Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Daring Bakers: Mallows

Sometimes the most challenging part of the Daring Bakers Challenge is actually getting it done. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit my annual summer slump and wasn't even planning on participating this month. But then these adorable cookies started popping up all over the blogosphere and I couldn't resist.

But anyway, enough about me! The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We were given the choice to make either cookie, or both. We could also make our own marshmallows or use pre-made. I used store-bought marshmallows (hanging head in shame). (But in my defense, I've made marshmallows before.)

I did think I had a stroke of genius when I first placed them in a Ziploc bag...

... then zapped them in the microwave for 10 seconds. I mushed them around a bit, sealed the bag, clipped off a corner of the bag and voila! instant pipe-able marshmallow goo.

I like to think of it as "working smarter, not harder"... coughcough yea, that's it cough.

I reduced the recipe quite a bit but still ended up with quite a few little cookies. As you can see, I made some into sandwich cookies, I left some plain, and a fortunate few got a slathering of peanut butter on top.

The peanut butter ones remind me of my grade school chum, Elvira. Our favorite snack was peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches. Talk about delish!

So how were they, you ask? They were pretty good, but they didn't blow me away. I think they appealed to my kids more than me. The chocolate was the overwhelming flavor, but the soft marshmallow center was a nice textural balance. The cookie by itself was a little bland and the little bit of cinnamon taste was lost. I might try them again with a bigger cookie and bigger marshmallow (my cookies were quite small). That might bring the flavors more into balance.

As always, though, it was a new experience and I'm glad I gave them a shot.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

TWD: Vanilla Ice Cream

I'm in with the 29% of folks who call vanilla their favorite ice cream (number one flavor, baby!). So I was pretty psyched when Lynne of Cafe LynnyLu decided on Vanilla Ice Cream for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. Thanks Lynne!

Of course, there are probably as many ice cream flavors as there are stars in the sky (Viagra ice cream, anyone?). But plain old vanilla is just fine with me.

There's something about just-churned, home-made ice cream that almost brings a tear to my eye... it's a thing of beauty, isn't it?

And when it tastes as good as Dorie's, well, you might as well bring on the cryin' towels. This ice cream was so rich and flavorful. My kids and I did a side-by-side taste test with the local "best" vanilla ice cream and the "best" suddenly tasted "bland".


Please do yourself a favor and check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours", or stop by Lynne's blog for the recipe. You'll thank me (or rather, Dorie), I promise.

OK, see you next week!

P.S. I can't help but wonder, what does Viagra taste like anyway?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD: Raspberry Blanc-Manger

I had never heard of Raspberry Blanc-Manger before this week. But now, thanks to a Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, not only have I heard of it, but I have tasted and enjoyed the simple wonder that is blanc-manger.

Thanks Susan, for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie pick.

How would I describe this so-easy yet very tasty dessert? Hmmm, milk and cream is heated with ground almonds, some whipped cream is folded in and gelatin is added to help it set up, and don't forget the handful of fresh raspberries... yea, I guess that about covers it.

It seems so light and refreshing, perfect for a summer meal when just a little something sweet is required to make the meal seem complete.

I will definitely make this again!

Please pick up a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours", or stop by Susan's site if you'd like to see the recipe.

Voyez-vous la semaine prochaine! (which I think translates to "see you next week!")

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cake Slice: Marbled Lemon Blueberry Butter Cake

"It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to..."

No wait, scratch that.

Let's try that again. Ahem. "Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me..."

Yepper, I turned 44 last week. I'm OK with it, you know, they say 44 is the new 34 (Yea, I'd roll my eyes if I were you too). Anyhoo... what better way to celebrate than to join in with the rest of the Cake Slice Bakers and whip up a Marbled Lemon Blueberry Butter Cake, from the book "Sky High" by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

(The cake was delicious with a capital "D", by the way.)

I've tried many cake techniques since my cake decorating days, but one I've never tried is a funny-angled wonky cake, or topsy-turvy cake.

I figured, why not give it a try, even if it's only on a small scale and only one tier. If you want to follow along, here is what I did... I halved the recipe and baked it in two six-inch pans and one five-inch pan. I figured carving it upside down would be easier, so I layered them with the small one on top (which will eventually be the bottom).

I thought I'd be conservative with the angle, so I used the five inch cake as my guide. I carved from the edge of the top 5-inch cake in a straight line to the bottom of the lowest 6-inch cake. Like this...

Next, I had to make up for the fact that I didn't use an icing dam to keep my blueberry filling from leaking into the icing (duh, I keep forgetting that part). I used "cake spackle", a technique by cake-decorator extraordinaire Toba Garrett. I took all of the scraps that I carved from the cake and mixed them with enough icing to make a sort of edible spackling.

I covered the cake with a layer of spackle (somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick) and smoothed it, then refrigerated until firm.

OK, here's where I messed up. I went ahead and iced the sides with the cake still upside-down.

I placed my serving plate on top and then...

... flipped it over, so that now the cake is right side up.

OK, here's how I messed up... in addition to having slanted sides, these wonky cakes also have an angled top. However, by icing the sides ahead of time, I made it impossible to carve the angle on top. Any attempt to carve the top would have resulted in cake crumbs marring the icing on the sides. D'oh!

So, I left the top of the cake flat and proceeded to gob the remaining icing on top. (You can see my cake spackle layer below.)

I spread the icing over top, making sure to go all the way to the edge with icing.

Then I smoothed the icing as best I could. Here's a secret... I'm not really that great at smoothing icing with a spatula.

For the spatula-impaired like me, a stint in the refrigerator firms up the meringue buttercream so the icing can then be smoothed and the edges trimmed as needed.

Then the fun begins! Time to decorate! I used fondant for wavy stripes and dots on the side, then used a "grass tip" to pipe the top border and a plain tip for the bottom. I finished it off with a fondant "J" and then all that's left was the singing.

OK folks, that's that! If you want to know the *right* way to make one of these cakes, my friend Sharon does first-rate cake decorating how-to DVDs and her latest DVD is on this very thing. Check it out ---> here.

Marbled Lemon Blueberry Butter Cake
- from the book "Sky High" by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

(Note: I halved the cake recipe but forgot to halve the blueberry preserves, so I got double the filling.)

The recipe is ---> here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TWD: Brioche Plum Tart

It's Tuesday again and you know what that means. A whole mess of bakers will be showing off another recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours" today.

Denise of Chez Us picked Brioche Plum Tart for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. Thanks, Denise!

This was a fairly simple treat. A brioche base is pressed into a tart pan and topped with lightly sweetened fruit. We were supposed to use plum slices, but I opted to use a combination of peach and plum.

I thought this recipe had potential, but I have to admit that I didn't exactly love it as-is. I thought the bread layer was a tad thick for the amount of fruit. If I were to try this again, I might bake it in a larger pan, or reduce the amount of brioche dough.

Hey, it gets high points for looks, though, huh?

If you'd like to give this a try yourself, please stop by Denise's site or better yet, pick up a copy of the book. See you next week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fresh Fruit Tart

Wow, time to post again already?!! (Methinks I'm having a hard time keeping up these days.)

Coming in just under the wire, here is my entry for the monthly You Want Pies With That? blogging event. For July we were charged with coming up with a "Taste of Summer" pie. Thanks to Rebecca at Ezra Pound Cake and Mary at alpineberry for this totally appropriate theme.

Our pie was to answer the question, "What does summer mean to you?" Whew! when I was thinking of what pie to make, I wondered how to wrap all of the following up into a pie:

- enjoying being able to sleep in a little
- wondering how to keep the kids far, far away from the dreaded "I'm booooored"
- my own efforts at trying to mimic our old family friends and their completely awesome strawberry patch
- appreciation of days at the perfect temperature
- irritation at days that are much higher than the perfect temperature
- hiking, play dates, playground visits, swimming lessons, sunburns, baseball.

OK, that's a tall order and one my pea-brain is not equipped to handle. So, taking the easy way out, I settled on the strawberry patch, added a few other fruits for variety, and went the route of "I don't feel like thinking too hard".

This is a perfect "no-recipe" type of recipe, or at least one that you can whip up as long as you've got the Internet and/or a few good cookbooks.

First, you search for "sweet pastry" or "pate sucre(e)" and make a batch of that. Blind bake as directed, or if there are no baking instructions, use 400 degrees and start checking at around 15 minutes in. You're going for "golden brown".

Next, search for "pastry cream" and make that. Chill until set, probably at least 4 hours. Then spread a healthy layer in your cool tart shell.

Next up, a layer of jam that compliments your fresh fruit. Stir it well to loosen it up and then spread on top of the pastry cream. I went thin with the jam, but it's up to you.

Last step, start sprinkling on your fresh fruit. Mix it up or go with one type.

Keep going until it looks right.

You can brush the fruit with apricot jam thinned with a tiny bit of water, or just warmed a bit, if you want. Or not. The jam adds a shiny, glossy look. (I skipped the jam glaze.)

And voila! A fairly simple and totally delicious summer tart... and you can change up the fruit to suit the season and your tastes.

Here are the recipes I used...

Pate Sucre recipe - click here... I would add slightly more than 2 Tbsp. cream next time as the crust was dry upon mixing and crumbly once baked.

Pastry Cream recipe - click here - I would chill overnight next time.

(Whew! made it by midnight!) OK, signing off for now, folks! Thanks for stopping by :)

TWD: Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies (& Snickery Squares)

This week, we have a guest host at Tuesday's with Dorie, Lisa of Surviving Oz. Lisa was the winner of the recent TWD logo contest. You can see her creation, above.

Congrats, Lisa!

As her prize for winning, she got to pick this week's recipe. Lisa must be a girl after my own heart because she picked Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies.

Apparently Katharine Hepburn once gave a young lady several pieces of advice, one of which was to never add too much flour to her brownies. In the never-ending debate between which are better, fudgey or cakey brownies, I think it's safe to say that Katherine liked her brownies fudgey.

These brownies were definitely fudgey. They were dense and moist and didn't rise to speak of.

I thought they were pretty good. I tend to be on the cakey end of the brownie debate, though, so I was happy to share them with family. My kids apparently don't care and they were happy to chow down. (P.S. I left out the cinnamon and only added a pinch of instant coffee.)

I also recently made Snickery Squares, which were chosen by Erin at Dinner and Dessert before I joined.

These yummy bar cookies had a shortbread type cookie base, a layer of dulce de leche, and a chocolate topping. Caramelized salted peanuts were mixed in with the dulce de leche and sprinkled on top.

These were a hit at our 4th of July get-together this weekend. If I made them again, I think I would try milk chocolate for the topping, since the bittersweet made the chocolate layer a tad overpowering.

Mmmm, don't they look delish?

OK, that's all for now, folks! If you'd like to see the recipes, please get yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours", or check out Lisa's site for the brownies and Erin's site for the Snickery Squares.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Melting Moments (Oh, and.... I won a Contest!!)

These Melting Moments cookies are brought to you courtesy of... Kerrygold butter!

Huh? What? you say?

OK, so Kerrygold didn't send me cookies. No, it's better than that.

I had entered a contest from Gourmet Magazine online that asked for recipes and the story surrounding them. I submitted my post on my grandma's cinnamon rolls.

Imagine my surprise when I received an official looking e-mail from a person at Gourmet magazine that said...

"Congratulations on winning the “Every Recipe has a Story” contest!"

Shock of shocks! I won something! Yippee!

Talk about cool prizes! One was a cooking class for three. I was able to take two friends to a Pastry class at The Learning Kitchen. (I am so bummed I accidentally deleted my pictures from class!)

The second prize was this mother lode of butter and cheese from Kerrygold.

I'm sure all of you bakers will understand when I say that being given high quality butter is like manna from heaven! What better prize could a baker hope for?

And the cheese was excellent! My family and I had so much fun choosing our favorites. (I think it was the first time my oldest willingly ate cheese.)

Anyway, I've seen various bloggers post their Melting Moments cookies and knew I had to try them using my fancy butter. (You can find the recipe by clicking here and selecting "Desserts" and then chose the cookie recipe.)

These cookies are a dry, soft cookie, almost like shortbread. When paired with dulce de leche filling, they are out of this world!

Many, many thanks to Gourmet magazine and Kerrygold. Love 'em both!! OK, over and out for now, folks. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!