Monday, August 30, 2010

Separated at Birth

I got a this cookbook from the library a couple of days ago, and I think the authors and I are long lost siblings. We believe in American baking. We believe in less sugar/more chocolate. We believe in cooked frostings. We believe in malt.

Everything in this book looks so. damn. good! Sweet and Salty Cake, Chocolate Malt Cake, and these Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars. Day-um!

My nickname for these is "Pain in the Butt" bars, because while they're not hard to make, they do take an investment of time (2 1-hour cooling periods) and mess up a lot of dishes. But as they say, nothing worth doing is easy.

The bottom layer is toffee-covered rice crispies, the middle is a peanut butter and milk chocolate ganache-y type situation, and the top is a silky chocolate layer. I know, I had you at toffee.

I love the matte, smooth finish of the chocolate.

And every baker will tell you it's such a thrill when whatever you're making releases from tha pan beautifully and without drama.

Like this.

The fine folks at Smitten Kitchen have a great play-by-play with lots of photos on how to create these decadent squares of deliciousness.

I can't wait to make more treats from this book, and for the next one coming out in the Fall, Baked Explorations. Here are my brothers-in-baking are getting into training for the oncoming media blitz!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peachy Keen

If you've seen these crates of peaches at TJ's and been at all curious, let me tell you - they are DELICIOUS and a super deal at $4.99 for 4lbs of fruit. Yes, the excessive (but adorable) packaging did give me pause, but each juicy gem gets its own little bed to lie in, and each one is perfect. I'll figure out some way to reuse the box.

Tonight I grilled them on the bbq and sliced them on top of the Buttermilk Cake from The Cake Bible. (If I ever am in a courtroom sitch or elected to office, I'm going to take my oath with one hand on the The Cake Bible)

I've made this before and added a dollop of strained yogurt as to bring it all together. Tonight's treat was created on the fly so I didn't have time to strain yogurt. But we did have marshmallows in the house so I topped the whole shebang with a couple of marshmallows perfectly toasted over the coals. Delish!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Don't those look good? Here's the backstory:

I had the happy task of picking up a couple of cakes from DeLessio's for a party at work to celebrate selling 1 million copies of our Ivy & Bean series

Don't those cakes look amazing? They were - and DeLessio's also makes this very cool chocolate bubble wrap. That's right, chocolate bubble wrap! In lots of yummy flavors like

*Milk Chocolate with Malt and Croquant
*White chocolate with coffee beans and toasted hazeluts
*Milk Chocolate with peanut butter and croquant
*White Chocolate mint with a bittersweet chocolate

I'd seen this technique on an old TV show called (I think) "Carnival of Dessert" and the visit to DeLessio's reminded me that should give it a try.

I laid a piece of bubble wrap on a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet and sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon sugar

I poured melted chocolate over the bubble wrap. Did I mention that in the last couple of weeks I've been given big blocks of Valrhona and TCHO chocolate? I'm a lucky girl!

I spread the chocolate to the edges with a spatula

Then sprinkled some chopped toasted almonds over the whole thing. Popped it into the freezer for about 15 minutes (I think, I got a little distracted by something....) until the chocolate has hardened.

Peel back bubble wrap and just look at all of those fun little holes!

Once the chocolate got back to room temperature, I used a serrated knife to cut it into long triangles. The perfect topper for these scrumptious cupcakes!

Easy as PiePops!

Chronicle Books was looking for another excuse to throw a party, so we had a First Floor Picnic this week. An indoor picnic complete with red checked tablecloths, sunglasses, icy beer and a pie contest.

I was looking for an excuse to make Bakerella's PiePops, and this was it.

PiePops are just what you think they are - mini pies on a stick. In the great Team Pie vs. Team Cake debate I'm solidly on Team Cake, but dang if these aren't the cutest things. And they really are easy - if you take a few short cuts....

...such a store bought pie crust.

Yes, I usually make my own and am all smug about it, but I needed a time-saver and these frozen crusts worked like a dream.

I also had some leftover charoset in the fridge. Charoset is Passover dish made of apples, nuts, wine sugar and cinnamon - which seemed to me to be a pretty good filling for a pie. But, the mixture was a little dry and wanted to be "goopier" to be a proper filling, so I added a couple of good dollops of jarred caramel sauce. Parfait!

I cut out little ridged circles of dough with a biscuit cutter and put them on a silpat-lined baking sheet.

Then pressed a 6" lollipop stick into each round

Put a little dollop of filling in the middle of each pie, then top it with a 2nd piece of dough.

the dough with the end of a lollipop stick. Bakerella uses the side of the stick and goes all the way around. Me, I took a shortcut and just poked 'em. Then brush with cream or egg wash or cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes and you've got....


Ready for a bite - yum!

And guess who won that pie contest.... ME!

Gettin' the pie pops ready for the party. I popped them into a wrapping-paper-covered block of styrofoam

A couple of things I'd do differently:

1) Brush the pies with egg wash rather than cream for a more luxe look
2) Chill the pie crust rounds once they've been cut
3) Alternate baking pans so I'm always assembling the pops on a cool pan - doing it on a warm one made 'em a little soft and goopy
4) Do a more thorough crimping around the pies to seal them

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Special Delivery: Scones

A couple of months ago I donated a copy of The Frugal Foodie Cookbook and a dozen scones to the school silent auction. I'd kind if forgotten about it until I got a call this week from the winner lookin' to collect. Of course I was happy to fulfill my commitment, but when she mentioned she was a former professional pastry chef I got a little nervous - these had better be some kick-ass scones!

Inspired by the tree in my yard that's bursting with fruit, I adapted my tried-and-true scone recipe to include lemons, cashews and a hint of spice

Lemon Cashew Scones with a Bit of Ginger

For the scones:

3 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½ tablespoon pieces

Zest of 2 lemons

¾ cup roasted, unsalted cashews

8 (or so) pieces crystallized ginger, chopped v. small

For the glaze:

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon buttermilk

½ teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 400

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for 1 minute or so to combine. Add the butter and mix at low speed until well incorporated. Add the zest and cashews. Drop the ginger bit-by-bit over the flour mixture so that it doesn’t clump together. Mix briefly 1 minute or so to combine. Add the buttermilk and mix until the dough just holds together.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead gently a few times. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into an 8” circle. Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 15-17 minutes.

While the scones are baking, combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the cookie sheet from the over and immediately brush the scones with the glaze. Remove them to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: These scones freeze like a dream - just pop 'em in a 350 degree oven (I use the toaster oven) for 10 mins or so to bring them back to life.

I was delivering the scones on a wet, rainy, dreary Easter morning - so I wanted to create an especially bright, cheery and spring-y presentation. I wrapped a shoe box in flowery wrapping paper, and topped it off with some woven ribbony stuff (see - hoarding craft supplies DOES come in handy) that I thought sort of suggested an Easter basket.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Playing with Food and Sleeping with Fishes

I stumbled upon a web site called Eyecandy that blows me away!

It's the brainchild of a Swiss fellow named Jojo Krang - just look at what he does:

He makes a portrait of Audrey Hepburn in chocolate! His how-tos have me halfway convinced that I could do it too.

He makes square cream cheese muffins wrapped in parchment bunny ears. You know you want to make this for Easter.

He forms purple potatoes into roses and deep fries them. I think I've found my 2nd husband.

And last but not least - he makes chocolate gangsters complete with chocolate cement shoes. Drop 'em in hot milk for a cup of hot chocolate you can't refuse.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Color Purple

The Whoopie Pie trend is just taking off - and already I'm declaring a new one: Specialty-Shaped Whoopies in Colors Not Appearing in Nature.

My dear friend Sandy was having a birthday get-together this weekend, and I STILL had some buttermilk in the fridge so you know what that means: Whoopie Pies!

I was so happy with the cheery pink of my Valentine's Day Whoopie Hearts, that I thought I'd tint this batch Sandy's favorite color: purple.

My goal was a rich, amethyst shade like the gorgeous boxes used by Voges Haute Chocolat

I don't think I was entirely successful. Maybe I needed more food coloring, or maybe baked goods just aren't supposed to be purple.

First I piped out round cookies:

Then I got fancy and made S-shapes:

Then I really went for broke and spelled out "Happy Birthday Sandy"

Cute, no? For the final presentation I put the "S" pies around the greeting as a border - very festive!

I thought I was late to the Whoopie Pie party - but none of the other guests had ever had or heard of them, so I was happy to give them a sweet education.

  • When you pipe out a letter or shape - pipe its mirror image right next to it on the pan
  • If you wanted to make a more precise shape - print out a template on paper and slip it under parchment paper and use it as a guide. Martha Stewart wasn't going to be at the party judging my efforts, so I just free-styled it.
  • I used the Light Whipped Ganache from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Cake Bible as filling. It's tasty and easy, but I think I like Nick Malgieri's version from Perfect Cakes that calls for butter and corn syrup in addition to the cream and chocolate a little better. Rose's is a little dryer and the cookies don't stick as well.

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