Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Gingersnaps

December 17, 2013 at 10:58 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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gingersnaps

Last week I was in paradise, now I’m back to reality.  I’m trying to brighten up the Brooklyn dreariness with a tree and some holiday-spiced cookies.  How convenient that David Blom’s Gingersnaps are up for TWD this week.  Cutout cookies are fun, I think.  Sticky doughs can be tricky to work with and get soft quickly, but I’ve found that rolling out dough on parchment and then chilling the rolled sheet for 10 or so minutes before punching out shapes makes the process a lot easier.

I heard that these cookies tasted more like molasses than ginger, so I doubled the spices in my batch.  I also reduced the water called for in the recipe to just 1 tablespoon, as I didn’t think the dough needed so much extra moisture.  Since I was trying to boost the spiciness, I skipped the molasses glaze and sprinkled my stars with sanding sugar instead.  While I baked these a few minutes longer than the recipe called for, they were still a little more chewy than snappy.  They never quite dried out in the center.

These may not be my ideal gingersnaps (those are from Miette, although I’ve only had them in the shop and have not tried their recipe in my own kitchen), but they were tasty enough and the recipe was small enough that I don’t mind too much.  They were good with tea.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Sweet Potato Ginger Pie

November 25, 2013 at 11:39 am | Posted in pies & tarts, sweet things | 14 Comments
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sweet potato ginger pie

I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner myself this year.  You never know what you’re gonna get when you’re not in charge, so I had to make a pre-Thanksgiving pie for the two of us here at home.

I mixed things up from the typical pumpkin pie by making a sweet potato one.  To tell you the truth, I think that pumpkins and sweet potatoes can make pretty interchangeable pie fillings in terms of taste, because they’re often identically spiced.  This pie, though, mixes it up a bit in the spice department.  It’s a little more ginger-heavy than most– a little more zippy– and leaves out the traditional cloves entirely.  When I make a pumpkin pie I normally reach for a can-opener, but this filling uses a fresh-roasted sweet potato.  If you have a big potato left over from last night’s dinner, you can use that, no problem.  Using a fresh sweet potato for a custard pie gives a slightly different texture than canned pumpkin does.  The sweet potato filling is not quite as velvety smooth as pumpkin filling– it’s a little more dense and substantial.

Happy Thanksgiving!

sweet potato ginger pie

Sweet Potato Ginger Pie- makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from the wonderfully reliable Melissa Clark

Steph’s Note: To speed things along, you can cook the sweet potato in advance or use a leftover one for this pie.  Just bring it to room temperature before processing the filling.

single-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough, well-chilled
1 c cooked sweet potato

3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
3 eggs
2/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt

-To make the filling, cut a slit into one large sweet potato and wrap tightly in foil.  Bake at 400°F until sweet potato is very soft, about an hour.  Let cool.

-Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle.  Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate.  Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.

-Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for at least 15 minutes.  Cover the pie with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with pie weights.  Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes (you can do this while the sweet potato is also in the oven).  Remove the foil or parchment and weights and bake until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes more.  Cool on a rack until needed.

-Scoop 1 cup of cooked, cooled sweet potato into food processor, discarding skin.  Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.  Add all remaining filling ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth.  You can skip this, but if you want to smooth the filling out a bit more, strain it by pressing through a fine sieve.

-Spoon filling into pie crust and spread until flat and even.  Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is mostly firm and set but jiggles slightly when moved, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Double Chocolate Cookies

November 19, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 18 Comments
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double chocolate cookies

Rick Katz’s Double Chocolate Cookies came along at just the right time…I have been majorly craving chocolate lately.  I’ve hardly touched the stuff in the last six months, and that’s just plain unnatural!

I knew exactly what these cookies would be like.  I’ve worked in two places where we made cookies very similar to this, method and everything (just in way bigger batches).  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my two former chefs started with this recipe originally.  These are rich– a dark chocolate batter with extra chocolate bits mixed in (preferably a high percentage bittersweet)– and exactly the fix I was looking for.  The recipe intro calls them something like “half cookie, half brownie,” and that about sums it up.  You have to whip the heck out of the eggs and sugar when you make these, so they get that awesome brownie-like crackle shell, but they’re really soft inside.  As soon as they cool from baking, they’re pretty gooey.  But give them the better part of a day, or even overnight, and they become chewy.  So good.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also all over the Interwebs) Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

October 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 14 Comments
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pumpkin cupcakes

Some days I do not know what the heck I’m doing.  I put toothpaste on my Clarisonic.  I almost forget the pumpkin in my pumpkin cupcakes.  Luckily, I usually realize something’s amiss before it’s too late, so both my face and my cupcakes wound up alright…this time.

Speaking of forgetting the pumpkin, I once had a British guy point out to me that all this “American baked pumpkin stuff” just tastes like spices, so why bother with the pumpkin at all?  I’d never really thought about that before, and I guess he was almost right about the taste, but I certainly do think there’s reason to bother.  Not only does pumpkin puree make quickbreads and cakes nice and moist, (and orange, of course), but I think that pumpkin has a bit of earthiness to it, keeping them from being just sweet spice cakes.  Also squash makes cupcakes healthier??  Maybe I’m kidding myself there.  I do happen to love the fall spices, though, and these cupcakes have just the right amount.  And what do I need to say about cream cheese frosting, except for “yes please”?

These are a great treat anytime in the cooler weather, but add a few black and orange sprinkles and they turn into Halloween cupcakesHappy Halloween!

Pumpkin Cupcakes- makes 18-20 cupcakes
from Leite’s Culinaria, but seen all over the interwebs in both cupcake and layer cake form

Steph’s Note:  Don’t need that many cupcakes?  Make a half-batch to get 9-10, and halve the frosting as well.

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

-Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) and prepare your cupcake tins with paper liners.

-In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

-Add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the lined cups–they should be about 3/4 full.

-Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes.  Remove them from the tins and onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
by me

Steph’s Note:  You can see from my photo that this frosting is soft…the kind to spoon on instead of pipe.  Using a small amount of natural maple flavor instead the larger amount of maple syrup helps, as does preparing the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and then refrigerating it until the cakes are cool.  Cutting back on the powdered sugar (oddly) also helps stiffen up a cream cheese frosting if that’s what you prefer..

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (full-fat or reduced-fat Neufchâtel), at cool room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or 1 tsp natural maple flavor
pinch of salt

-In a food processor, zip the confectioner’s sugar first to break up any lumps.  Add the other ingredients and process until smooth, scraping as needed.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: X Cookies

October 1, 2013 at 12:26 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 9 Comments
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X cookies

Finally–Nick Malgieri’s X Cookies!  I’ve had a little hunk of pasta frolla in the freezer waiting for these guys ever since we made pizza rustica.  What’s that you say?  That means it’s been in the freezer for almost a year and a half?  Details, details…

X cookies are a take on a traditional Sicilian cookie called cucidati…a sweet dough filled with a paste of dried figs, raisins, orange, nuts, rum, spices, etc. Think of a more grown-up Fig Newton and you’re on the right track.  Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of darkly flavored dried fruit and spice stuff like this.  I probably would have skipped this recipe, but the process looked fun, and my husband’s half Sicilian, so I thought he might like them.  Of course I tried them, too.  And while they aren’t my favorite (although, as predicted, my husband likes them quite a lot), I can see their appeal when dunked in hot coffee or eaten with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The instructions for forming the Xs were very clear.  It could have been a long process if I’d made a full batch, but I sure don’t need five dozen of them hanging around.  I did just a quarter batch for fifteen cookies.  I didn’t have any dried orange peel, so I improvised by using Grand Marnier instead of rum.

X cookies

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  It’s also here, and there’s even a video of Nick and Julia making the cookies together. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Espresso Profiteroles

September 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Posted in general pastry, groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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espresso profiteroles

Choux paste treats have been well-covered here.  Gougères, éclairs, cream puffs and even crullers–wait, something’s missing.  How could I forget profiteroles, one of my most favorite desserts?   I’ll take care of that one now with Norman Love’s Espresso Profiteroles.

Despite my love of profiteroles, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for these.  Quite frankly, I thought the picture in the book looked terrible (the choux looked bready, not light).  I’m happy to report that they turned out better than expected.  I’m not sure how much flavor was really contributed by adding coffee to the choux puffs themselves, but they puffed and hollowed nicely.  I used espresso ice cream (instead of cinnamon) and boozed up the chocolate sauce with Kahlua (instead of Grand Marnier), so that took care of the missing coffee flavors.

These are best cut and filled right before serving, when the puffs are crisp and the ice cream is just beginning to soften.  Pre-scooped and frozen is a profiterole no-no for me.  And the sauce should be warm.  Mmmmm…sauce…

espresso profiteroles

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Johnnycake Cobbler

August 20, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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johnnycake cobbler

I made Johanne Killeen’s Johnnycake Cobbler twice, both times with peaches and red currants.  The first time, I thought the biscuit layer was too thick and the fruit was getting lost underneath all that cornmeal topping.  So I tried again, reducing the topping ingredients by a third.  Now the cobbler to fruit ratio was in much better proportion.  Even with less biscuit on top, in order to get it cooked through, I still had to bake the cobbler for several minutes longer than the recipe stated.

I should warn you that the johnnycake topping uses lots of cream.  Like lots.  I just couldn’t do it– both times, I used a combo of milk and sour cream to replace it (essentially making a higher fat buttermilk-type liquid).  I’m sure it was less rich than the original, but at least I could justify having a little scoop of ice cream alongside.

I’ve been seeing plums at the market, so I’ll probably be giving this a third try soon!

peaches and red currants, about to be cobbled

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Nancy and Johanne making the cobbler together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Roasted Strawberries

June 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Posted in jams & preserves, other sweet, sweet things | 13 Comments
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roasted strawberries

I’m not too crazy about strawberries in baked goods.  Baked strawberries turn pale and sad.  Roasted strawberries, on the other hand, are vibrant and intense.  We’ve been roasting strawberries at work over the last couple weeks (it’s actually a great way to save berries that are on the verge, so to speak, or were never that great to begin with), and I thought I’d take the concept home with me.

This is a super easy process that you can multiply or fiddle with.  Strawberries and a sprinkle sugar are all that’s needed, but I added a dash of cassis to mine as well.  A fairly hot oven does its magic, and in about half an hour you have a tray of deep red, syrup coated jewels.

Stir these into your morning yogurt or use them as a topping for ice cream (buttermilk ice cream would be even more amazing topped with these, as would vanilla malted).  And mixed in with fresh strawberries in a shortcake–forget about it.

roasted strawberries

Roasted Strawberries

Steph’s Note:  This is more of a process than a recipe.  Adjust amounts depending on your quantity of berries.  Although I probably wouldn’t bother to fire up the oven on a hot day for less than a quart of strawberries, this will multiply no problem.   

a quart of strawberries (bigger ones halved or quartered, tiny ones left whole)
a couple spoons of sugar (white, raw or vanilla are all good)
 optional splash of flavoring (like vanilla, balsamic vinegar, cassis or Grand Marnier)

-Preheat your oven to 400°F.

-Put the strawberries on a sheet tray, or in a cake pan or a small metal roaster.  Use something where they fit in a single layer, but don’t have too much extra empty space where juices will just burn.  Sprinkle over the sugar…you only need enough to lightly coat them, as the sweetness will intensify as they roast.

-Roast for about 15 minutes, and then give the berries a gentle stir to coat them with the liquid they’ve released.  Continue to roast until the strawberries are deeply red and the juice is syrupy, almost beginning to caramelize.  This will probably take another 15-20 minutes.  Add in your splash of flavoring.  Done….you can store them in the fridge for a several days.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

June 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Posted in ice creams & frozen, sweet things | 13 Comments
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buttermilk ice cream

We’re in the summer swing here, and I’m starting to see some good-looking fruit at the farmers’ markets.  The first nice strawberries had me digging through my cookbook collection (I’m not a gardener) the other week for some fresh fruit inspiration.  Who wants to turn on the oven, especially in a house with no A/C?  What wound up catching my eye didn’t actually involve fresh fruit, but was something to go with it…Buttermilk Ice Cream.  It had been a while since I’d made ice cream at home and I happened to have some extra-special “real” buttermilk that I thought I’d paid too much for to hide in a baked good.  The gentle sweet tang of this ice cream is the prefect partner for simply sliced berries or peaches.  Don’t get me wrong, it’ll also be *stellar* with strawberry-rhubarb double crisp or  blueberry-nectarine pie.  Oh, and a strawberry-buttermilk milkshake…try that out, too.

I like to store my homemade ice cream in a restaurant-style 1/6 pan with a snap-on lid.  Freeze the empty stainless steel container while the ice cream is churning, and you’ll be good to go!

buttermilk ice cream

Buttermilk Ice Cream (makes about a quart)
adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

1 1/2 heavy cream 
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 
 5 large egg yolks (you could use up to 9 yolks- the more the richer)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or half a vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch of salt
about 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional; helps keep ice cream scoopable)

-In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar (and the vanilla bean seeds and pod, if using) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

-In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  You want it to look lightened.

-Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly drizzle about half the warm liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

-Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (if you are using a thermometer, this should be about 175-180°F).  Vigorously whisk in the xanthan gum, if using.  Strain the mixture and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla extract (if not using a bean), and salt.

-Cool completely and churn in an ice cream machine according manufacturer’s directions.  Transfer to a container for freezer storage.

Banana Layer Cake (with your favorite frosting)

April 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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banana layer cake

I am a master procrastinator.  I should be spring cleaning my disaster of a closet right now.  Instead, I am blogging about cake…a cake that I made two days ago, when I was also off work and also should have been spring cleaning my closet.  Housekeeping gives me the blues, but cake makes me happy!

I always buy too many bananas at once, so I have this perpetual stash of them in my freezer, waiting to be turned into smoothies or baked with.  Although I want to make every single thing in the book Vintage Cakes, I figured I’d start with a cake that would put some of those bananas to use.  I’ve made one, no two, banana layer cakes here before, so forgive me if I seem like I’m repeating myself.  They’re all good….moist, and most definitely cake and not banana bread.

I think banana cake is a good match for lots of frostings…cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter.  I didn’t use the coffee walnut buttercream that is paired with this cake in the book.  Instead I frosted it with some leftover chocolate frosting that I brought home from work a couple months ago and stuck in the freezer.  It’s actually too sweet for my tastes, and isn’t a recipe I’d make at home (which is why I’m not providing it below), so I had to temper that sweetness a bit by rewhipping it with a little cream cheese and some instant espresso.  OMG, wait–I used bananas and frosting from the freezer…doesn’t that mean I did some spring cleaning after all?

Banana Layer Cake- makes an 8″ three-layer cake, serving 8-12
adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  I halved the recipe to make 6″ rounds.  They took a little less time to bake, about 24 minutes.  Frost it with your favorite frosting.

2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature

-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease three 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment circles.

-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk them together.  In a small bowl or a measuring cup, combine the banana with the buttermilk.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four.  After each addition scrape the bowl well.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.

-Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 – 30 minutes.

-Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.

-Fill and frost with your favorite frosting.

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