Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the lighter side

Sometimes I get to thinking that maybe I should try baking lighter fare – you know, things that you won’t feel guilty about eating.  This doesn’t happen often, because what is a baked good without butter and sugar, but it does have every so often.
Enter angel food cake.
Truthfully, before this recipe I had never made any sort of angel food cake, which did become a factor in why I chose it.  It’s such a classic cake, and I figured it would be a good idea if I knew how to make it. 
I saw this recipe in my Google reader, but you can find it here.  It’s pretty simple, and uses ingredients that you would most likely have in your pantry already (if you don’t have them, they are all good ingredients to keep on hand). 
A couple of quick notes:  When the recipe says to pile the batter high in the muffin cups, they mean it!  I felt like there was more batter piled on top of each muffin cup than there was actually in the muffin cup, but it worked out okay.  Because it’s angel food cake, it doesn’t ooze all over the place or make a mess.  Also, go easy on the sprinkling of powdered sugar, or the mini chocolate chips won’t really stick to the tops of the cupcakes.  You can always add more later.
These were really good!  I wanted to eat several of them in one sitting, but that would probably defeat the healthiness factor.  I will say that after a few days they started to get kind of sticky and gooey on the top.  I’m sure my container wasn’t as airtight as it should have been, but anyway, I recommend not keeping them more than a few days.  This shouldn’t be a problem, since they are so tasty!

Chocolate Angel Food Muffins
Makes 8 muffins

¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon cake flour
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon espresso powder
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
6 large egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with 8 muffin liners (four spots will remain empty). Lightly spray the top of the pan with non-stick baking spray (fp note: I found this to be annoying.  I ended up spraying a paper towel with the spray and then wiping it on the top of the muffin pan).
2.     In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside
3.     In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla on high until soft peaks form. With the mixer still running, gradually add the remaining sugar and beat until the mixture reaches stiff, glossy peaks, about 2-3 minutes. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites in three additions. Generously fill each muffin liner high with the batter. Dust the tops of each muffin with confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle with several mini chocolate chips. Bake until the tops are puffed and dry, about 30 minutes. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 1 hour before removing (This will help the muffin retain its shape). Gently remove the muffins from the pan.  Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Girls' Night = Girly Food

For some reason, when I think of dessert that you would serve at a Girls' Night, I either think of some kind of precious fruit dessert, or chocolate.  For my most recent Girls' Night, I decided on a fruit dessert.  I'm not quite sure what was going through my head when I chose this one.  The picture on the blog where I found it looked so cute, and it seemed easy enough.  Mix up a no-bake cheesecake filling, and the pipe it into raspberries.

Wait, what?

They may look kind of large in the photo, but raspberries are TINY.  TINY.  And my piping skills leave something to be desired (as you can see in the photo).  But, I forged ahead. 

Making the filling was easy.  And it was tasty.  And the piping wasn't actually that hard, just tedious.  Actually, the hardest part was going through about two pounds of raspberries and picking out the ones that were suitable for filling, while not smooshing the rest of them. 

Anyway, I filled most of the raspberries with the cheesecake filling and lemon curd, and then I got tired of it, and gave up.  But, I used the remainder of the filling, mixed it with smooshed raspberries and some lemon curd, and it tuned into a tasty dip!! 

The girls did love these tasty bites, but I think the dip was more popular.  I served them with some simple madeleines. 

Raspberry Dessert Bites

2 Cups fresh raspberries, washed
Lemon Curd (homemade or store bought)
No Bake Cheesecake Filling

No Bake Cheesecake Filling:
8 oz cream cheese (don't use light)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Whip the cream, and then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture so it's fully combined. Fold gently so that you don't lose all the air in the whipped cream.
  3. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to firm up.
  4. Fill two piping bags fitted with small star tips with your fillings - 1 with the lemon curd and and the other with the cheesecake mixture.  One by one, take each raspberry and carefully fill each one with either the cheesecake or lemon filling.  Snack away!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't bug me, I'm eating

Most of the time, when I bake, unless it's for a specific reason, I take the goodies to work to be fed to the guinea pigs  stagehands at the theatre.  But once in a while, I take pity on the Hubster and his coworkers and I bake something and send it to work with him.

I really wanted to make a coffee cake, and it seemed like a good thing to send to work with the Hubster.  This recipe was super simple, and the results were fantastic.  It comes out nice and moist and fluffy.  The cake itself is not very sweet, but it provides a nice balance to the brown sugar and cinnamon swirls. See:

mmm....swirly goodness.

The only thing I changed about this recipe was the nuts.  I don't really like pecans, but I do love walnuts.  So, I used walnuts instead of pecans.  Oh, and I added a little bit of the nuts to the swirl ingredients.  I'm not sure why I did it, but it was good.  So I guess that's two things that I changed.

Since I feel it is necessary to taste test everything I make, I just had to cut a slice and eat it, you know, for research purposes.  I shared this piece with the Hubster, so that he could properly represent the cake to his coworkers.  It's a good thing I ate a few bites before he got to it, because otherwise, I may not have even gotten a taste.  I tried to talk to him while he was "sampling", and I pretty much only got grunts in response. 

Oh, and one more thing -- when you cut the cake, a fair amount of the streusel topping will fall off.  Do not throw this away -- it's delicious!! I may or may not have mixed it into some oatmeal the next day.  Don't judge.  You would do it too.

You can find the original recipe that I used here

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 TB ground cinnamon
2 TB cold unsalted butter
1 cup pecans, chopped

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1 TB vanilla
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 TB baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1 inch cubes

For streusel:
Process the flour, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of the dark brown sugar, and the cinnamon in a food processor. Transfer 1 1/4 cups of this mixture to a small bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar; set aside. Add the butter and pecans to the remaining dry ingredients in the food processor bowl. Process the mixture until the nuts and butter have been broken down into small pieces, about ten pulses. Set aside.

For the cake:
Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Combine the eggs, 1 cup of the sour cream, and the vanilla in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt at low speed, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup sour cream and mix at low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat 30 seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Decrease the mixer speed to medium low and slowly incorporate the egg mixture in 3 additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute.
Add 2 cups of the batter to the prepared pan. With an offset spatula or rubber spatula, smooth out the surface of the batter. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the streusel filling. Drop 2 cups o the batter over the struesel, spread evenly, and then add the remaining struesel filling. Top with the remaining batter and then the streusel topping (with butter and nuts).

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool cake for 30 minutes, then invert and remove from tube pan.. Cool or 2 more hours, then serve.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Running behind the wagon

Okay, so I’m a little bit behind the wagon with this recipe.  I have seen so many other food bloggers (and a fitness blogger) post about this recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I thought I had a perfect recipe, so I didn’t really consider trying a different recipe for what is probably the most universally liked cookie.  But then one day, I thought “meh, why not?”  There is nothing wrong with trying something new.  If it didn’t work out, I could go back to my old standby.  If it ended up being as special as everyone thinks it is, then all the better.  Another recipe to add to my bag. 
What makes these cookies so different and special is the browned butter.  Instead of creaming softened butter with sugar like you normally would, you melt a little more than half of the butter in a pan, and continue to cook it until it is browned.  This gives the cookies a toffee-ish flavor.  It’s not overwhelming, just a little something more complex that you notice when you eat them.  I have to say, it’s nice.  Of course, I am a huge fan of toffee, and I frequently add toffee bits to my cookies, so this is no surprise.  However, I’m not sure if I only noticed it because I knew it was there, because none of my friends made any mention of the different flavor.  But the cookies sure did get eaten fast.
I will say that these cookies are a bit finicky for a chocolate chip cookie.  As I’m sure many of you know, making chocolate chip cookies is usually a dump and stir kind of thing.  This recipe is not like that.  I guess you could say it’s a more grown up version.  It requires browning butter, several mix-then-wait bits, and other little finicky parts.  I think that for this reason, it will not replace my old standby recipe.  But it’s nice to have in my back pocket for when I need it.
The recipe notes that you should try to avoid using a non-stick pan for browning the butter, as the dark coating on the pan makes it hard to see if the butter is browned.  Well, I only have non-stick pans, so I had to come up with another solution.  As the butter was melting, I would periodically scoop up some of it in a regular old table spoon to check the color.  This worked fine for me, but if you have a regular pan, go ahead and use that.
Don’t skip the step where you roll the cookie dough into balls.  This may seem like an unnecessary step, especially if you use a scooper, but when you do this, it makes the cookies come out more round, with nearly perfect edges.  I had people asking me if I bought the cookies somewhere, because they looked so pretty.  That makes it worth it to me.  When you do this, you may find it easier to do it with damp hands.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Makes about 18 cookies

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (fp note: I added white chocolate chips to this, because, well, I wanted to)

1.       Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (fp note: it will really be easier on you if you do use two baking sheets. Normally I don’t bother with two, but this time I did, and I was glad).  Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl.
2.       Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a large bowl and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until completely melted.
3.       Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla into the butter until incorporated. Whisk in the egg until the mixture is smooth with no lumps, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. Repeat this process of resting and whisking twice more until the mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  Stir in the flour mixture and 6 tablespoons of the chips until combined.
4.       Working with 1 heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 ½ inches apart. Press the remaining 2 tablespoons of chips into the tops of the cookies.
5.       Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft, puffy, and underdone, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
6.       Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wait, what?

Every once in a while, I get the idea in my head to make something that doesn’t involve chocolate.

I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor and sit back down.

The Hubster and I were going to one of the many boat concerts (literally we watch a concert while sitting on a boat.  It’s a summer tradition here and we love it), and I like to bring a treat for the gang when we go.  This time around, I whipped up these peanut butter and jelly bars.  I thought it would offer a nice change from my usual chocolate-laden fare. 
These were pretty good.  The peanut butter parts were moist and flavorful.  I used strawberry jam in mine, because that’s what I had on hand, but you could use pretty much any flavor you like.  The original recipe calls for raspberry, and it does note that you should use preserves or jam, but not jelly, because it won’t have sufficient flavor to stand up to the peanut butter.  Whatever combo you would like in a sandwich will work for this.
The only reason I say these were only “pretty good” was that I found myself wishing they were peanut butter and chocolate.  I guess my hankering only went as far as making, and not as far as eating.  Oh well.
I have one note for you about making bars in advance.  Since bars have to cool completely before you can cut them, I often make them the day before I need them.  When I do this, in order to keep them as fresh as possible, I don’t cut the bars until right before serving.  After they have completely cooled, I will wrap the bars in the foil sling, and then either in plastic wrap or a large zip lock back, and store them in the fridge.  This works well for me, and if they aren’t cut yet, it keeps me (and others) out of them until it is time to serve them.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Makes 16 bars
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse
1 cup strawberry jam

1.       Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line and 8-inch square baking pan with an aluminum foil sling and coat lightly with vegetable oil spray.  Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
2.       In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together using an electric mixer on medium speed until uniform and creamy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in egg, followed by the peanut butter and vanilla, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.
3.       Reserve half of the dough for the topping.  Using damp hands press the remaining dough evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake until the crust is light golden, about 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Meanwhile, stir the peanuts into the reserved dough for the topping.
4.       Transfer the pan to a wire rack and spread the jam evenly over the hot crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides  (fp note: good luck with that. I think the heat of the crust made mine ooze all over).  Drop small pieces of topping evenly over the top. Bake the bars until the jam is bubbling and the topping is golden, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
5.       Let the bars cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil, cut in the 16 squares, and serve.