Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm Alive

I have done some baking since my last post, but my oven hasn't even been turned on in over a week. The weight loss from the lack of baked goods at work is astounding.
No excuses for a lack of oven adventures, but I've had a very insane week and a half. Dad had emergency open heart surgery to remove an anuerism on his aorta, repair an aortic disection and a double bypass and I spent most of my time driving back and forth from work to Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky. He is back at his home again and I just finished a large-ish/tedious special section at work so I should have some time again.

Angela has been in from her Peace Corps adventures so that has been great. Hopefully I'll get some time to do some baking for her before she leaves us again until December.

In other news:

Kristen Bell and Michael Ausiello Have My Vote for the

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day: Dorie's Peanut Butter Torte

This was the second of the two Mother's Day desserts. Personally, I preferred the strawberry cake, but both of them ended up getting consumed, so I'll call it a wash.

Dorie Greenspan's Peanut Butter Torte
from "Baking, From My Home to Yours"

1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Crape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.Scrape the mouse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte: put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.
Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.
Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.
When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; I had no problems removing the pan, but you can also wrap a hot damp kitchen towel around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve. *I actually refrigerated mine in the springform pan because I was worried about something getting knocked into it while in the fridge. I didn't encounter any problems from that.


Mother's Day: Strawberry Cake From Scratch

For Mother's Day this year my family came over and we had a fabulous home cooked meal and enjoyed each other's company. EHHH! Wrong. My family came over and we all went to the local New China Buffet Restaurant. My family stuffed themselves and shamed me and then returned back to the apartment for the desserts I made the night before.

Awhile ago Katie was looking for a "from scratch" strawberry cake recipe for her brother's birthday. I don't remember what recipe she ended up using, I just remember she wasn't hugely pleased with it for the amount of work and pureeing that was required.

I did some searching and came up with this one to try from All Recipes. I've since made this cake three or four times and it has consistently turned out well. The icing is a little more iffy, but the cake has always been delicious and pretty.

From Scratch Strawberry Cake

2 cups white sugar
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs (room temperature)
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry puree, I used fresh, but the recipe originally called for frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter, flour and line with parchment three 9 inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Blend in vanilla and strawberry puree. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a small knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, before tapping out to cool completely. These might benefit from a trip to the freezer as they tend to stick in the pan.

These tend to make three moist, dense layers. I've used both strawberry cream cheese and strawberry butter cream icing. The cream cheese just refused to hold up very well and ended up making a horrible layer cake. The buttercream is a touch sweet, but it works well and is easy to use. I just use a regular buttercream recipe adding in about a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of extra strawberry puree.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Unless you are Jill, Richard, Heather, Hannah, Mark or my mother you probably don't know about my complete and total adoration for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cereal is hands down one of my favorite foods. I love all kinds from regular flakes to child pleasing Captain Crunch and more health focused raisin brain or frosted mini-wheats. Cereal. The delightful combination of milk with tasty bite sized morsels. I tend to go through phases with my cereal loves. The longest and most enduring infatuation has been above all, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. My love is what led me to jump on making these brownies from the Pillsbury 43rd Annual Bake Off. Mom was nice enough to get the little recipe booklet with all of the finalists in it for me. And this was one of the first I marked to try.

1 box (12.8 oz) Cinnamon Toast Crunch® cereal (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbs corn syrup
1 box Fudge Brownie Mix
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbs cinnamon-sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch pan with baking spray. Crush cereal until finely crushed in food processor. You should have about 4 cups.
In large bowl, stir butter and corn syrup until well blended. Add crushed cereal; mix thoroughly. Press evenly in pan.
In large bowl, make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and eggs as listed and adding cinnamon. Stir in 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips. Pour brownie batter over cereal mixture. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over batter.
Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar evenly over brownies.
Bake 14 to 18 minutes longer or until brownies are set when lightly touched in center. Cool 10 minutes; loosen edges but do not cut. Cool completely, about 2 hours before cutting.

I really liked these a lot. The one suggestion I would make is to bake the crust by itself for maybe 5-10 minutes before adding the brownie mix. The cereal crust ended up really chewy and although it tasted alright it's texture was unpleasant.