Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers September 2011 - Croissants

Daring Bakers - Croissants
The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I had actually made croissants before, from a different Julia Child recipe, and had a better result than I did this time around.  I'm not sure of the difference.  At one point I think I rolled out one too many times, but that should have created more layers, not the deflated croissants I ended up with.  The last time I also chilled between EVERY step, and this time didn't do that because the recipe didn't ask me to.

Oh yeah, also, I tried making chocolate croissant dough by substituting 1/4 cup of the flour with cocoa powder.  As you can probably tell by my attempt at a double chocolate croissant, it didn't exactly work out.  The dough was way too dry and never really recovered, and butter was poking through at every turn.  I wanted to try something new!  Perhaps I should have done it by weight instead of volume.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rosemary Shortbread

Rosemary Shortbread
My co-worker has brought rosemary shortbread to two library functions and my reaction has been a little like... hmm, but I don't like shortbread. But that smells really good. Oh god, I guess I DO like shortbread!  I begged the recipe off of her, and it can be found on Epicurious.com, and also below.

I'm not really convinced I have been converted to the shortbread fan club (don't tell the Scottish contingent of my relatives), but this particular shortbread is delicious.  The combination of sweet with the savory rosemary is compelling, and confuses your tastebuds enough to go back for more.  Do I like this?  Yes I do! I used rosemary from my garden.

Sorry for the dim picture.  I made this batch for a friend who had hit a milestone in her dissertation process, and sent it off the next morning.  It is too bad she doesn't live closer, because she loves shortbread, and this is best fresh out of the oven.

 Rosemary Shortbread
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons mild honey
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Garnish: small rosemary sprigs
Special equipment: parchment paper

Preheat oven to 300°F.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary in a bowl.
Mix together butter, honey, and confectioners sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed, then add flour mixture and mix until dough resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until it just comes together, about 8 times. Halve dough and form each half into a 5-inch disk.
Roll out 1 disk (keep remaining dough at room temperature) between 2 sheets of parchment into a 9-inch round (trim as necessary). Remove top sheet of parchment and transfer dough on bottom sheet of parchment to a baking sheet. Score dough into 8 wedges by pricking dotted lines with a fork, then mark edges decoratively. Arrange rosemary sprigs (if using) decoratively on top of dough, pressing lightly to help adhere, and sprinkle dough with 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Slide shortbread on parchment to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board and cut along score marks with a large heavy knife.
Make another shortbread with remaining dough.

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Praline Glaze

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
When I saw this recipe in Southern Living, I knew I'd be trying it out! We live close to apple orchards with a wide variety just over the border in North Carolina, so it easy to have an abundance of apples. I bought a 1/2 bushel (what was I thinking) and so far I've made two dehydrators full of dried apples, and this cake. It isn't quite as delicious as my Grandma's, but there is a lot going on in this cake - nuts, apples, spices, cream cheese swirl, and praline glaze. Something for everyone.

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Recipe from Southern Living September 2011


    1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1 cup finely chopped pecans (I was cheap and just bought the little 1/2 cup bag in the baking aisle)
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg Since mine was freshly ground, I used about half this.
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten
    3/4 cup canola oil
    3/4 cup applesauce
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 cups peeled and finely chopped apples (about 1 1/2 lb.) I used Mutsu, and it only took 2 to get to three cups!

    1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    1/4 cup butter
    3 tablespoons milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup powdered sugar


    1. Prepare Filling: Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.
    2. Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350º. Bake pecans in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next 3 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in apples and pecans.
    3. Spoon two-thirds of apple mixture into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan. Spoon Cream Cheese Filling over apple mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of pan. Swirl filling through apple mixture using a paring knife. Spoon remaining apple mixture over Cream Cheese Filling.
    4. Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).
    5. Prepare Frosting: Bring 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 3 Tbsp. milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar until smooth; stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Pour immediately over cooled cake.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nutella Cake Balls

Nutella Cake Balls
Cake balls are a simple but delicious treat that my husband has been begging me to make for months.  I'm not sure who first came up with them, but I'm 98% certain it was a bakery that often had cake remnants that they were just throwing away.

The next time this happens to you - dump about the same amount of tasty frosting, mush together, form into balls, chill, and dip in some form of chocolate.  Decorate as desired.  Cake, transformed.  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nutella Cupcakes

Nutella Cupcake
I don't have as much to say about these, except that you should try this recipe!

I wanted a chocolate cupcake recipe, but I wanted it to be more than just chocolate.  I entertained thoughts of chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate mocha, but those seemed too common.  (I know, what was I thinking?  Never enough chocolate.)

Then I stumbled across MyBakingAddiction.com and the recipe for Nutella cupcakes.  I was sold!  The recipe on the site is more of a concept, and when it said to start with your favorite chocolate cupcakes, I used the recipe from America's Test Kitchen for ultimate chocolate cupcakes.  (I'm not linking to it because while it is free, you have to register each time, such a pain).  I'm not sure what I did differently but they were a bit dry and crumbly today.  Boo!  But once you gouge out the middles, fill them with Nutella, and top them with a frosting that is also half Nutella, who cares.  :)

Teal Velvet Cupcakes

Teal Velvet Cupcake
Don't adjust your set. They really are that color. Ack! Well, let me explain....

I was preparing cupcakes for my annual student workers meeting, and I had been foiled on every count for the non-chocolate cupcake. The store was completely OUT of pumpkin, both Thursday and today. Apparently this is not because people are getting excited about making fall desserts once we're past Labor Day, no. Some guy regularly comes in and buys all the cans to feed his dogs. *shakes fist* I really wanted to make pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting, but didn't want to go to Wal-Mart.

Another favorite is red velvet, of course, particularly here in the south. I had a bunch of food coloring on hand, everything but red. I decided that blue velvet would be cool (and possibly more appealing than neon green, which I also seem to have in abundance). Blue velvet! Like blue suede! Or like the horse story! I squirted an entire tube in, and ended up with more of a teal.

Well, teal isn't all bad.  They were for my music library student workers, and the two official decor colors for the music building are purple and teal.  I could say I did it on purpose!  Sure, let's go with that. It tasted okay, not too chemically (a clear sign I did NOT use enough dye, ha), and I decided to just go ahead and see what happened when I baked them.

As you can see above, that teal turned into a deep forest green with a few blue undertones.  I guess I can blame the butter, or the buttermilk.  That is not teal.  That is definitely not blue!  It is more of a.... okay, it is green.  And everyone knows you should not make food green that didn't start out that way.  It makes people think of mold and decay.  I could have started over, but as usual I had left my baking project until the last minute, and it was too late to turn back.

I thought about making some kind of atrocious icing color, maybe make use of those neon food colorings for once, but decided to just let the cream cheese icing be, and sprinkled a few candy pearls on top.

By the way, I used the red velvet cupcake recipe I found on the Brown Eyed Baker blog, which she in turn found in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, and was very happy with the texture.

I'm just not sure I can recommend the teal.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Grandma's Apple Cake

Frances's Apple Cake
I may have posted this before, but this is a recipe I've had in my life since I was born. My mother makes it, my grandmother, her mother, and her grandmother. I don't know where it comes from originally but at this point it is part of my own history, and I now share it with you.

Frances's Apple Cake
1/2 cup oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups apples, diced (I used jonagold, some of the first apples of the year!)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts

This recipe came to me with just ingredients, but in general I mix the diced apples with sugar, then the beaten eggs and vanilla, then mix in the dry ingredients, nuts last. I often leave out the nuts or use hazelnuts instead.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour.

Sometimes I also add a generous sprinkling of cinnamon to the mixture, but it doesn't really need it. This time I did!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Balls

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Balls
One day, when I was learning to temper chocolate, I started to do a Google search for items covered in chocolate. Google thinks it knows what you wanted, and started to suggest "Chocolate Covered Katie?" Hoping it wasn't porn, I clicked on the link, and discovered her healthy dessert blog. I scanned through the entries with sheer and utter skepticism, but the comments were consistently positive.

The recipe I kept looking at was for fudge babies (please click on her link for that recipe as well as her own variations), which she described as a homemade Larabar. I was looking for new things to eat for snack or breakfast that I could make ahead of time and wouldn't be bad for me, so I thought it couldn't hurt to give them a try.

I used walnuts, dates, a little handful of oats, a little vanilla, a pinch of salt, cocoa powder, and ended up adding a little agave since I was using drier dates than the brand she recommended. Then I formed the mixture into balls and stuck them in the fridge. I was surprised too. They don't taste overtly fruity like so many vegan things do, the lack of flour isn't a problem because you can taste the nuts in a good way. My addition of oats made every bite remind me of the double chocolate oatmeal cookies my Mom used to make, only these are much better for you, not to mention that I can only eat one at a time.

Gluten-free, vegan, and these could also easily be made raw with the omission (or different choosing) of 1-2 ingredients. But I just call them tasty.