Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

This week, Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First picked Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies on page 125. I have been so busy that I almost forgot to post today, but better late than never.

In my world, Shortbread = Holidays. I use the word holidays loosely to include the time from Oct - Christmas, the season that revolves around food the most, in my opinion :)

I used 1/3 cocoa in place of 1/3 cup flour as I wanted these to be very chocolatey. They also reminded me less of Christmas this way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Raspberry Cottage Cheese Danishes

I'm not Jewish and I'm ashamed to say that I'm not sure what the rules around Kosher eating are. That is a whole world I've never been exposed to. Regardless, I picked this book up because it had one of my favorite bakers' names on it: Marcy Goldman of betterbaking.com and a CANADIAN!!! I didn't pay much attention to the food rules of the recipes and their Kosherness, I just tried the ones that looked good to me, as I would any other recipe book.

I was pretty impressed with this recipe that uses cottage cheese both in the dough and in the filling. She calls for "Dry Curd Cottage Cheese" which I have sometimes heard referred to as Baker's Cheese. I didn't have that so I strained regular cottage cheese in a sieve in the fridge for a few hours and it worked well.

The pastry is scone-like and the filling is danish-like. You don't even need the jam if you prefer, however, I think it adds a pretty splash of color. These are lower in fat than regular danishes because isn't cottage cheese 2% fat max? The best part - you won't even be able to tell there's cottage cheese in there.

Raspberry Cottage Cheese Danishes
Makes 24 | Treasury of Jewish Baking

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter, very cold, cubed
1 cup dry cottage cheese (I drained it for a few hours in a sieve)
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

4oz cream cheese
1 cup dry cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour
1/2-3/4 cup raspberry jam

1. Dough: In a food processor pulse dry ingredients together. Pulse in butter cubes to form pea sized chunks. Add cottage cheese and process to form a soft dough. Blend in zest, vanilla and lemon juice then transfer to a bowl, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 3 hrs or up to overnight. No need to wash the food processor bowl before the next step.
2. Filling: In a food processor, process cottage cheese and cream cheese until very smooth. Stir in remaining filling ingredients. It will be thick. Refrigerate.
3. Assembly: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone liners.
Roll out 1/2 of chilled dough into a 10" square. Cut both squares in half - you will have 4 rectangles of dough. Transfer rolled dough onto the cookie sheet then spread filling down the centre of each rectangle, leaving a 1 inch border. Dot raspberry jam down the middle on top of the cheese filling.
Bring the edges up around the filling and pinch together. You will have 4 rolls in all. Freeze for 10-15 minutes to firm the dough up then cut into 2-3" pastries. Be gentle so the filling doesn't spill out. Separate them slightly on the baking sheet so they are not like a log.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. The seams where you joined the pastry might split but they will still look pretty and taste great.

Friday, August 27, 2010

DB: Petit Fours

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I didn't do the ice-cream filling because I am not a fan of cake and ice cream together. Last month's challenge was also a cake/ice cream combo so I thought I'd skip that part this time around. Sorry Elissa!

Instead of chocolate, I covered these cute little cakes with a poured fondant. 1/2 white, 1/2 pink then a drizzle of the opposing color on top of each of them. It was a fun, slightly messy and utterly delicious project.

I also used a Brown Sugar Pound Cake recipe from Martha Stewart instead of the Brown Butter Pound Cake from Gourmet. This cake had a nice, tight crumb, sliced wonderfully even into the thinnest of layers and held its shape and sharp corners when it was cut.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brownie Cookies

These cookies are undergoing an identity crisis. They fall into what I lovingly refer to as hybrid baked goods. Kinda like rich cupcakes parading as healthy muffins or Gingered Carrot Cookies that were really like scones.

Here we have a brownie/cookie cross with the original name "fudge drops" (recipe from King Arthur Flour). This is a good name to describe their papery thin tops and dense, chewy interiors, but the reaction I got when people took a bite was, "Wow, they taste just like a brownie!" ... and so "Brownie Cookies" they have become.

They spread a lot and do not need to be flattened prior to baking or else they may get too thin.

Brownie Cookies
Makes 24 | King Arthur Flour

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Melt together the chocolate and butter, avoid heating the chocolate too much and possibly burning it.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs till they’re thoroughly combined using a wooden spoon, not a mixer (mixers are too powerful incorporate too much air which leads to a cakier less chewy cookie). Add the hot melted chocolate, then stir in the remaining ingredients, including the chocolate chips, if using. Refrigerate the batter like dough for 1 hour, to make it easier to handle. Do not skip this step!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. Drop the cookie dough by the tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, dipping cookie scoop in water between scoops if dough is sticking too much. Leave 2″ between the dough balls. Top each with a walnut half. Resist the the urge to flatten them - they’ll spread and flatten as they bake.

Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, until their tops are shiny and cracked. They won’t crack until the very end, so keep a close eye on them; when they’re cracked all the way across the top surface, they’re done. The point is, you want these baked all the way through, but just barely; additional baking makes them more crisp rather than chewy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TWD: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart

The recipe this week was selected by Rachel of Sweet Tarte for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. Find the recipe at her blog or in Dorie's book.

There couldn't have been a more perfect pick than this one to showcase summer fruits. I actually used nectarines because I wasn't in the mood to peel the peaches and nectarine skin is OK in baking unlike peach skin which should be removed. I was thankful to have freestone nectarines which held their shape when I de-pitted them and fanned them out in the tart shell. The clingstones always come out messily. They get hidden in double-crust pies.

Peaches always remind me of the summer of Grade 4 when I read James And The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I had a theme that summer - peach juice (from a sugary drink mix), fuzzy peach gummy candy and fresh sliced peaches. The book captured my young imagination and I couldn't tear myself from it and I read it cover to cover in one afternoon. The story of this tart is similar: It's so delicious that if left to my own devices I'd probably eat all in one afternoon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

MM: Overloaded Caramel Pecan Brownies

I am proud to be guest-hosting Magazine Mondays this week while Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice is on holidays. MM is a casual, laid back group and an effective way to get you cooking through your pile of magazines. To have your post included, just email it to me (starrysugar{@}hotmail{dot}com) for today's entry and to the following co-hosts for the dates specified. Your post doesn't have to be on a Monday although the round-ups are done on Mondays.

Tina on August 30th (e-mail entries to hexandkobe{@}yahoo{dot}com)
Janie on September 6th (e-mail entries to jtray4{@}mac{dot}com)

For my own MM submission, I did a shortcut (ie. Cake Mix) recipe from Taste of Home's Holiday Annual 2006. Beneath a layer of ooey-gooey caramel lies fragrant toasted pecans atop a fudgy brownie base. Prior to today, I narrow-mindedly thought that a warm, gooey brownie was the only way to reach brownie bliss. Well, that school of thought went out the window after I tried a COLD turtle brownie.

Here's what happened: I put the baked brownies into the fridge to speed up the cooling so I could cut them into squares faster and could therefore eat them faster. Then I got busy and forgot all about them. By the time I remembered, they had been chilled all the way through. I was disappointed for a split second, and then I tasted one. They were DELICIOUS! The caramel sandwiched in the middle was still smooth and soft but now had a little more 'chew', held the pecans in place perfectly and and provided more textural contrast to the moist brownie layers. Chilling also helps these bars hold together better. They can be messy if you try to eat them warm or even at room temp. (Recipe at the bottom of this entry).

Check out the other delicious treats below, fresh from the oven of my fellow MM-ers.

Catherine of "Buttery Bakery" made:
Zucchini-Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from Bon Appetit, August 2010.

Janet of "Tastespace" made:
Wild Rice Pudding with Rhubarb Compote from Canadian Living.

Janie of "Panini Girl" made:
Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Sauce from Bon Appetit, March 2007.

Ranjani of "Four Seasons of Food" made:
Barley Risotto with Eggplant, Summer Squash, and Tomatoes from Cooking Light, September 2009.

Melissa of "It’s the Way She" made:
Pink Grapefruit Sorbet from Cooking Light, April 2010.

Brenda of Brenda's Canadian Kitchen made Salisbury Steak from Cook's Illustrated Magazine "American Classics" special interest publication.

Patricia of ButterYum made a Quick Lemon Mousse from Everyday Food, May 2010.

Janice of Kitchen Heal Soul made Tomato Tarte Tatin from Bon App├ętit, August 2010

Joanna of Go Ahead and Snicker made Mark Bittman's Almost Meatless Sloppy Joe from Cooking Light, May 2010

Allyson of Retorte made Sour Cream Chocolate Crumb Cake from the current issue of Canadian Living.

Thanks everyone!!!

Overloaded Caramel Pecan Brownies
9x13 pan | Taste of Home's Holiday 2006

1 package (18.25 ounces) chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk, divided
75 caramels
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Combine the cake mix, butter and 1/3 cup milk. Spread half of the mixture into a greased 13x9" pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a microwave, heat caramels and remaining milk, uncovered, on high for 2-3 minutes or until caramels are melted; stir until smooth. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with pecans and chocolate chips. Drop reserved cake mixture by tablespoonfuls over the top.
Bake for 10 minutes; remove from the oven and smooth top. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until top appears dry and is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack (or in the fridge to speed up the process). Cut into bars.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Make-Ahead Coffee Cake

This recipe baffled me from a science perspective. From a technical perspective this was easy as pie!

It has been so engrained from years of baking that you should immediately bake quickbreads/muffins the moment the wet and dry ingredients are mixed otherwise the baking powder loses its leavening power. This recipe asks you to leave the mixture for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator before baking! It even says you can freeze it unbaked for up to 1 month! Out of sheer curiosity I had to give it a shot.

For scientific reasons, you make the streusel and divide it in half. Half of it gets nuts, which goes on the top only because the steam released from the moisture in the nuts during baking made the cake around them soggy. Those folks at Cooks Illustrated are so smart. That would be my dream job - baking for a living!

without icing and without nuts

I was skeptical. I kept peeking through the little oven window to check. At first the sides rose really high while the middle remained sunken. I was just about to say, "I told you it wouldn't work" but by the time it was fully baked it had reached a gorgeous, level height. This one goes in the "keeper" file.

This recipe produces two small cakes, which can be baked on different days if desired (unbaked cakes can be frozen for up to 1 month). If you don’t have two 9" round pans use two 8" square pans instead.

I am submitting this to Brenda's Canadian Kitchen for Cookbook Sundays.

Make-Ahead Coffee Cake
2 round or square pans | Cook’s Country

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sour cream (I used yogurt)

1. For the streusel: Pulse sugars, flour, cinnamon, and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Divide streusel in half. Stir pecans into one half and reserve separately.
2. For the cake: Grease two 9-inch cake pans. With electric mixer on medium-low speed, mix flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl. Beat in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is crumbly with pea-sized pieces, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add sour cream in 3 additions, scraping down bowl as necessary. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
3. Divide half of batter between prepared pans. You may need to spread the dough around. Using spoonsful of dough around the pan then spreading with dampened fingers worked well for me. Sprinkle streusel without nuts evenly over each pan. Divide remaining batter evenly between pans and top with nutty streusel. Wrap pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to 1 month.
4. When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap cakes and bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few dry crumbs attached, about 40-45 minutes (about 55 minutes if frozen). Cool at least 15 minutes. Serve.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Martha, Martha, Martha, you never let me down. Your brown sugar cake is complex in a non-complex way requiring no adornments other than a cup of tea. Its crisp, raised, caramelly edges and shiny top beckon you to have a little taste. Your kitchen (and if you're lucky your entire house) will be filled with the aroma of sweet butter and sugar similar to the smell of those ice cream shops that make their own cones.

This recipe gets some of its lift from baking powder. It is a little sweeter and fluffier than the rich & buttery, non chemically leavened Classic Pound Cake which is a staple at my house (also a Martha recipe).

Slice with a sharp, serrated knife to get thin, delicate slices.

***Tip Re: Lining Cake Pans***
I use butter wrappers to line my cake pans. This saves money and works especially well for loaf cakes like the one here.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake
Makes 2 - 8x4 1/2" cakes | Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 loaf pans. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. (It's best to use an electric mixer for this to incorporate air for leavening). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined.
3. Add flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Beat until combined then scrape into prepared pans.
4. Bake until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through. Bake time is approximately 1 hour. Cool completely then store at room temperature, well wrapped, up to 3 days.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Oh. My. Goodness. I am in LOVE with this bread.

Despite its modest and understated name, this bread is AMAZINGLY yummy. It was soft, moist, full or flavor and smelled wonderful while baking. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves were a perfect medley of flavors to complement the classic pairing of apple and oatmeal.

I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty the sliced loaf looked. The diced, dried apricots had plumped up and stood out like glittery orange jewels. I used plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. For the topping I omitted the brown sugar and just sprinkled and lightly pressed in a handful of toasted walnuts on top.

The recipe was selected by Natalie of Oven Love for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick. Find the recipe at her blog or in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blueberry Almond Custard Tart

This tart is a great way to show off my hand-picked British Columbian Blueberries. I developed this for the BC Blueberry Council's blogger recipe contest (closing tonight!).

The blueberries sit on top of a sweet, tender pie crust then they are covered by a creamy, almond custard and baked to golden perfection. The kitchen was filled with the most enticing aroma of toasted almonds and sweet cream. It is quick and easy as the whole thing is made in the food processor. Both the crust and the filling can be made ahead of time to be baked according to your schedule.

The tart slices easily and cleanly to shows off a striking contrast between the berries and the filling. Sturdy enough to be transported to a picnic yet classy enough to be the star at your next summer party. With all those blueberries it's got lots of anti-oxidants. You can easily add variety and color with sliced peaches, halved cherries, whole raspberries or other complementary fruit.

Wish me luck in the contest and do try this tart. It's dee-lish!

Blueberry Almond Custard Tart
1 - 9" tart

Sweet Tart Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup very cold butter, cubed
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp water

Almond Custard Filling
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup blanched almonds (or 1/2 cup ground almonds)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1 1/2 cups blueberries
up to 1/2 cup peaches, cherries, raspberries (optional)

1. Crust: In a food processor pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until resembles coarse meal. Whisk together egg, vanilla and water and stir into the dry ingredients. The dough should be crumbly but able to hold together when squeezed. You may need a teaspoon more water if it does not hold together.

2. Press the crust into a 9" tart pan (with removable base). Prick all over with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the frozen shell for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

4. Filling: In a food processor, pulse together sugar, almonds and salt until finely ground. Add the butter and process until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla or almond extract. Process until smooth. Refrigerate airtight until ready to use. This can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

5. Arrange the blueberries and other fruit (if using) in the slightly cooled tart shell. Gently spread the almond cream on top.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the almond custard is set and golden brown. Cool completely before serving. The tart can be made 1 day in advance. Serve cold or at room temperature. To store: cover fully cooled tart and refrigerate.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blueberry Ricotta-Swirled Crumb Cake

I don't know which is the best part of this cake:
1) The classic vanilla cake at the bottom
2) The sweetened ricotta cheesecake-like layer studded with blueberries OR
3) The generous helping of nutty, crunchy brown sugar crumb topping to finish it off.

I'm submitting this recipe to BC Blueberry Council for their recipe contest. Maybe they can help me decide :) I used ricotta for a more subtle flavor but you can easily use an equal amount of cream cheese.

^one baked without crumb topping to show off the cheese layer :)

Blueberry Ricotta-Swirled Crumb Cake
1 - 9" square cake | Buttercream Barbie

1/2 cup shortening or butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Cheesecake layer:
8 oz (1 cup) ricotta or cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries

Crumb Layer
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup very cold butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" square pan.

2. Whisk together dry cake ingredients, set aside. In a separate bowl cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients alternating with milk, stirring gently until just combined. Scrape into greased pan and bake for 10-15 minutes.

3. In the meantime, make the filling and crumb topping.
Filling: eat together all the filling ingredients (except blueberries) until smooth and combined.
Topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, almonds and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembes coarse crumbs.

4. Gently spread cheese filling over the partially baked cake. Sprinkle evenly with blueberries followed by crumb topping. Press the reserved blueberries into the crumbs on top decoratively. Return to the oven to bake another 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. *You might need to tent the cake with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Cool fully before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cappuccino Biscotti

What goes better with coffee than coffee flavored biscotti!

American biscotti are more tender/cookie-like because they have butter in them. The tall jars of chocolate-dipped biscotti displayed at cafes in North America, are likely American style.

Traditional Italian biscotti are made with no added fat (butter) besides eggs. They end up drier and crisper and generally too hard to eat without first dunking in coffee.

I personally prefer the american style, but don't make the mistake of over-baking these like I did the first time. I didn't realize that they would harden so much after they had cooled - they ended up hard as rocks - good thing they are meant to be dunked in coffee. My second attempt was much better without overbaking. They were crisp, crunchy and delicious.

Cappuccino Biscotti
Makes 24 | adapted from 400 Sensational Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 1/3 sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tbsp cream or milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, cocoa, instant coffee, baking powder and salt into a bowl then set aside.

2. In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the eggs and vanilla extract and beat to blend. Gradually beat in the melted butter, cream and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add flour mixture one-third at a time, beating well after each addition until a stiff dough forms.

3. Spoon dough onto prepared cookie sheet, forming 2 long, flat logs each measuring 12 inches long by 2-3 inches wide. Space them about 4 inches apart as they will spread and double in width. Bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes, then let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife cut the dough into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick on the diagonal. Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake until crisp and dry, about 5-7 minutes longer - until just dry. They will crisp up as they cool too. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blueberries and Cream Mall Muffins

The original recipe for Blueberries and Cream Mall Muffins comes from Marcy Goldman. It seems like anyone who has tried Marcy's recipes loves them. I sometimes wonder why she isn't more famous especially since her recipes are solid and simple. Her website betterbaking.com charges a small fee per recipe or you can check out her books: Best of Betterbaking.com and a Passion for Baking.

These are gorgeous muffins that stand proud and tall. The blueberries are evenly distributed through the muffin with no sinkage to the bottom of the tin. The lemon extract gives it a certain brightness but you can just as easily omit it.

I will go so far as to say that this is my favorite blueberry muffin recipe. After years of searching and baking and eating blueberry muffins, this is it. When I first read this recipe I was surprised by the 425 degree F oven temperature, but it's only for the first 15 minutes so the initial blast of heat gets them to rise. Then you reduce it to 350 degrees F. You can prepare this batter by hand to avoid over mixing and to save on dirty dishes too.

My recommendations for next time:
-Increase sugar to 2 1/2 cups. They were good but not very sweet muffins as is.
-Sprinkle with some granulated sugar before baking.

Blueberries and Cream Mall Muffins
Makes 18 | A Passion for Baking

2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon each lemon and orange extract (optional)
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream (I used yogurt)
2 cups blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line 18-24 muffin tins.

2. Combine sugar with oil and butter. Fold in 4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Blend a little, then add in buttermilk and sour cream. Batter should be thick; if not, add more flour.

3. Fold in berries with a spatula. Fill muffin cups as much as possible (heaping high above the cup). Mine were heaped and nothing spilled during baking.

4. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until muffins are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed with fingertips (about 12-16 minutes more). Cool in pans for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream

Katrina of Baking and Boys picked Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream on page 430.

I have only recently gotten to 'know' Katrina online through TWD. On top of having a great blog with dependable recipes, she's a sweetheart. I wish I lived near her so we could have baking parties! She is one of those bloggers I wish I knew in real life. I'm in awe of this woman - mother to 4 boys. Oh my goodness. I have only ONE boy and I'm exhausted!

Confession: Not a lot of this recipe actually made it to the ice cream maker. I had to fight off hungry straws wanting to sip it up - milkshake style. I also used milk chocolate because I'm a milk chocolate kinda gal!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sara Lee's Iced Banana Cake

This recipe evokes childhood memories of eating frozen sheet cake straight out of its aluminum pan. Unlike today's tall, nutty coffee shop banana loaves, this one is shorter, sweeter and reminiscent of simpler days. It is a true American classic. Plus, how can you say no to a cake crowned with rich and creamy banana frosting for a double-dose of banana-y goodness?

I must also add that I love those thin aluminum pans that Sara Lee pound cakes come baked in. Maybe it's the pack-rat in me or maybe it's the "green" mentality, but either way I find it really challenging to throw anything out. So, my cupboards are full of containers, pans and boxes 'just in case' I might need them for something in the future. Being an avid baker, I often bake more than I (and my family) can consume, so disposable pie plates and loaf pans come in handy. Plus it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know I'm saving the environment - one baking tray at a time.

Note: I pureed the banana very well in the food processor (rather than leaving it semi-chunky like I usually do for banana bread). I think it helped achieve a processed, fine texture like Sara Lee's.

Sara Lee's Iced Banana Cake
9 x 13" pan | Bite Me Cookbook

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 cup butter
1 mashed banana
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13" pan. Combine flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Cream butter, sugar, brown sugar together. Add eggs one at a time then vanilla. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk until combined. Stir in mashed bananas and lemon juice. Pour into greased pan.

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan.

4. Icing: Beat butter, bananas and lemon juice until combined. Add icing sugar until smooth consistency is reached. Spread onto fully cooled cake.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Cream Cake

After anxiously waiting for the marks to be released, I found out that I PASSED my accounting exam! I can add those 3 little letters - CMA - after my name. It feels fantastic and this cake was a great way to celebrate!

It has 4 thin layers of lemon flavored sponge cake sandwich 3 layers of fresh, plump blueberries suspended in a slightly tart lemon cream filling. This was a delightfully light and summery dessert. Fancy enough for a special occasion yet not overly fussy.

The recipe comes from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book: The Essentials of Home Baking.

Note: It's important to use an electric mixer for the cake to get the maximum rise by beating the eggs thoroughly.

Blueberry Lemon Cream Cake
1 - 10" Caks | adapted from Canadian Living

3 cups (750 mL) raspberries (or any fresh berries)
1 tbsp (15 mL) icing sugar

Sponge Cake:
6 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, melted

Lemon Cream:
1 pkg unflavoured gelatin
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1-1/4 cup (300 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon rind
2/3 cup (150 mL) lemon juice
1-1/3 cups (325 mL) whipping cream

1. Sponge Cake: Line bottom of 10" springform pan with parchment paper; grease side. Set aside. Set eggs in bowl of warm (100°F/40°C) water for 5 minutes.

2. In electric stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar until pale yellow and batter falls in ribbons when beaters are lifted, about 10 minutes. Fold in lemon rind and vanilla.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt ; sift one-third over egg mixture and fold in. Repeat twice. Transfer one-quarter to bowl; fold in butter. Fold back into remaining batter. Pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake in centre of 325°F (160°C) oven until cake springs back when lightly touched in centre, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove side of pan; let cool on rack. (Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and store for up to 24 hours, or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks.)

5. Lemon Cream: In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 3 tbsp (50 mL) water; set aside. In heatproof bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon rind and lemon juice. Place over simmering water; cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and thick enough to softly mound on spoon, about 20 minutes.

6. Strain into large bowl. Stir in gelatin mixture until melted. Place plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until cool and mixture can mound on spoon, about 1 hour. In bowl, beat cream; fold one-third into lemon mixture. Fold in remaining cream. Fold in 2-1/3 cups (575 mL) of the berries; set aside.

7. Assembly: Line bottom and side of same pan with waxed/parchment paper. Cut cake horizontally into thirds. Place top cake layer, cut side up, in pan. Spread with half of the lemon cream. Top with middle cake layer, remaining lemon cream and remaining cake layer, cut side down. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)

8. To serve, remove side of pan. Sprinkle top with icing sugar. Arrange remaining berries around top edge.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TWD: Gingered Carrot Cookies

I was really curious about these. Dorie says they are scone-like. I wondered... are they dry? thick and cakey? flaky? chewy? Do they lend themselves well to being smothered in cream cheese frosting? The answer is definitely a "YES" to the cream cheese frosting part. I made a cream cheese glaze which complimented the cookies just as cream cheese frosting goes with carrot cake.

I would describe their texture as being moister than a scone, denser than a cake and thicker than a cookie. If you don't like raisins, I would recommend substituting Craisins or chopped, dried apricots or even better, dried pineapple! Don't omit the dried fruit altogether because in my opinion, the raisins stole the show, closely followed by the dried pineapple - little golden bits of goodness embedded in the batter.

Thanks Natalia of gatti fili e farina for this week's pick from Baking: From My Home to Yours, p. 162.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Keebler's Pecan Sandies

These are one of my favorite cookies on the grocery store shelves. Or at least they used to be before late 2008 when the recipe changed and they became tasteless, greasy and filled with trans-fats.

Side note: these do not even make an appearance on Canadian shelves. I wish I lived in the States. Down south you guys have all the best foods and the best selection. I sometimes make day trips to Bellingham with the primary reason being grocery shopping. These Keebler copycats are buttery, nutty and crumbly, just like the originals used to be.

I have successfully used 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar instead of all white sugar and they turned out nicely with a bit more depth of flavor. This recipe makes a lot of cookies but I guarantee that they will not last long. The extra dough can also be frozen for future use. Scoop the dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets then freeze them then store in freezer bags. When you are ready to bake, remove them from the freezer and thaw on cookie sheets while the oven preheats.

Tip: Beat the sugars and butter and oil and eggs vigorously (electric mixer is useful here) so it is almost like cake batter. The dough is very soft but chilling it in the fridge makes it easier to work with. They're very sensitive to being left in any longer or shorter than stated...so watch them carefully.

Keebler's Pecan Sandies
7 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans
sugar for rolling

1. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, vegetable oil, 1 cup wh ite sugar and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

2. Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the pecans. Chill for at least 20 minutes in the fridge.

3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll each ball in sugar. Place 2" apart on cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden. Do not over bake! Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.