 cup raspberry jam
1 tbsp lemon juice

Egg Wash:
1 egg, beaten

1. For Pastry, combine all dry ingredients. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and lemon zest then flour mixture until it comes together into a dough. Divide in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. You can also freeze it for up to 1 month and just bring to room temp before rolling out.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine lemon juice and raspberry preserves.
3. Assembly: Roll out 1/2 the dough. Line your tart pan with the pastry and chill for 30 minutes (or up to 1 day). Spoon preserves into pastry-lined pan. Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut dough into strips to form lattice. Arrange lattice strips on top. Note: Linzer tarts do not have the lattice strips interwoven, they are instead laid all one way and then the rest laid on top of them going the other direction or diagonally.
4. If desired, brush tart edges and strips with egg wash. Bake 35-45 minutes or until pastry is done and golden brown. Cool fully before removing from tart pan and serving.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sour Cream Lemon Snacking Cake

A bunch of great quickbreads or snack cakes are a wonderful thing to have in your baking repertoire. They are easier than cookies (no need to portion them into individual portions), faster than yeast breads (no rising) and healthier than cakes (usually) but just as pleasing. Sometimes simple is really best. This cake is not overpoweringly lemony or sweet. The original recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes: 100 Simple Recipes for Extraordinary Bundt Cakes, Pound Cakes, Snacking Cakes and Other Good-To-The-Last-Crumb Treats is sans poppy seeds but in my world, lemon and poppyseeds go hand in hand so I threw in a couple tablespoons. When I received this book in the mail from Amazon I was a little surprised at how small and thin it was. Don't judge a book by its size! Do not be deceived! I was soon blown away by the range and simplicity of the recipes that turn ordinary ingredients into everyday indulgences while staying true to the theme of simplicity.

The cake flour gives a particularly tender crumb but is not necessary (in my opinion).
**Tip** Re: Cake Flour: For 1 cup cake flour substitute you can use 2 tbsp corn starch to replace 2 tbsp of the flour in the recipe. Not as good as the real thing but better than subbing straight all purpose for cake flour.

Sour Cream Lemon Snacking Cake
8" Square Cake

1 cup sour cream, room temperature
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8" square baking dish. Combine sour cream, eggs, vanilla in a
small bowl.
2. In a separate bowl combine flour, powder, soda poppy seeds and salt.
3. Cream together butter, sugar and zest. Add in flour mixture and sour cream alternatingly. Drizzle in lemon juice and stir in just to combine. Scrape into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Cool fully then sprinkle with icing sugar or a simple glaze or serve plain.]

I recommend using the glaze recipe from the Lemon Ricotta Cookies for a sour-sweet punch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TWD: Bread Pudding Muffins

Bread Pudding. Judging by the name alone, I have always veered away from this dessert. The name Bread Pudding invokes images of British puddings filled with suet or soggy white bread. It is a real stretch for me to even conceive of such a thing as being appetizing, therefore, I have never had an urge to eat let alone make it. Given my existing mindset, this week's pick was a real challenge.

Until... a mental shift took place and a lightbulb went off: bread pudding is a lot like French Toast (which I love). The ingredients are essentially the same - bread that gets coated with an egg/cream/sugar custard mixture. All of a sudden I was inspired to get baking. Instead of a large dish I made mine into muffins. Some TWD bakers found the puddings a little on the dry side but baked as muffins, this was just right.

I served them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, a side of maple syrup and a mountain of whipped cream. They turned out pretty well and now the words "Bread Pudding" have taken on a slightly more positive image in my head.

Today's recipe was chosen by Elizabeth (blog: Cake or Death).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

Here is a little jolt of java, just right for a Monday! I had an exhausting weekend, working 13 hours on Saturday as an Elections Officer checking people's names/addresses and giving them their ballots to vote at our by-election. I have never been so exhausted from sitting down doing nothing. I think that trying to keep myself occupied (ie. not bored) was more mentally tiring than if I had actually had a lot of work to do. In between checking people in, I went through 1/2 a crossword book and read the first few chapters of Julie & Julia.

The coffee flavor of these is suitable all audiences - subtle enough not to bother those who dislike coffee but present enough to please those who do. It comes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. The easy caramel frosting (also from Martha) transforms them into Caramel Macchiato cupcakes! I opted for a free-hand style, using the back of a spoon to glop on the creamy caramel frosting and finishing them off with a chocolate covered almond or espresso bean.

Mocha Cupcakes
Makes 15 | Martha Stewart

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg

1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with liners.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and brewed coffee.

3. In a stand mixer, using a flat beater on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee mixture, ending with the flour mixture.

4. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool fully before frosting.

Caramel Frosting
Martha Stewart, November 2007

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 package (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, salt, and butter. With the mixer on low, slowly add cream; beat until smooth. If frosting seems too thick, stir another tablespoon cream into the mixture.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Abigail's Hotel Tomato Cheddar Loaf

It might look like my photos have too much red in them but this loaf really does have a reddish hue in real life! This loaf doesn't call for yeast, so it's a breeze to make. It is a flavorful bread that gets its moisture and reddish color from freshly pureed tomatoes. This is good enough to eat on its own but is also wonderful served warm with cream cheese and smoked salmon. I adore the way the sharp cheddar plays off the flavors of the tomato and sweet onion.

The original recipe calls for dill but I subsituted basil because tomato and basil are perfect partners. Like salt and pepper! The recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Bon Appétit.

Abigail's Hotel Copycat Tomato Cheddar Loaf
Makes 1 Loaf

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup seeded, drained chopped fresh tomatoes
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/2 onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat to 350 degrees F and grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan.

2. Combine tomatoes, cheese, onion, walnuts, and dill in medium bowl. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Whisk eggs, milk, and olive oil in another medium bowl to blend. Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Add tomato-cheese mixture and stir until incorporated (dough will be very sticky).

3. Transfer to prepared loaf pan; spread evenly. Bake bread until golden on top and toothpick comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool bread in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic, then foil, and store at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Surprise Muffins

Note: I'm so embarrassed by this photo - bad angle, poor lighting and the muffins are on a paper plate (good ole Royal Chinet! LOL). I was running out the door when I took this photo, snapping pictures before whisking these off to work.

The truth is, they are delicious. The soft, pristinely white-crumbed muffins contain a sweet dollop of cream cheese filling. The filling is an unexpected surprise and takes these muffins a notch above the rest. It provides a hint of cheesecake flavor and adds moistness while camouflaging itself into the muffin as it bakes. They are So light and fluffy you might even be able to convince yourself that they're a healthy diet food so you should eat 2 or 3!

**Tip** To reduce the likelihood of the strawberries disappearing or into the batter after the muffins are baked, don't mix them into the muffin batter. Instead, layer them into the batter in the muffin cups.

Strawberry Cheesecake Surprise Muffins
makes 12 | adapted from luluathome

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature lightly beaten
1 cup fresh strawberries, small dice

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese filling ingredients until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and egg until incorporated.

3. Using a spatula, mix the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Fold together until combined. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared tins. Scatter a few pieces of strawberry on top of each. Top with a tsp of cream cheese mixture, a tbsp of muffin batter, and finally a few more pieces of strawberry.

4. Bake the muffins for about 15 to 18 minutes, until they're golden on top and the middle of the cupcake is slightly firm when lightly pressed with a finger. If they're browning too fast, tent with foil.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Fresh Berry Tart

Strawberries remind me of my childhood summers. We used to have a big yard and my dad used to have a ton of strawberry plants which bore the biggest, reddest, best strawberries. He used to lovingly slice them and arrange them on a plate, each slice overlapping the previous one just-so. Served with sweet whipped cream of course! As a little girl I felt so special picking berries with my daddy.

With summer around the corner, this tart is my way of welcoming Mr. Sun. I have been so cold all year long, even wearing a scarf in the office! I am ready for some heat and a chance to wear some of the cute summer tank tops and flip flops I've been storing in my closet. Some women have a thing for shoes - I have a thing for flip-flops!

There are 3 parts to the classic tart: crust, filling, berries. The filling would normally be a traditional stove cooked pastry cream but I opted for an easier and just as yummy alternative - a white chocolate cream cheese filling. Reminiscent of cheesecake with a tangy sweetness from the interplay of melted white chocolate. It's less finicky to deal with than 'real' pastry cream (no eggs, no stove!) and absolutely delicious to boot. This made a great Mother's Day dessert. This tart is one of those desserts that appears way more time-consuming and impressive than it actually is. Love it.

The recipe this week was chosen by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine. See her blog for the original recipe. I have posted mine including adaptations below as it is quite different from Dorie's.

Fresh Berry Tart
1 - 9" Tart | heavily adapted from Dorie

Sweet 9" Tart Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk

1. Pulse together the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter cubes and pulse until resembles coarse peas. Add the egg and process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently/carefully knead.
2. Roll or press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.
3. Line the crust with waxed paper and pie weights then bake at 375°F for 25 minutes. Remove weights and bake another 8 minutes until firm and golden brown, fully baked. Storing: Dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. The fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer – it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Easy White Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

In a small mixing bowl, beat melted chips and cream. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Spread over crust and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Berries, Glaze and Assembly
2 pints fresh berries/fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)
2 tbsp apricot jam or strained raspberry jam
2 tsp water

1. Arrange fruit on top of the pastry cream in the crust. I find it looks best to put the tallest berries in the centre and taper out from there.
2. For the glaze: Combine jam with water then brush over the fruit. This keeps it from drying out and gives the tart a pretty sheen.

The tart is best served immediately but can be kept refrigerated for a few hours or up to a day (the only problem is the fruit juice seeping into the filling and coloring it).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I had to use up the 2lb tub of ricotta I bought from Costco, so here's another ricotta recipe. A definite winner, hands down! Thanks Giada!

These super simple cookies are light and cake like yet slightly chewy, sort of like an airy lemon sugar cookie. Really, these are tough to describe other than to say this: If you like lemon, you MUST make these. This is what it might look like if lemon cheesecake cake and pound cake had a child.

The sour-sweet lemon sugar glaze is a definite must. It gives the cookies vibrancy and a hit of sweetness that plays off the tartness. These cookies... "cake-ies?"... get better with age as the flavors meld together. I recommend that you watch the bottoms of these cookies carefully while they are baking. The tops stay really pale but the bottoms brown quickly. I also high recommend baking them on silpat silicone sheets or on the top rack of your oven or just being really careful and watching them like a hawk.

Note: Other reviewers on the food network site say you can make this with a combo of yogurt and cream cheese instead of the ricotta.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Makes 30 | adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese (don't use low fat!)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
1 lemon, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta, lemon juice, extract and zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

3. Line 2 baking sheets. Do not grease sheets. Spoon the dough (about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. (Watch the bottoms! The tops will still be pale but the bottoms brown quickly) Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 20 minutes. I put mine in the refrigerator because I was impatient.

4. Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let stand until glaze is set (or put in the fridge to speed this up this process).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake

Beneath a crunchy, nutty topping lies a pleasantly sweet, velvety cake layer. In between the cake there are wonderfully tender apple pieces and more streusel. It's also a good keeper. While it's not obvious that there's ricotta in this cake, it brings a depth of flavor and moistness - that 'je ne sais quoi' - to the finished product. With 2 whole apples I like to delude myself into thinking that I'm getting a serving of fruit when I have a slice.

This would be a great coffee cake to serve to guests as it stands tall and proud and slices beautifully. The cake filled my spring-form pan to the top and didn't shrink down even after cooling. I already have a ton of apple recipes in my recipe box but this one is definitely going to join my ever-growing collection.

Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake
9" Round Cake | adapted from Mostly Foodstuffs

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
2 crisp apples

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9" springform pan.

2. Streusel: Place the brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, cinnamon and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the 6 tablespoons of butter, and pulse until you can no longer see lumps of butter. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be done ahead of time).

3. Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Alternating the two, add flour mixture and ricotta until just combined. It will be a stiff batter.

4. To assemble: Spread half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel filling, and all of the apples. Spread the remaining batter of the top -- Glob spoonfuls over the top and spread gently. Sprinkle with the all the pecans and the remaining streusel. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about an 60 minutes. Cool before serving.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seeded Mustard Thyme Crackers

I've been baking more savory and healthy snacks lately. Maybe it's to try and get my son to eat more of my baking. The kid does not have a sweet tooth in the least. He would (honest-to-God) choose broccoli over chocolate. People often wonder how he could possibly be a child of mine seeing as I'm the kind of girl who eats dessert first if given the option (like at a buffet).

These sturdy crackers have a nice mixture of textures from the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, oats and whole wheat flour. There's no white flour in this recipe! They even TASTE healthy and that's not a bad thing! They are a little thicker than "thins" but they have an oh-so-satisfying crunch. With shredded cheese baked right into them, they are easy to pack for snacks. There's no need to fiddle with sliced cheese on the side when serving these, although you can never have too much cheese, so feel free top with sliced ham and cheese if you like.

Seeded Mustard Thyme Crackers
adapted from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 cup grated cheddar
1 tbsp dried thyme

1/4 cup butter, diced
2 tbsp shortening
4 tbsp milk
2 tsp dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Combine milk and mustard in a small bowl.

2. In a food processor combine flour, oats, salt, sugar and seeds. Add cheddar and thyme and pulse just to incorporate - don't overdo it, you still want the oat/cheese/seed texturedness.

3. Add butter and shortening and pulse. It should resemble coarse meal. Drizzle mustard/milk mixture into the food processor and pulse until it comes together slightly. Sparingly add more milk if needed, just enough to form a rollable dough.

4. On a floured surface roll out as thin as you can. Cut into desired shapes (I like squares) and bake for 5-8 minutes, rotating and watching closely as they can go from pale to burnt in seconds.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

This is the first ice-cream recipe I have made this year. My Cuisinart ice-cream maker is one appliance that I feel guilty for owning. I have way too many appliances and kitchen gadgets and with the weather here in B.C. this one sits unused in the back of my storage cabinet for 3/4 of the year. However, every time I get THISCLOSE to giving it away or selling it, a wonderful recipe like this one presents itself and makes me think that I just can't live without it.

It tastes unique but in a familiar and comforting way. Creamy, sweet and delicious. It was homey, dreamy caramel ice-cream with a twist. This recipe (p. 432) from Baking: From My Home to Yours was chosen by Becky of Project Domestication. The recipe can be found on her blog.

I'm already thinking about the next time I make these. I will add one or all of these mix-ins: Rolo pieces, Heath bar bits... perhaps a swirl of dulce de leche.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Whole Orange Poppyseed Loaf

Waste not want not. That's why I love this recipe. You use the whole orange in this cake! Yep, the entire fruit gets thrown into the food processor and pureed. I expected the flavor to be overpoweringly orangey but that wasn't the case. The cake was filled with refreshing sunny flavor and a nice crunch from the poppy seeds.

As you can see, the cake doesn't rise very high and doesn't have a nice domed top, but that doesn't make it any less delicious. This recipe is as easy and as quick as using a cake mix. Don't be tempted to skip the glaze. It's a sweet, sticky and really addictive. I think it will be making future appearances on all sorts of baked goods from here on out - chocolate cake with orange glaze anyone? orange glazed vanilla muffins? I think so!

Whole Orange Poppyseed Loaf

1 loaf | Adapted from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1 whole orange, well washed
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tbsps poppy seeds

4 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp sugar

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour a 1 1/2-quart loaf pan.
2. Using a paring knife, remove the little green stem from the orange skin. Cut the orange into 8 pieces. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the orange pieces (skin and everything but the seeds) and 1/2 cup of the sugar until pureed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, so that no large pieces remain.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Stir in the orange pulp. whisk in the melted butter to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds to combine. Sprinkle over the orange mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Make glaze while cake is baking: In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and sguar at a high simmer. Simmer until reduced by half. The cake is done when a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes before unmolding the cake onto the rack for glazing. Using a pastry brush, brush the hot glaze all over the cake while it is still warm.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

This pizza is one of the best things I've ever eaten and as most pizzas are, it's incredibly simple. Ranch dressing is an amazing accompaniment to the smoky bacon. Just a heads up: this pizza doesn't have any tomato sauce on it, just in case you thought you read the recipe wrong.

While there is no such thing as "bad" pizza in my world, I have yet to jump on the thin-crust bandwagon that seems to be taking over these days. The crust is one of the best parts of the pizza. A nice crust that can stand up to a lot of toppings is my preference. I like the simplicity and ease of the Canadian Living dough recipe from May 2007, but everyone has their go-to dough recipe, so use your favorite.

It is incredibly sinful and over the top, but just before serving, drizzle with Japanese mayo for a delightful tang and creaminess. Try it once and you'll fall in love. Japanese mayonnaise is made with apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar and a small amount of MSG, which gives it a different flavor from American mayonnaise made from distilled vinegar. In Japan many fried dishes are served with mayonnaise for dipping and it's also common to put it on pizza there. By the way, I didn't know that prior to my own experimentation. It just sounded good in my head, lol. Kewpie (Q.P.) is the most popular brand (clear plastic squeeze bottle with red lid, Kewpie doll logo).

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
14" Pizza | Dough from Canadian Living, May 2007

Dough for 1 pizza - homemade or storebought

1 cup cooked chicken (chopped) - I used cooked ground chicken this time
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped bacon
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small onion, thinly sliced (I like red onions)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll pizza dough out to a 12-14" round. Bake crust (no toppings) for 8-10 minutes. Prepare toppings during this time.

2. Combine the chicken, ranch dressing, tomatoes, pepper and bacon in a mixing bowl. Evenly spread mixture over warm pizza crust. Top with mozzarella then scatter onions on top. It will look like a lot of onion but the onions mellow out and turn sweet and fragrant in the oven. Cut back on the onion if you like though.

3. Place topped pizza back into oven for another 12-15 minutes until nicely browned and cheese is melted. Remove pizza and lightly sprinkle with parmesan (and Japanese mayo!)