Monday, April 23, 2007

White Chocolate Apricot Scones

This recipe comes from "Bread for Breakfast" by Beth Hensberger, a book which I requested interlibrary loan after seeing a form of these scones on Cream Puffs in Venice, one of my favorite baking blogs.

Bread for Breakfast looks like it has some great stuff - I have my eye on the rhubarb coffee cake for the weekend, since rhubarb is still in season right now.

These scones are an amazing combo of fruit and sweet - if my husband didn't have nut issues I think the salty crunch of the nut would have been a nice addition. I had a tupperware of white chocolate chips just begging to be used. I made these in one of my most recent kitchen acquisitions - a scone pan! Instead of having to cut out dough or cut it into wedges (which is admittedly not that hard), I just plop the dough into the pre-wedged circle and they come out beautifully!

Apricot, White Chocolate and [Walnut] Scones

Makes 8 scones

2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, plus more, as needed
4 oz white chocolate, cut into 1/2" chunks, or 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork, cut in the butter until it has the texture of soft crumbs.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the dough forms a soft, shaggy ball, adding additional buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time, as needed. Add the white chocolate, walnuts, and apricots, stirring until evenly distributed.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently about 10 times, or just until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Pat each dough piece into a 1-inch-thick round, 6 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut each round into 4 wedges.

5. Place the wedges 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. Serve the scones the day they are baked.

Jenny's notes: I of course omitted the nuts. I think this would be good with pecans too.

I prefer to mix the butter in with my fingertips, like I was making biscuits. And I mixed the apricots and chips into the flour butter mixture before lightly mixing in the liquids. This is the order all of my favorite scones recipes do it, and I believe it keeps the dough from getting overmixed and becoming too heavy.

These would look very pretty cut out into spring shapes!

Categories: Apricots, Baked Fruit, Buttermilk, Scones

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Back when I worked in Restaurant Land, I started thinking of each month in terms of specific ingredients. I remember one March having a pasta dish with fiddlehead ferns, truffles, and white asparagus. Another thing that comes with spring - rhubarb!

This might sound crazy, since rhubarb is somewhat of an old-fashioned "fruit" (more of a vegetable really), but I had never had it before. Not once. Not even in something else, like a strawberry-rhubarb pie. So I did a little research and recipe searching. I found that rhubarb is also known as "pie plant" in some parts of the country.

In my recipe searching, I found a lot of recipes where rhubarb is used as a secondary ingredient, but not a lot where you could taste it on its own. Since this was my first rhubarb experience, I wanted something truly rhubarbesque.

Enter the trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook. Sometimes, especially for traditional or old-fashioned recipes, you just have to use the cookbook you were raised on. For some people it's Joy of Cooking, for me it was Betty Crocker. In fact, my Mom had two - the "old" version and the "new," because the older one had recipes that were left out of the update. Her "new" was several versions before my new.

All I did was follow the suggestions in converting apple crisp to rhubarb crisp, which was basically swapping out the fruit for equal amounts.

The best part of my rhubarb experience was in preparing the rhubarb. How can something so much like celery be in a dessert? It looks like celery, you clean it like you clean celery, when you cut it it crunches like celery.... I felt like I was in some kind of science fiction novel where nothing was as it seemed. After it cooks it turns into a pale pink, and the sugar from the topping cooks down into the fruit.

Cooking it softens it, but it doesn't entirely lose its slight tartness, a characteristic that I really enjoyed. The tart paired with the sweet crumbly crips was a match made in heaven. Peach or apple crisp might prove too sweet in the future, because I have had rhubarb crisp!

I'm not including a recipe - just use your favorite crisp recipe and substitute equal amounts rhubarb. Or try half n' half. I really want to try blackberry rhubarb, for some reason. Or pear and rhubarb.

Categories: Crisp, Rhubarb

Monday, April 09, 2007

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Red Velvet Cake has been a theme in my life lately. First, we had a library cake walk to raise money for Relay for Life. One person paid for five rounds of the cake walk just to try to win the red velvet cake that had been contributed.

Then, one of my favorite baking blogs made Red Velvet Cupcakes for the March challenge of a group of baker bloggers called Daring Bakers (which I'm joining starting in May!). Her post also lists what everyone else made, and after seeing post after post of red velvet cakes, I simply had to make one.

The night I made this cake was somewhat of a comedy of errors - I don't like to force butter to come to room temperature (no microwaving allowed, in other words) and didn't take it out of the fridge until I got home at 5 that day. Then I discovered that somehow I only have one 9-inch cake pan, meaning I had to bake the cake one layer at a time. It was 10:30 before I even thought about making icing, and I had to be at work at 8 the next morning. It made for a late night, but my students seemed to enjoy the cake.

This red velvet cake recipe comes from a new cookbook - The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. I made Pimento Cheese from it and featured it in my vegetarian cooking blog two weeks ago.

Red Velvet Cake

Makes one 2-layer, 9-inch cake; enough for 12 people.

For the cake:
2 3/4 cups plus 1 tbsp sifted cake flour or 2 1/2 cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the pans
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder such as Hershey's
1 ounce red food coloring
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest (from 1-2 oranges)
1 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk

For the icing:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 pound cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1 pound (4 cups) sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp whole milk, if needed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9x2-inch cake pans or line their bottoms with greased, floured waxed paper.

2. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together twice. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa, red food coloring, and water to a smooth paste, about 1 minute, and reserve.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating about 15 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until the mixture has lightened in color and become fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, the vanilla, and orange zest, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Add the red cocoa paste and mix until evenly incorporated.

4. Add the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture in thirds, alternating with 2 additions of half the buttermilk. To avoid overworking the batter, gently mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition, until the ingredient is just incorporated. Once all ingredients are incorporated, beat the batter 10-12 strokes with your spoon or spatula if using cake flour, 2-3 strokes if using bleached all-purpose flour.

5. Divide the batter between the cake pans and spread the tops evenly with the wooden spoon or spatula. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick emerges clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then slide a thin paring knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cakes. Lift away the waxed paper if using. Cool the cakes completely on a rack, with their tops facing up.

6. In a large bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter with the mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and beat until the mixture is fluffy, white, and very smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition, until the mixture is creamy, fluffy, and smooth. If the frosting is too stiff, beat the milk into it to loosen it.

7. Gently ice the cake layers generously. Spoon 1 cup of icing in the center of the first cake layer. Working an icing or rubber spatula in gentle swirling motions, spread the icing from the center towards the edges of the cake until it forms an even layer 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick .

8. Carefully set the second cake layer on top of the first and ice the second layer in the same manner, beginning with a dollop in the center and working it out to the sides. Then ice the sides of the cake.

9. Store the cake at room temperature, beneath a cake cover. If you don't plan to eat it for 24 hours, put it on a plate, tent it with plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Remember to remove the cake from the refrigerator 1 hour or more before serving to take the chill off.

Jenny's notes: I didn't pay close attention to beating times on this cake, and wonder if my overbeating contributed to a slightly dry cake texture. I also didn't sift the dry ingredients (shh! don't tell!), so that could have contributed.

I don't ice cakes in the way this recipe recommends - I do the middle, then the sides, and then the top, just like I was trained when working as a cake decorator. You may find it easier to do it this way as well.

The icing makes a bunch more than the cake needs, even when icing generously. I saved the rest and used it on top of cinnamon rolls Easter morning (adding orange juice and zest to it for orange rolls!).

Make sure you check your amounts on food coloring - most dye bottles sold in sets are only about 1/3 ounce, and you really need a full ounce. I had added a tube of red food coloring gel and it made it a nice pink, but I had to add an entire separate bottle to end up with the red cake that I picture here.

Categories: Cake, Cream Cheese, Red

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Rum Sauce

Due to snafus with finding silken tofu at the grocery store, I have to delay what I intended to make today (vegan chocolate cake) and post about something I made a while back.

Back when I had serious thoughts about working as a chef, I subscribed to all sorts of culinary magazines. This recipe comes from the January 2003 issue of Bon Appetit, and can be found online here. When I was making desserts at Almost Home Tearoom in Greencastle, IN, I brought this recipe in despite the fact that we already had a popular bread pudding. The addition of chocolate and the marvelous cinnamon rum sauce made this a fast hit.

The last time I made it was for the Mardi Gras party we had at work. Last week someone told me that they went to a restaurant in town and her husband ordered the bread pudding. She had a bite but said it "wasn't as good as mine." Ah, that's sweet. But seriously, bread pudding is such an easy thing to make, and you must try this one. (The picture features my fingers, whoops).


1 1-pound loaf brioche* or egg bread with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
Cinnamon-Rum Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in large bowl; pour 8 tablespoons melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.
Whisk half and half, 1 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes in dish. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter over pudding; sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake bread pudding until puffed, brown, and set in center, about 1 hour. Serve warm with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce.

Cinnamon-Rum Sauce

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt unsalted butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add dark brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in dark rum and vanilla extract. Serve warm.
(Cinnamon-Rum Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, whisking occasionally, before serving.)

Jenny's notes: I have made this with brioche, and it is outstanding, but seriously, just buy a loaf or two of french bread instead. Even the flatter "Italian" bread works fine, but let it dry out a bit after cubing it up if it's too fresh. Stale bread soaks up the custard better.

I recommend tossing the bread in the custard in a bowl before pouring into baking dish, and tossing once in the pan. This will help the top pieces get as soaked as the bottom (be gentle!).

You can leave the rum out and just have a cinnamon sauce, but the alcohol cooks out and really adds a lot of flavor.

And talk about a crowd pleasing meal - if you are having friends over and own two 9x13 pans, I suggest making this in one, and Jani'ces Vegetarian Baked Ziti in the other. Your friends will be stuffed, but both can be made in advance, and are fairly easy.

Categories: Bread Pudding, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Custard
, Rum