Monday, June 29, 2009

TWD's Party Cake...Confetti for Everyone!!!

The wonderful baking members of Tuesday with Dorie Baking Group delved into the Perfect Party Cake recipe chosen by Carol of mix, mix... stir, stir. The cake is a light, tight crumbed cake with a brilliant white coloring. The flavor is superb, with a lemony background flavor to be coupled with so many different flavor combinations.

Overwhelmed with the choices, along with the slight altercation with limited time to bake, fill, and frost; my choices became greatly reduced. I was going to fill the top of the cake with pretty frosting daisies. A beautiful tribute to summer time and lemons. I could not because I did not start the cake until after work last night. The frosting had me wiggling by eyebrows in a knitted sort of way.

Recipes of buttercream frosting have drifted in through my kitchen mixer and never to be made twice. I am not a buttercream frosting fan. A hot-meringue buttercream intrigued my curiosity. Heating egg whites and sugar in a double-boiler, the whites get whipped for 3 minutes. I thought my arm may fall off after the first 45 seconds. I was trying not to watch the timer count down so I switched arms. The bowl almost flew off the pot of simmering water. Okay, coordination does not run in my left arm. This was like being at the gym, telling myself that 15 seconds more is really not going to kill me. Great! I have an out -of-shape arm. Timer goes off and I get to take a break. Where's my water bottle?

Next, the mixer gets to do the rest of the work. Love the mixer! 3 sticks of butter dropping one at a time into a mixer brings in large quantities of guilt. Do I get to nibble on a small slice or be completely rebellious and eat a full-sized slice?
I had to finish making the frosting to decide just what I was going to do. Blueberries and raspberries. I had a jar of wild blueberry preserves dying to be opened and the beautiful blue color would stand out from the white of the perfect party cake. I was stingy with using buttercream as a filler on top of the wild blueberry jam, consequently, I had plenty to frost the rest of the cake with. Smooth frosting on the sides and spoon swirls on top, using dabs of extra wild blueberry jam to give a slight blue hue to the top of the cake only. Fresh blueberries were in order along with bright red raspberries to give the right summer coloring. The cake is a quick, evening masterpiece and now I think I will take it to work to share so that I stay away from over nibbling.

I love the texture, flavor, and color of the cake. This recipe has won my heart and taste buds over as a permanent go to cake recipe. For those of us that constantly try new recipes, this is a huge compliment! The frosting was yummy but I still have problems with buttercream frosting. Some of the problem stems from knowing what ingredients went into the recipe and the other is texture. The frosting is just to slippery and buttery feeling in my mouth. Great go to recipe Dorie...Thank you for sharing with the rest of us! To see the other TWD baker creations using the Perfect Party Cake, go here.

For me, I already am a faithful parchment paper user from way back for the bottom of a cake pan.

King Arthur Flour had a cake flour that I wanted to try and so I did for this recipe.

The sugar smelled delicious while rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar. Pretty little yellow flakes could be seen throughout.

I had plenty of batter for two 9" baking pans. I refuse to show the bowl that held the batter because there were a few finger markings where I may or may not have licked the leftover batter clean.

The cake had a perfect golden brown coloring when done baking.

Very easy to slice and add fillings. Overall, great recipe...LOVED IT!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays - Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Double Dark Chocolate cookies sound intense, beyond the expected flavors of a basic cookie recipe. Sweet Melissa Baking Book has given a new meaning to whipping up a quick batch of cookies. Dried tart cherries, cocoa, and chips combine to create an explosion of fun flavor. Cherries and chocolate together in a cookie did not fit into my thought process. I love chocolate covered cherries but in a cookie?

My stash of horded ingredients included a small packet of dried tart cherries, double dark cocoa from King Arthur flour, and Callebaut white chocolate chunks. Too much dark chocolate and I would be left with all the cookies to eat. Since I am trying to behave myself lately, modifying the recipe slightly by altering the dark chocolate to white chocolate was in order.

Those available to nibble loved the cookie and the rest will go to work with me tomorrow and shared. There is nothing worse then a stale cookie in the house along with the guilt that goes with the stale cookie. Freezing leftovers is such an easy concept and I finally have myself trained to label and date bags before filling.

Thank you goes to Megan of My Baking Adventure for choosing this week's recipe. The hardest part to this short recipe was the chilling time. About 3 hours total before the baking process could begin. To see the rest of the baker's cookies, go here. You can go to Megan's website for the recipe by clicking on this My Baking Adventure link.

P.S. ~ When I took the cookie dough logs out of the refrigerator to cut and bake, I was shocked at just how dark the cookie dough was. My cocoa from King Arthur Flour had something to do with the color too. The cocoa has intense flavor and dark color.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June's Daring Baker Challenge ~

An exciting challenge for Daring Bakers around the world brought about by both the lovely Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. The challenge was a bit of a surprise when the title is called: Bakewell According to the team of Daring Baker's choosing the recipe, the tart started out in England, as far back as the late 1800's.

Each baking challenge for the month is comprised of several absolute, non-negotiary elements the baker is required to complete within the recipe and a section that allows the baker to use whim and creativity. The shortbread crust needed to be made from scratch, asking the baker to grate frozen butter into a flour mixture and "quickly" use fingers to make the mixture resemble bread crumbs. What a great way to blend butter into flour! I know this would work wonders for making pie dough, well, any mixture requiring butter to be quickly added so as not to melt the butter in the mixture and toughen the dough. The second mandatory element was creating the frangipane. Frangipane is a creamy almond flavored mixture used as a filling or, in this case, topping for a tart. I have never made frangipane before and the flavor and texture were both new experiences. Delicious! Beautiful! Easy! Very Tasty!

The part of the recipe allowing for creativity is the jam or curd sandwiched between the shortbread crust and the frangipane topping. My choice...: Oven Baked Apple Butter! My Grandma taught me how to make apple butter this way and because the recipe chosen comes from a long line of tradition, sounded like a tart my Grandma would have loved, and because apple butter is one of the first recipes that made me realize I actually loved baking along with giving me my first sense of accomplishment in the kitchen, I dedicated my choice to Grandma. Bakewell with an Apple Butter filling.

Recipe for Oven Apple Butter


2 quarts water

2 T. salt

6 pounds apples, cored, peeled, and sliced

2 quarts sweet cider

3 1/2 cups sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. allspice


Combine water and salt. Add apples. Drain well but do not rinse slices.

Put through food chopper, using finest blade. Measure pulp and juice (there should be 2 quarts).

Combine with cider. Place in large, oven safe pan. Center pan in 350 degree oven. Let mixture simmer about 3 to 3 1/2 hours until cooked down about half and is thick and mushy. Stir thoroughly every half hour.

Put mixture through sieve or food mill; it should measure out to be about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 quarts.

Combine sugar and spices; add to sauce and return to oven. Continue simmering about 1 1/2 hours or until thick, stirring every half hour. To test, pour small amount onto cold plate. If no liquid oozes around edge, apple butter is cooked.

Pour into hot jars; adjust lids and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars and complete seals. Makes 2 quarts.

The Challenge:

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)

Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour

30g (1oz) sugar

2.5ml (½ tsp) salt

110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)

2 egg yolks

2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)

15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water


Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula


125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

TWD is LATE plus Ham and Potato Swiss Cheese Soup

Bummer Blog...but a relief at the same time. I am behind for posting the Tuesday with Dorie group baking event but I did not want to be left out baking the Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise on pages 293-295 of Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking from my home to yours. Andrea from the blog Andrea in the Kitchen chose the dessert for the last week.
You see, I am finishing college finals, working, commuting, and trying to test look and drive vehicles for my daughter's first car. I promised her a vehicle with a cd player soooo is anyone out there selling a tank with full armor AND a built in cd player? I would prefer the tank to have a remote control device for me and a camera I can take with me; you know, to have that added protection. Motherly advise is appreciated =).

I scheduled in the Dacquoise to be baked over Father's Day Weekend and I tell you everything I touched went wrong. Hubby just build a new cedar deck and I tried to burn it down. I have a briquette BBQ on the deck and first I could not get the grill up to temperature grilling BBQ chicken; 6 hours later...dark outside...I am still not getting 185 degrees for the internal temperature of the chicken. I was using indirect heat. Pitch dark out; I go into the house and hear owl noises. Hubby goes out and checks then comes back into the house and explains that we have a huge owl sitting not far from our front door. I go out onto the deck and before I can start looking for the owl, I see yellow, bright light out of the corner of my eye. A briquette, red hot, fell out of the side vent of the grill and proceeded to start the wood smoldering and have slight flames. There is now a charcoaled, burnt mark on one of his slats of wood. I do not think I could apologize more and still feel absolutely horrible.

I had pork spareribs in the refrigerator with a dry rub for a back-up on Sunday and we got thunder storms and torrential downpours of rain all day for Father's Day. The TWD dacquoise did not get made. Instead, I worked on the TWD project over the last to evenings, between getting home from work and writing a paper.

The ingredients for the Meringue.

Sifting the powdered sugar before getting started whipping the egg whites.

Whipped egg whites waiting for the processed coconut, almonds, and cornstarch to be added.

The meringues are smoothed into 6 x 12 inch rectangle shapes and ready to start slowly baking at 225 degrees.

Broiling the pineapple sections and getting cute little dark brown and black spots.

Baking meringues for 3 hours is a long wait but the golden brown hue with all the little coconut and almond pieces throughout was a pretty sight. After cooling the sheets, picking the crispy meringues up and using them as building blocks is a satisfying process. The white chocolate ganache, with all 3 cups of heavy cream, was started on as soon as the two sheets of meringues went into the oven. I had grand plans of finishing the whole dessert in one night, and of course this did not happen.

Picking a fresh, ripe pineapple is not hard if you know to pull at the pointy leaves. If the leaves pull out easy, the pineapple is ripe. If you can not get a leaf to pull out, leave the pineapple behind and try another. See, easy!

I cut my pineapple into slices, then used a doughnut hole cutter to cut the center core piece out. Slicing the pineapple into quarters, drying the sections with paper towels, and laying the dried sections onto aluminum foiled jelly roll pans is quite the process. I did like the little black marking the broiling process achieved. Very nice!

I am not a huge pineapple dessert person but hubby is. I love pineapple eaten in chunks, fresh, so what fruit was left over was all mine. Thank you Andrea for picking a recipe that would add new experiences and challenges. I really enjoyed the process!

While assembling the dessert, this is what we ate for dinner: Ham and Potato Swiss Cheese Soup. I absolutely love the hardiness of the soup. The recipe does call for half-n-half and heavy cream but any type of milk will work just fine. The base is started with 64 ounces of chicken broth. There will be a large pot of soup to share, enough for about 8 to 10 people, depending on how hardy each person eats =).

Ham and Potato Swiss Cheese Soup

4-16 oz. cans chicken broth
2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes cubed
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 leek sliced thin
4 cups half-n-half
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 ham steak cubed
2 Tbs. green onions, diced
freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat a 12- inch skillet add cubed ham cook for for 10 minutes on medium heat, and sit aside.

Pour chicken broth into a pot, and put in potatoes, onions, and leek. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Top with diced green onions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Butterscotch Cashew Bars

SMS is bringing Butterscotch Cashew Bars, chosen this week by Pamela of Cookies with Boys, and what a great recipe. My hubby had the nerve to turn his nose up at the thought of the flavor combination ~ butterscotch and cashews ~ but boy did he sing a different tune after the first bite! The only change I made to the recipe was using maple glazed cashews, which I found in the bulk food section of a store chain called Central Market in Shoreline, WA.

The shortbread took 2 sticks of butter and bakes in the oven before the topping is applied. While the shortbread is baking, the butterscotch topping gets started and my butterscotch chips took a while to get melted. I was starting to think maybe the chips were not as fresh as they should be but, being a little more patient, the chips melted completely and I had a beautiful creamy butterscotch, caramel layer to go on the shortbread cookie base.

I had more fun applying my cashews. The goal was to leave no spot without a cashew. I also enjoyed having Melissa lay out complete instructions for how to create a professional looking cut bar. Again, patience is a needed ingredient =). Like so many of us, we usually have several tasks going at the same time. I bet we food bloggers could get together and write a winning book that really tells people how to multi-task and what the term means.

All my bars went into a tupperware container to be taken to work. Sharing keeps the rest of the bars out of the kitchen and away from me snagging just one more. That "just one more bar" added up to 4 total.

I love the recipe combination of flavors and I may try this again with macadamia nuts out of curiosity. Thank you Pamela for widening my flavor horizons and Melissa for giving us all the wonderful recipe!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers baking Cranberry Orange Scones

The June bonus recipe challenge for the Barefoot Bloggers was chosen by Em from the blog The Repressed Pastry Chef. I am so with Em when it comes to enjoying a great tasting scone! The flavor and texture of this particular scone recipe did not let me down. The fresh orange juice and orange zest, the Craisins, and the fluffy texture all combined into a winning scone. I was a little alarmed when the recipe asked for 3/4 pound of butter combined with 4 cups of flour. Just how many scones does this recipe make anyways? I believe the scone count was around 14 with the addition of several small, heart shaped scones. My other change to the recipe was dividing the flour between 2 cups of unbleached whole wheat flour and 2 cups all-purpose flour. I would have to say this recipe rates at the top for a family long as I either invite company to help eat them, share with co-workers, or freeze the extras. My freezers are getting pretty full lately, whose complaining?? and sharing is always a great choice! A love for baking and sharing go hand-and-hand =). Thank you Em for chosing this recipe beause I had something to take for breakfast all week. YUM!

Ina, another great recipe...Thank you!

Cranberry Orange Scones
Copyright, 2006, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
15 min
Cook Time:
20 min
14 to 16 scones

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.