Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD - Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and Oatmeal Spice Shortbread Cookies and Banana Cake w/Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Tuesdays with Dorie is here! Excitement! Flag waving! Okay, maybe no flags. Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First is our host this week.

The recipe: Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Dorie also gave us a variation: Oatmeal Spice Shortbreads

I dropped the decorating ball with this batch. My kitchen sizzle was starting to fizzle. I love our baking groups but I also have my own list of "must bake" goodies and rarely do I get to do both. This last week I baked to my hearts content (literally) and learned to cut recipes in half along with freezing extras. Works great!

Dorie's recipe called for bittersweet chocolate. Brainstorm: Use my hidden stash of espresso chocolate along with bittersweet. (I know I am forgetting something.)

All the chocolate was chopped up into little chunks; mixed both shortbread recipes, rolled dough in gallon size Ziploc bags and refrigerated overnight. Took out my handy little kitchen ruler, the basic wood one we had in elementary school, and measured the dough into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Baked ALL the cookies.

There are oodles of cookies! Waited for the espresso shortbread cookies to cool then took a nibble. Immediately remembered what I was forgetting. I do not enjoy the flavor of coffee. I have coffee one morning, Sunday morning, every week and that cup is loaded with Nestle Hazelnut coffee creamer and 1 1/2 t. sugar. I sip 1/2 of the cup and talk a mile-a-minute for the next 2 hours. Weird ritual, I know, but hubby makes coffee on Sunday morning and I feel bad not having a cup. I have tried suggesting he become a tea sipper but he says all my tea cups are just too little for his fingers . . . funny ha but not funny ha-ha.
The shortbread cookies turned out cute but I guess shortbread cookies are not my thing (my first shortbread cookies). I would like to use some of the cookies in a few cheesecake crusts. I have oodles in quart size freezer bags plus Larry loves the espresso ones with his coffee. Personally, after 1 cookie and my 1/2 cup of coffee, I was dropping everything in sight. Making breakfast, I started cracking an egg open, the egg slipped out of my hand and cracked open between the stove and the counter. Interesting.
Donna, thank you for hosting TWD this week. I liked the oatmeal spice shortbread cookies and I know the cookies will be a part of some fun projects in the near future. To get the recipe, go to Donna's site and buy Dorie's cookbook.

I thought I would also share a banana cake recipe. Not to be confused with banana bread. The recipe originally came from Allrecipes.com but I altered it a smidgen. One of the changes was adding 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Makes for a light and fluffy banana cake.
Banana Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter
* 2 eggs
* 4 ripe bananas, mashed
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
2. Cream together the butter or margarine and the sugar.
3. Add eggs, bananas, flour, soda, salt, nuts, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) for 30 minutes. Cool and frost cake.
In a small bowl beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, then fold in whipped cream. Frost cake.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Heavenly Bakers - Two Seperate Desserts plus Dinner

What a fitting Name!
Recipe: Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache
My "for real" first week with the Heavenly Cake Baker. I adore Rose Levy Beranbaum and her cakes amaze me in what looks like simple perfection. I love baking and I feel the push to always want to be better. I strive for those feelings of elation over finishing my project and/or admiring a new decorating skill, taking the first slice and realizing how moist the layers are or how silky, creamy the frosting lays, taking the first bite (or as in my case, running to get hubby to take the first bite) and realizing this is what I spent precious time assembling: Heaven!
An important point to add is I always take the second bite. Part of the cooking/baking addiction is watching expressions. Larry's facial expression when he first tastes any dish is usually spot on with what he says afterwards. He is my sounding board for input; although there have been moments when his honesty has almost gotten him hurt =). Almost. Especially when I am tired and all I want to hear is thank you for feeding me.
Love, love, love this cake. I was dreading making the recipe because I knew extra time would have to taken for the caramel ganache and boy was I right. My first batch of sugar syrup ended up burnt. The syrup is suppose to be taken off the stove just under temperature because the syrup continues cooking until the heavy cream is added. Thank goodness for air vents above the stove. Burnt sugar smells terrible!
My second batch of syrup had me gun-shy. I took the syrup off a little too early, about 10 degrees under and was worried the ganache would not thicken up. In fact, Rose stated the caramel may harden before pouring into the processor to melt the chocolate. Mine was liquid. I was thinking "this is not a good sign".
After 3 hours, I had thick soup. Refrigeration was in order. I refrigerated the ganache in 30 minute intervals until I had the right consistency. The flavor and texture of the caramel ganache was silky smooth with a chocolate caramel flavor holding depth without being overpowering. Another words, all I could say while tasting was uhmmmmmm. So Good! Then the first bite of cake. Crazy moist with a flavor that seemed to match the frosting. A wonderful crumb without being overpowering in flavor. Sophisticated and simple. Delicious!
Moving on but a week back.
Last week's recipe: Marionberry Shortcakes with Whipped Creme Fraiche
The little cakes were adorable using Rose's Shortcake recipe and my miniature bundt pan molds. The marionberry syrup is created by sugaring down the marionberries while in a strainer over a bowl. The collected juice is combined with a little sugar and a splash of raspberry liqueur. The color variation from painting the miniature bundt cakes with the syrup is beautiful. A pile of marionberries (mine were previously frozen; marionberries are past season here) were carefully placed on top along with a Large dollop of whipped creme fraiche.
I was worried the berries were going to lack fresh flavor but we were pleasantly surprised. The syrup, marionberries, shortcake and creme fraiche pull the dessert together into a pretty little package with a nice flavor and texture combination. We enjoyed the dessert but not extremely excited. Fresh berries would make this Heaven.
I accidentally dropped a few dots of marionberry juice on my kitchen rug and the color is here to stay. Marionberry makes a great dye. The dessert was a wonderful place to start in Heavenly Cake Baker. I tried getting this posted on time but 4 days later I actually was able to bake and assemble so my solution is to combine the two desserts in one post.
If you are looking to widen your horizons in the cake baking world, Heavenly Cake Baker is the place for you. If you are looking for teaching aides and a larger layer of understanding for putting together ultimate flavors, texture, crumb density, silky smoothness and consistency; this is definitely the place for you. If you are worried about a lot of dirty dishes over the idea of baking perfection, you may just want to peruse our Beranbaum desserts as we bake our way through heavenly cakes.

Will this post ever end? Almost. I thought I would also share an easy dinner recipe using a rotisserie chicken. The recipe is called Creole Chicken Soup and my family enjoys this for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day. I enjoy the recipe because about 30 minutes is needed from start-to-finish.

Creole Chicken Soup
2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. red bell pepper (or yellow or orange)
1 c. frozen whole kernel corn
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups of chipped cooked chicken (using a grocery rotisserie chicken)
1 1/2 t. Creole seasoning
1 (32-ounce) carton Swanson low-sodium chicken broth
Sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro for garnishing

In a heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, corn, and garlic, and saute until tender. Stir in tomatoes and chicken. Sprinkle with seasoning, and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Top with sour cream and cilantro.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

SMS - Sweet Plum Clafoutis w/Almonds plus a special cookie treat

Recipe: Melissa's Sweet Plum Clafoutis w/Almonds
(Found on Michelle's blog and pg. 30 & 31 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)

What a fun recipe. I found miniature cast iron skillets at Fred Meyer's store for 20% off (7.99 each) and could not pass them up. I halved the recipe, ending up with exactly 4 single servings.

The plums available at my local produce stand are HUGE. I bought 4 red plums but only used 1 1/2. The fruit is perfectly ripe, juicy and has the best flavor.

I was able to fit all 4 skillets on one large burner which I thought was pretty cute. I should have cut the plums narrower because the tops of the fruit stuck out of the batter. I also used sweetened creme fraiche for topping and the final consensus was thumbs-up. Delicious!

Thank you Michelle for hosting Sweet Melissa Sundays this week; great recipe selection!

While baking the plum clafoutis, I decided today was the day to try baking sweet potato French fries. I am NOT a sweet potato or yam fan. Several weeks ago, I tried my first sweet potato French fry, thinking bad thoughts, and was pleasantly surprised. I loved them! In fact, I was a total piggy and ate more then Larry. I know, he was shocked too. Last week, I bought 4 sweet potatoes, set to bake my own, and wasn't quite sure how to approach them. I assumed just like any other potato.

Sweet potatoes are drier and olive oil really does not coat the fries very well; meaning the diced garlic and sea salt did not stick overly well. I coated the fries fresh out of the oven with ground black pepper and basil. They were killer good! Guess who ate over half of them?

Sweet Potato Fries with Minced Garlic and Seasonings Plus Garlic Mayonnaise Dip
3 sweet potatoes, cut into French fries about 1-inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the sweet potato "fries" on a silicon mat or foil-lined baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and minced garlic. Bake until golden, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile combine the basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to season fries fresh out of the oven. In another small bowl combine the dip: mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.

When the sweet potato fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil salt. Serve with the garlic mayonnaise along side.

Here is my other pride and joy: Cinnamon Apple Cookie Swirls. This is truly a Fall cookie. You simmer diced apples with cinnamon red hot candies and a little sugar for 2 to 2 1/2 hours; stirring every so often. You could also throw this in the crock pot for a couple of hours. The idea is to cook all the liquid out, ending with a thick apple filling.

Cinnamon Apple Cookie Swirls


1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup shortening

3 eggs

4 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 apples, chopped fine

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup cinnamon candies


Mix apples, sugar, and cinnamon candies in a pot over medium low heat. You want to simmer until the apple filling is very thick. This process will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check and stir periodically. When thickened, set aside to cool.

When filling is cool, mixture together the cookie dough. Start by creaming the shortening in the mixer. Add sugars gradually and blend until smooth. Add egg, flour,baking soda, salt and vanilla. Roll out to 1/4-1/2 inch thick.

Spread apple filling on dough. Roll up dough with filling like jelly roll. Chill for several hours.

Slice 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on greased baking sheet or silicon mat on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CEiMB and Dinner - Delicious!

Recipe: Mixed Berry Cobbler (Blueberries, strawberries, and Marionberries)
Does this dessert not look incredible? Easy to mix together; I would say 15 minutes tops. Throw in the oven and wait 30 minutes. I love the brown flour addition to this recipe.

The dough has a slight nutty flavor and is moist, a perfect accompaniment to the mixed berries. This is a dessert I will go-to continually. Guilt free nibbling - just what we like for that little something after dinner.

Thank you Pam for hosting this week. She has the recipe posted on her site and you can also go to the Food Network recipe site to retrieve the recipe. A true Winner!

Fluffy was looking at me, as if she was abused over the lack of attention while I was making dinner. I couldn't help taking a picture. Her and Shadow just love their little beds in the window. I know they dream of catching the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds.

I made Ellie's Mixed Berry Dessert to go with Dinner which was:

A Hearty Beef Stew in the Crockpot
Onion and Cheddar No-Knead Casserole Bread
and Zucchini Oven Chips (Fresh out of my vegetable garden.)
Plus Ellie's Dessert (mentioned numerous times now, sorry)
A Hearty Beef Stew in the Crock Pot
3 lb. pkg. Beef stew meat
6 medium red potatoes, leave peel on and cut into large cubes
1 medium pkg baby carrots, leave whole, they are baby carrots =)
1 large sweet onion chopped
1 c. catsup
* 1 t. salt
* 1 t. pepper
*1 T. beef granules
* 1 t. brown sugar
* 1 T. garlic powder
* 2 t. Creole seasoning
*4 c. water
* 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Zucchini Oven Chips
1/4 cup Panko flakes
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 425°.

(Zucchini came from my Garden - 1st one)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and dredge in Panko mixture. Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray; place rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

Onion and Cheddar No-Knead Bread

5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast

1 1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

2 c. water

2 T. butter

3/4 c. plus 2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1/3 cup finely chopped onion


In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt and pepper. In a saucepan, heat water and butter to 120 - 130 degrees F. Add to dry ingredients; mix with paddle attachment just until moistened. Stir in 3/4 cup of cheese, onion and remaining flour. Change to bread hook attachment and mix until smooth. Turn into a greased 2-quart round baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F while dough rises.

When dough is done rising, bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Remove from dish to a wire rack to cool. (1 loaf)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TWD - Crunchy and Custardy Peach Mini - Tarts

Hosted by:


Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart
(on page 346 and 347 of Dorie's Baking: from my home to yours
and posted on Rachel's blog.)

I made the almond sweet crust, suggested by Dorie, and made 4 mini-tarts instead of one BIG one. Robert Irvine on Dinner Impossible (Food Network Channel) would SOOOOO say I can't serve these, they look burnt! My name is behind this and throw everything in the garbage can.

I am having baking complexities beyond my control. No knob adjustments here. Common sense and timing is off. Item in oven starts to smell baked and yet the custard is sloppy . . . what do we do? Let the mini-tarts continue baking and forget to cover with foil. Where's the garbage can? Oh, I know; slip one to hubby in his lunch when he is not looking.

This tart is the least burnt but no fancy plate is going to help me out. Bummer. We will try one tonight but I am pretty sure the custard part will taste delicious. Sorry Rachel for not having this whole post be about your wonderful choice instead of my stream of whining. These little tarts smelled wonderful baking (until our mishap; I know still whining). Check Rachel's gorgeous tart out and grab the recipe while you are at it.

Dad and Mom swore up-and-down I was making up stories about the squirrels and chipmunks doing acrobats to get into the bird feeder's food. We must have had a hawk or owl present while they were visiting because I have never heard the outside THIS QUIET in a long time. I thought I would post a picture showing that I am not nuts. We DO have squirrels!

Nothing like sharing a picture with me having morning hair. Yeesh. I miss them already!!!!

Mom and I have so much in common. We LOVE flowers, collecting recipes, cookbooks, sharing baked goodies and shopping for new kitchen toys. It is hard having them live several states away.

Can you believe I forgot the camera? This was taken with my cellphone. Who does these things?? I am still in shock. I lug a camera all over the kitchen, have thousands of food photos but forget to take the camera with us. (sigh)
(Mom and Dad: We had a great time together and HAPPY 45th ANNIVERSARY!!!! We are proud of you for staying healthy, working out hard and eating right. Definitely shows! You both look so young! Thanks Mom for organizing my pantry, definitely looks great. Shadow is bumming no one is around to dote on her. She flops on the floor and I just step over her. She is looking up prices for an airline ticket as we speak. Love you guys!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SMS - Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

Sweet Melissa Sundays is hosted by:
Katie of Katiecakes (Can get the cake recipe here or buy Melissa's cookbook)
The Recipe:
Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

I am hurrying this morning. My parents came up this last week after two years and I made the cake while Mom and Dad were visiting. Okay, honesty, I have had to bake the cake itself . . . TWICE. Yes, there are 24 egg yolks currently in my refrigerator.

My parents have been married for 45 years and I wanted to bake the cake for their anniversary because Dad loves lemon flavors and I thought Melissa's cake would be perfect. Mom loves chocolate so I also made a triple chocolate layer mousse cake. Melissa's cake was baked before my parents arrived and I took the cake out of the oven too soon. I tested the cake twice with toothpicks and the cake still CAVED big time. I had two bowls and no salvaging was going to help this mess.

Mom and Dad arrived and later Thursday afternoon, I re-baked the cake, got wrapped up in some serious catching-up conversation and never heard the oven alarm go off. I have NO idea how long the cake was in the oven. Panicked, took the cake layers out of the oven and Dad said no worries, crunchy cake is his favorite.

The lemon curd tasted delicious but again, I cooked a LOT longer then what Melissa stated in the recipe, the curd came to the right thickness but was still not overly thickened when fully chilled. My butter is an apparent addition in the frosting as well. Maybe I did not have the butter at room temperature long enough, I don't know. I do know the cake was still VERY tasty. Thank you Katie for choosing this week's recipe and for hosting. I think I can now bake this cake with my eyes closed =). Check out the rest of our group's cakes along with me and have fun seeing imagination at work! The link to the bakers roll: Baker's Roll.

I just finished crocheting the above doily (only took 8 months this time) for my parents about 1 week before they arrived. I don't know if you can tell from the picture but the doily is about 24-inches in circumference. Happy Sunday and Happy Baking everyone!