Sunday, August 28, 2011

Portable Goodness

I saw these cookies in my googly reader, and I immediately starred them.  I had originally planned to make them for a special occasion (more on that soon), but then I found something better.  I thought this recipe would languish in my “to be made” pile for a long time, but I was wrong.  I ended up making these cookies about a week after I saved the recipe, to send with the Hubster to a birthday party. 

These cookies were a snap to make!  Very simple and quick.  And boy, were they tasty!  They have the flavor and texture of red velvet cake, but in a more portable, easier-to-eat cookie form.  Although I didn’t get to go to the party, the Hubster said that every cookie was gobbled right up. 

I have a few notes about these.  First, I always seem to forget just how much red food coloring you need to make these look like red cookies. I used gel food coloring, because that’s what I keep around.  I don’t think it matters if you use gel or liquid, just know that you will need a lot.  I wanted mine to be brighter, but I think that the cocoa powder hinders that.  So whatever.  Second, I could have used more cream cheese.  The original recipe says to mix it in with the mixer, and only for a second.  I decided that I would have more control if I did it by hand with a spatula, which I did.  But I still feel like I didn’t get the swirls that I wanted.  So, be careful.  I used 4 tablespoons of cream cheese (original recipe calls for 3), and I wanted more when all was said and done. 

I highly recommend these cookies.  And, the original recipe has nutrition stats, saying that they are only 100 calories per cookie!  But, I dare you to eat just one….

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Swirl
Source: Amy Bites
Makes about 22 small cookies.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons Neufchatel or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
Preheat oven to 375ºF..

Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy and well-combined..

Beat in egg and vanilla, then beat in food coloring..

Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder and mix until just combined..

Add cream cheese in pieces to dough and fold in with a rubber spatula briefly until just swirled.

(fp note: I like to chill my cookie dough before baking, so I stuck mine in the fridge, and didn’t turn the oven on to preheat it until after I made the dough.  By the time the oven was ready, the dough was chilled enough for me.).

Portion out by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets..

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Messing around in the kitchen

Here's a little factoid about the FP household: we LOVE Bailey's.  One of my favorite drinks is Bailey's and root beer.   Before you judge, you should try it.  It tastes like an adult root beer float.  It even gets that yummy foam on the top!  So good.  I want one right now. 

But I digress...

I was scanning through my googly reader, and I came across a recipe for a Bailey's bundt cake.  I was instantly interested.  But, the recipe called for a box of cake mix and a box of pudding mix.  I don't have any sort of moral objection to boxed mixes, but I don't normally have them the house.  I didn't feel like going out and buying them just for this, so I used the inspiration of that recipe to make my own. 

I went the simple way for this.  I started with a basic pound cake recipe, and added some Bailey's, and a couple of extra tablespoons of flour, to keep the liquid/flour balance.  The technique worked, but I am only half pleased with the results.  The cake itself tasted very good, and was soft and moist, but the Bailey's flavor wasn't as pronounced as I had hoped.  I will try to make this again, finding a new way to get more of the flavor that I want.  But, in the meantime, here is what I did this time:

Bailey's Pound Cake
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen "Family Baking Book"

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Bailey's
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan (fp note: i used baking spray, because it was easier. worked just fine.). Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. Process the sugar, eggs, Bailey's and vanilla together in a food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, pour the hot melted butter through the feed tube in a steady stream until combined, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  3. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and whisk to combine until just a few streaks of flour remain. Repeat twice more with the remaining flour mixture, then continue to whisk the batter gently until most lumps are gone.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Wipe any drops of batter off the sides of the pan and gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
  5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then flip it out onto a wire rack. Turn the cake right side up and let it cool completely, about 2 hours, before serving.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Blogivesary to Us!

Happy Blogiversary!! That's right, one year ago today, I started this little blog.  I have honestly really enjoyed blogging, since it gives me an opportunity to share my love of baking with a few more people (though not that many), and it gives me an excuse to bake more.

Since this is a big occasion for me, I wanted to make something special.  Something I've wanted to make for a while but never had a reason.  And, something I could stick a candle in.  By the way, I would like to make a shout out to C for the super cute cupcake candle holder and the green and red cupcake kitchen towels you see in the above photo.  I considered many recipes for this post, but in the end, I remembered that there was something I had been wanting to make for a long time, so I chose that option.  So, what is that delectable thing in the photos?  Why, it's a crepe cake!!

A crepe cake is basically what the name implies.  It's a cake made by layering crepes with some sort of filling -- in this case, chocolate pudding.  I was reminded of my desire to make one of these when I was perusing my newest cookbook, "Sugar Baby" by Gesine Bullock-Prado.  It's an amazing book, with wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures, as well as fun and interesting comments thrown in.  I highly recommend it if you are a baking and candy making lover like I am.  I ended up adapting my recipe from hers, because hers is a very rich version, with mocha crepes and bittersweet chocolate pudding.  I wanted something a little lighter, so I made plain vanilla crepes, and regular chocolate pudding, which I further lightened with a small amount of fresh whipped cream, and then topped with a milk chocolate ganache.  The recipe I have here is what I made.  For the original version, check out the book!

This dessert does not disappoint.  The multitude of thin layers made for a delightful texture.  It sort of reminded me of a grown up version of chocolate chip pancakes.  I loved it so much.

A few notes: 
  • Crepes are not difficult, but they take a little practice.  Even though the recipe says to melt a little butter in the pan before making crepes, and to melt more butter in the pan as needed between crepes, I actually found that mine came out better when I didn't add butter.  I guess that depends on the non-stickness of your pans.  I also found it easiest to spoon the two tablespoons of batter right into the middle of the pan, and swirl it around from there.  That gave me even and nice round crepes.  Use the thinnest non-metal spatula that you have to flip them, and remove them from the pan.  I ended up lifting it with a spatula, and then flipping it with my hands.  I don't recommend this because those babies are hot!
  • For the assembly, I would layer a crepe with a couple tablespoons of pudding, spread it around, put on another crepe, and then stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.  Sometimes I would do 2 or 3 layers between freezings.  I found this trick on the Sugar Baby website, and it was very helpful in keeping the layers stable (as the pudding warms, it gets squishier).
  • My pudding may have been a little too soft, because when I went to cut the cake, this is what happened:
Still tasty, just a little messy.  When I cut it the next day, after it had been in the fridge, I didn't have this problem. Oh well, I'll eat it anyway. 

Crepe Cake
Source: Adapted from "Sugar Baby" by Gesine Bullock-Prado

For the Crepes:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup agave nectar*

*a note about agave nectar: yes, this is something a little more specialty than I would normally use, but I wanted to try it out.  It's not cheap, but I used it for both the crepes and the pudding, and I see myself using it in future.  It's a liquid, slightly thinner than honey.  I plan to try it in other recipes, and I'll let you know how it goes.
  1. Melt the butter (I did this in the microwave).
  2. Transfer the butter along with all the remaining ingredients into a blender of food processor and process until completely blended.
  3. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to dissipate any bubbles left over from the blitzing, and to hydrate the flour and relax the gluten (fp note: since I made mine in the blender, I just put the lid on the blender pitcher and stuck it in the fridge. worked just fine)
  4. Pour the batter through a sieve and into a large container. If you find that the batter has thickened too much in the fridge to flow freely, stir in 1 tablespoon milk at a time until it reaches pourable consistency.
  5. In a 6-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat, melt a small pat of butter, swirling the pan to make sure it is evenly coated with butter but not with so much that it pools.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour 2 tablespoons of the crepe batter into the pan, swirling it around to coat the pan and form an even circle. Cook over medium-low heat until the crepe releases, then flip and cook until it is cooked through. Remove from the pan to a plate. Put parchment between each crepe so that they don't stick together when you stack them up.
  7. Repeat this process with the remaining batter.
  8. The crepes need to be completely cool before you layer them with the pudding.  Since I made all of mine at once, I put them in the fridge to cool a little bit.
For the Chocolate Pudding:

1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coffee
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the agave nectar, cocoa powder, heavy cream, and salt until the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coffee and cornstarch. While whisking constantly, add the egg yolks one at a time and then add the vanilla extract.
  3. Return the pan containing the cocoa mixture to the stove. Pour the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture, whisking constantly over medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer and whisk for about 5 minutes, until the pudding thickens and the temperature reaches 200 F. 
  4. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap touches the entire surface of the pudding.  Refrigerate until chilled. 
  5. When you are ready to use the pudding, gently fold in the whipped cream, if using. 
For the Milk Chocolate Ganache:

4 ounces milk chocolate (chopped or chips is fine)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

In a heatproof bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring until completely smooth.  Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring to melt and combine.  Set aside and let it cool at room temperature until you are ready to use it, and it has reached a pourable consistency.

  1. Give the pudding a good stir to loosen up. 
  2. Lay a crepe on a serving plate.  With a small offset spatula, spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the pudding evenly over the crepe. Lay another crepe on top of the pudding, and spread another heaping tablespoon over the second crepe.  Repeat this process until you've using all your crepes.  Any left over pudding can be licked out of the bowl when no one's looking.
  3. Gently cover the crepe cake with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer to set for about 1 hour.  You don't want it frozen, just set enough to slice easily.  Right. That didn't work so well for me.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not trying to be sneaky

Yes, those are green bits in those muffins.  No, they are not green sprinkles, or candied lime peels.  Yes, they are veggies.  Zucchini, actually.  There, I've said it.  These muffins have zucchini in them, and I'm not trying to hide it. 

I happen to really like zucchini, but sometimes I go a little overboard when purchasing it, and I end up with more that we can eat in Chez Flourpile.  Rather than letting it rot in my fridge, I decided to use up some of it in these muffins.  They do use some whole wheat flour, and veggies, and no butter, so I guess you could consider them healthy.  And, they are super tasty!!  To me, they tasted a lot like carrot cake, which leads me to believe that they would be really good with cream cheese frosting.  I did discover that if you spread a little cream cheese on the top of them, they make a great pre-run snack. 

When I made these, I totally thought I had a home run.  The Hubster enjoyed them, and I really like them.  But, I took them to work, and they were not as universally enjoyed.  Most of the time, I don't have any leftovers when I take stuff to work, but that was not the case this time.  There were people that wouldn't come near them, solely because they contained veggies.  Whatever.  Haters gonna hate.  Their loss.

The original recipe (which can be found here) calls for wheat germ.  I don't have that in the house, and I didn't feel like going out to buy it just for this, so I omitted it.  I'm sure it makes them healthier, but that wasn't really my goal, so I don't see it as a loss. 

Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
Source: In Erika's Kitchen

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 3/4 cups grated zucchini (do not peel)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon (fp note: pumpkin pie spice would be nice here too!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup muffin tin with paper liners and spray it lightly with cooking spray, just in case the muffins rise over the edges of the cups.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the oil and whisk until incorporated. Add the zucchini and vanilla and mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just to combine. Stir in the wheat germ.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the 24 muffin cups. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a rack.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Blondies

If I need to make something and I'm kind of in a hurry, I love to make bars.  Yes, they take longer to bake than cookies, but you only have to watch one tray of bars, and when it's done, it's done.  No second batch, nothing.  The other nice thing is that you can make them a day ahead, and as long as you don't cut them, and wrap them up and stick them in the fridge, they will taste just as fresh the next day.  Because of this, it makes it okay that you can't even think of cutting them until they are totally cool. 

I made these bars for a concert that we went to with some friends.  I wasn't really feeling like making something chocolatey, and I had seen this recipe in my googly reader.  I added a handful of white chocolate chips, because, well, I can't leave well enough alone.  I liked the addition.

These bars were pretty tasty, but nothing special.  They had a nice cinnamony flavor, and were soft on the inside, with a crunchy exterior, just like a good bar should be.  However, they were not that popular.  Everyone in the group had one, but I had leftovers.  That doesn't usually happen.  If I choose to make these again, I will probably do something to bump up the flavor.

One little thing: the original recipe for these calls the "Snickerdoodle Blondies".  However, they don't contain any cream of tartar, and for me, that one little ingredient makes them taste like snickerdoodles, and not just cinnamon and sugar.  I didn't have the time to mess around with the recipe, so I'm just going to call these Cinnamon Sugar blondies.

Side note: See that flower in the photo?  It's from my plumeria plant, Plantly. He was a gift from my parents 4 years ago, and I have managed to not kill him, so during the summer, he rewards me with pretty flowers!

Cinnamon Sugar Blondies
Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Makes 24 blondies

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips, if using, and give the dough one final stir to ensure any flour on the bottom of the bowl is incorporated.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan. Spread in an even layer - I like to use my fingertips to spread the dough. I just put a piece of plastic wrap between my fingers and the dough so it won't be too sticky (fp note: do it this way. this note is from the source, and it works better than any other way i tried). Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the surface of the blondies springs back when gently pressed (fp note: i don't think this is a good method.  on mine, the cinnamon sugar topping formed a crust, and i couldn't tell just by pressing if they were done.  bake them until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.). Remove the pan to a wire rack and let the blondies cool completely before cutting.