Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

Yesterday was my Earned Day Off (EDO). At work we have this program where you can opt to work an extra 25 mins/day and then you get one paid day off per month. I love EDO's because I drop my son at daycare then go shopping or bake or just do what *I* want. Yesterday I drove down to Bellingham, WA by myself for a quickie shopping spree. I raised quite a few suspicions from the border guards, probably because I was travelling alone and because it was a workday. Americans have the best selection of food - and cheap food at that! Whenever I go to the states I always come back armed with loads of dairy - yogurt, cheese, eggs, cream cheese, ice cream - for baking.

The timing of this Tuesday's with Dorie recipe for "Perfect Party Cake" couldn't have been better. One of my favorite co-workers will be leaving our office and today was her last day so this cake served as a farewell cake.

I halved the recipe and made a modified-tiered cake because I didn't want a huge amount of cake. The top layer is a raspberry swirl "little fella" cheesecake from the famous Junior's Cheesecakes in New York. The recipe is from the Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook. The recipe for the little fella's is here. I strongly recommend making them. You won't be sorry :) The book is great if you are a cheesecake lover. I've never tried the originals because I've never been to New York but the recipes in the book are sure yummy!

Dorie wasn't exaggerating when she said this cake is very easy to cut into layers and frost. The texture is gorgeous and I liked how festive it looked all dressed up (even though I did this at midnight only half-awake after I put my son to bed). Unfortunately, I didn't care much for the taste. I don't know if I would make it again, however, if I did I think I might try a whipped cream cheese frosting instead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Twisted Wheat Rolls

I made these whole wheat twisted rolls on the weekend. The recipe is here, except I didn't use a breadmaker. I'm impressed at how pretty they look in a basket on the table by a steaming pot of soup and a lush green salad. The book I bought in L.A. by Wayne Gisslen (le Cordon Bleu) on Professional Baking shows a multitude of ways to shape rolls. I am in love with making yeast breads - the magic of rising and shaping and baking. I'm not into the artisan style (yet). I have more cinnamon bun and sticky bun recipes than I know what to do with. Whenever I come across a new one I print it out and make a note to try it next time. Does anyone have a good filing system for recipes they have printed or clipped from magazines?

Unfortunately I had to skip this week's Tuesday's with Dorie challenge - Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise. I was busy with appointments (I had a bone density scan done. Cross your fingers for no osteopenia/osteoporosis!) and was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day. The silly thing is that the actual appointment was only 20 minutes but the travel time was 1.5 hours each way.

I really dislike working with either only egg yolks or only egg whites. I like the whole egg as a package! I never know what to do with the leftover yolks/whites and I hate throwing them away. I guess I could have done a pastry cream or maybe ice-cream, but given how tired I was, the dacquoise had to be forgone. Regarding coconut, I have tried to cultivate a taste for it but for some reason I cannot get past the texture. Mind you, I've never tried a fresh coconut, but the texture of the dessicated/flaked/dry coconut from the store is not a favorite of mine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ice-Cream Cake

I'm a total daddy's girl. My dad is awesome. He's a quiet, soft-spoken guy who will do anything for his family. While my mom and I go head to head and battle it out, my dad and I rarely fight. To me, fighting with him would be like kicking a puppy because he's such a nice guy. It's funny how Mother's day seems like a much bigger deal than Father's day. I would guess that people probably spend more on their moms than on their dads, maybe because dads are more easygoing. I know my mother would get really upset if Ii don't make the day feel special enough for her, but my dad is just happy to go out for dinner as a family and have some cake.

For Father's Day I made a heart shaped ice-cream cake. The base is made out of chocolate chip cookie. The layers are: Rolo ice cream, mini Rolo candy pieces, a thin layer of vanilla ice cream followed by another layer of Rolo ice cream.The whole thing was so easy to throw together. The only thing I would change next time is to make a brownie crust or an Oreo cookie crumb crust because the chocolate chip cookie was a little difficult to cut through after being frozen.

I also made these super-cute sugar spirals. They are similar to spun sugar but less messy and easier to work with and keep.

Caramel Sugar Decorations

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar


1. Dissolve sugar in water. Bring to a boil. Stir in cream of tartar. Brush side of pot with cold water occasionally to clean sugar crystals from building up. Continue to heat sugar to 312 degrees F or to desired caramel stage. Immediately plunge bottom of pot in ice water to stop the cooking.

2. Decorations are made by drizzling caramel sugar onto parchment paper in a decorative fashion. Let cool. Reserve. Spun sugar is made by drizzling sugar with a fork over a wooden spoon handle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lemon Loaf

I have started to build up a pretty good reputation for my baking abilities. I'm starting to think that my dream of baking professionally or owning a bakery might not be a total impossibility. If I won the lottery I would open a bakery or tea-shop where I could showcase all my baking.

Much to my surprise, I was asked by a co-worker if I would bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a lemon loaf for a gathering she was having and she offered to pay me. I was worried about what to charge her. I get embarrassed around asking people for money or putting a value on my baking. In the end, she gave me double the amount I asked for, saying that you couldn't even buy the quality of baked items that I make, so it was a great deal for her. She also asked me if I would do the dessert catering for her grandson's baptism in July! I am so excited about this opportunity and also hellishly nervous as I've never undertaken something like this before. What should I make that will appeal to both kids and adults? I hope it all goes smoothly.

This recipe is supposed to be a copy-cat Starbucks lemon loaf recipe. I've never tried Starbucks' loaf, but all I know is that this one is moist and delicious in its own right. On a side note, does anyone have a recipe for Starbucks Lemon Raspberry loaf? If you do, please send it my way.

Lemon Loaf
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temp
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup oil
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon juice with a mixer until blended.

4. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Add oil and mix well.

5. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a rack.

6. Making the icing: In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk and lemon extract with a mixer until smooth.

7. When loaf is cooled, remove from pan and frost top with icing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey Peach Ice Cream

The finished product - creamy, smooth, fresh and summery!

I was really not looking forward to making this ice cream. I bought a Cuisinart ice-cream maker about 10 years ago and used it only a handful of times before giving up and stowing it away. I don't know why I bought it in the first place since I don't eat much ice cream - maybe the novelty of it intrigued me. My memories of ice cream making involve too eggy tasting slushily disgusting concoctions, hence my hesitation towards this week's recipe. Maybe it's due to Dorie's awesome recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Peaches simmering with honey.

Even after 24+ hours of chilling the ice cream maker bowl, I couldn't get the ice cream to be much firmer than a milkshake. At least my 2.5 year old son enjoyed drinking the milkshake before it froze into ice cream. I ended up using the machine for 20 minutes then putting the whole bowl in the freezer where I scraped the sides down every 1/2 hour.

I didn't remember to buy fresh peaches so I used 2 cans of peaches - all pureed instead of 1/2 pureed and 1/2 chopped. I think this gave it a nicer texture and stronger peach taste without icy chunks of frozen peaches scattered throughout.

The result was so delicious and impressive that I'm now hooked on making ice cream! I hope to try these flavors: coffee, lychee, mango and maybe a caramel or dulce de leche. I just wouldn't depend on my Cuisinart maker for it. I'll stick with making it the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

Here it is - my first Tuesdays with Dorie group post! Also, my first time making puff pastry. I used a rough puff (not classic puff) recipe and was quite pleased with the results. I need a little practice shaping the pastry but tastewise, the buttery, flaky texture and flavor was amazing. I know that you can buy frozen puff pastry but it's so much more satisfying to know that you made it yourself.

I was not impressed at all by the plain and boring appearance of this tart. However, the simplicity of flavors and the freshness of the apple make this a stellar dessert even if only in taste and not looks. Pardon the ugly photos! Although I must point out, even Dorie's professional photographers didn't make this look all that great in her book pictures.

Here's what I did with the pastry leftovers. Too much work went into the making of the pastry for me to throw out any little bit. I actually enjoyed eating these Palmiers more than the apple tart.

For the Palmiers:
I rolled the puff pastry out to a 1/8" thick rectangle, sprinkled with sugar, rolled up both sides to form the palmier shaped log. Next, I sliced the log into 1/4 inch slices, sprinkled with granulated sugar and baked at 400 degrees until golden brown (15-20 mins).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sticky Chewy Pecan Buns

I am not fond of using pre-made doughs or cake mixes, but I have a soft spot for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Having just gotten back from vacation in L.A., I wanted something easy and foolproof to start me back on the baking track.

Crescents are so versatile, there are so many things you can do with them ranging from sweet to salty, appetizer to entree. There are whole cookbooks on Crescent make-overs! These sticky chewy pecan buns are such an easy treat to throw together and they are absolutely decadent. The caramelized sugar around the edges combined with the buttery burst of flavor and crunch of the pecans. The key is to flip them immediately after they come out of the oven so that none og the topping gets a chance to stick to the pan. It's a good thing I buy tubes and tubes of this dough when it's on sale because nobody can stop at just one sticky bun.

Sticky Chewy Pecan Buns

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1 can (8 oz.) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 tbsp butter


1. Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and 1/4 cup butter. Spread mixture in bottom and up sides of 8" square pan. Sprinkle pecan over butter mixture.
2. In another small bowl, mix sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. Unroll dough and press perforations to seal. Press to form 12x8-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar mixture.
3. Working width-wise, cut dough into 12 strips. Make 4 braids - 3 strips per braid and place side by side in prepared pan. (For bun-shapes: Starting with one short side, roll up tightly; pinch edge to seal. With serrated knife, cut into eight 1"-slices. Place each slice, over pecans in muffin cup.)
4. Bake 20-25 minutes or until deep golden brown. Immediately invert onto serving platter.