Archive for August, 2010

Daring Bakers – August

Hi friends!

Miss me?

I know. I’ve missed you too.

Funny how the last post I put up was this wonderful “welcome back from traveling everywhere” post and then I went missing for over a week.

My greatest apologies.

It’s no real excuse but I’ve been studying for my board exam (which I took yesterday YAYYYYYY!!) and applying to residency which goes out September 1 and then I’ll be back!!

Except not.

Because I’m spending the month of September back in NYC at another hospital doing another rotation that will most likely kick my butt.

Over the past couple of weeks though I’ve stocked up on my share of baking and am very excited to share it all with you!

First things first though, I am a day late in posting the Daring Bakers challenge for August. And let me tell you, it was a bit of a challenge!

BUT it made me finally buy an ice cream maker which Boy and I are ecstatic about. We buy ice cream all the time and this way we can come up with our own new flavors to try! So exciting.

My first foray into ice cream was a bit of a flop. I don’t think I cooked the custard long enough and instead of freezing into a soft ice cream, we had ice cream soup. Delicious ice cream soup, but still. Ice cream soup. My second try came out much better and I’m quite proud. This was tons and tons of fun.

Thanks to Elissa for hosting this month’s Daring Bakers challenge!!

Brown Butter Pound Cake Ice Cream Petit Fours

Check Elissa’s blog 17 and Baking for the recipe. Also, congratulations to her on picking up and going to college all the way in Boston when her wonderful parents are in Seattle. Good luck, Elissa!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I made the brown butter pound cake verbatim. Oh my word brown butter is amazing! The pound cake was not as dense as I had hoped it would be but the flavor of the brown butter really shined and made it delicious regardless. For the ice cream, I added 3/4 tsp of mint extract to the mixture and when it was nearly done churning, added in a few handfuls of chocolate chips to make Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream! If you do this, however, I recommend cutting down on the vanilla and chopping up your chips unless they’re minis.

Excited to see what’s in store for me next month!

I’ll be back later this week after my application’s submitted for some cupcake action. Stay tuned!


ps. I also learned this month that I can’t dip things in chocolate for beans. Any tips??

– Sharlene

Strawberry Icebox Cake

I’ve been wanting to make this cake every since Tara posted the recipe back in April.

Last week, I finally got my shot.

“Something refreshing” was the response I got when I asked what a friend wanted for her birthday dinner. She said that I didn’t have to bake a cake knowing full well that we’re all short on time these days since most of us are studying to take our second set of board exams. But.. it’s me and someone’s birthday which means I have to make a cake.

But did I have to bake a cake?

The answer is no.

Because when she said “something refreshing,” my mind immediately went to this cake. What could be more refreshing that a cold cake “baked” in the cold?!

So this is what I made.

The preparation was simple. The hardest part was waiting while the cake sat for hours mocking me, begging to be tasted before anyone else laid eyes on it.

Let me tell you, it was most definitely refreshing. Nice and cold in the warm evening air as we sat outside at picnic tables at a local restaurant. The subtle sweetness of the homemade sauce/jam paired with the straight-from-a-box graham crackers with just enough whipped cream made for a new twist on a strawberry shortcake and my friends and I welcomed it with open arms. Without a doubt, it was a hit!

Strawberry Icebox Cake
from seven spoons

Ingredients
1 lb strawberries, chopped
1/3 c caster sugar (I used regular sugar and it worked fine)
1 tbsp lemon juice, fresh preferable
Salt
3 1/2 c heavy cream, chilled and divided
3/4 c confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
A box of honey graham crackers

Instructions

Jam/Sauce:
Place three-quarters of the berries in a medium saucepan with 2 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tsp of lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until the fruit becomes soft and the juices begin to thicken, around 7-10 minutes.

Carefully transfer the strawberries to a blender and purée. Push the puréed sauce through a sieve back into the saucepan. Again, bring the berries to a simmer, stirring often, until it becomes thick and glossy. This should take around 10 minutes. Tara says it should be “on the verge of jammy-ness, close to the texture of hot fudge sauce.”

Add in the rest of the reserved berries and cook for a minute or so. Again, transfer the strawberries to a blender, purée, and push through a sieve to a clean container. Set aside to cool. Once cool, taste and add sugar and/or lemon as needed.

Cake:
Line an 8-by-8-inch metal cake pan with a cross of clingfilm, leaving an overhang on all sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or a hand mixer or whisk), whip 2 cups of heavy cream. Once it begins to thicken, sift in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar and a punch salt. Turn the mixer on medium-high and whip until the cream holds soft peaks. Add vanilla, then beat until the cream until stiff peaks.

For assembly, spread a small amount of the cream on the bottom of the cake pan. Then add a layer of graham crackers (about 9 crackers total). Spread a layer of 1/2 c cream on top of the crackers followed by a few tbsp of strawberry sauce. Continue layering until there are 5 layers of crackers and 4 layers of cream and sauce. Leave a small amount of cream to cover the last layer (although I forgot to do this and this layer was still soft and delectable).

Note: Tara says that you’ll use about 1/2 c of the strawberry sauce in the cake which should leave you with some leftover for serving with the cake. I just piled it all in the cake since I was taking this to a restaurant. The choice is yours!

Cover loosely with clingfilm, then draw the overhanging clingfilm from the sides up. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.

About 1 hour before serving, remove the clingfilm, invert the cake onto a serving plate, and remove the rest of the clingfilm. Place the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Using whatever means necessary, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream. Sift in the remaining 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar once the cream begins to thicken and then whip until a firm peak. Try not to overbeat please! Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream to cover the cake and then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Serve with the reserved sauce if you have any!


[Blurry, I know. But I needed to be eating the cake instead of taking pictures so.. shoot me.]

‘Twas darn good!

– Sharlene

World Peace Cookies

Hello! Did you enjoy the reposted recipes last week? They’re certainly some of my favorites and they’re sure crowd-pleasers.

It was nice to be gone but it’s even nicer to come back home.

See, I’ve been gone for over a month spending time at a NYC hospital and then vacationing in London/Dublin (both of which were extremely tiring but much fun indeed). So now, to come home after all that time feels wonderful.

But I’m tired.

So this will be short and sweet so I can take a nap.

Given that I’ve just come from a lovely international vacation, Dorie’s World Peace Cookies seemed like a fitting come-back treat. These cookies are wonderfully crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth. They do take a little bit of time to make because you have to refrigerate them but they’re worth the wait (and if you want to set aside a little bit of egg-free dough to snack on in the meantime I won’t tell). I’m in agreement that if everyone had one of these cookies every day there would be world peace. They sure brought peace to my stomach! (Until I ate the entire batch myself and had a wee bit o’ a tummy ache. Whoops.)

World Peace Cookies
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

Makes 36 or so cookies.

Ingredients
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt (or 1/2 tsp fleur de sel)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c mini chocolate chips

Instructions
Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda.

In a large bowl and using a hand or stand (paddle attachment if possible) mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. Turn off mixer.

Add all the dry ingredients into the bowl and protect everything possible from the upcoming dusting by placing a towel over the bowl. Pulse the mixer on low for a second or two about 5 times. Peek in and ensure that enough flour is incorporated that you can uncover the bowl. If not, pulse a couple more times. Uncovered, mix for another 30 seconds a low speed just until the flour disappears. Don’t overmix! Add in the chocolate mix briefly.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

When ready to back, preheat oven to 325 and line baking sheets with parchment.

Slice 1/2 inch thick rounds off the refrigerated logs. If they crumble apart (and they will), just push them back together. Place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake each sheet one at a time for ~ 12 minutes. They won’t exactly look done but they will be, trust Dorie on this! Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack until just warm. EAT EAT EAT!

Green Tea Cupcakes – Repost

The first original recipe to be published on STO, this cupcake flavor profile came to me on a whim and proved to be every bit of delicious I expected it to be. Originally published on March 9, 2010.

Last weekend was my first full-sized baking event. Ever. (Well, beyond the occasional school bake sale that I may or may not have volunteered for.)

70ish cupcakes along with animal heads made of cake and cookies to spell “CONGRATULATIONS.”

Slight overachiever. (In case you’re wondering, medical school does not require one to be an overachiever. I’d actually classify myself as an underachiever in that regard seeing as how I obviously spend more man-hours baking than studying.)

Wednesday:

  • Bake almond cakes for snacking while baking on Friday.
  • Bake cake to make animal heads.
  • Bake sugar cookies.
  • Make royal icing for the first time ever (what a time-consuming spontaneous idea).
  • Ice cookies in green, brown, and blue.

What really happened: I did all the above with a two-hour break to have dinner with an old roommate. Dinner was good. Consequences of leaving the kitchen for 2 hours in the midst of baking were not-so-good. I had to stay up until 1 and still wake up at 5.30 to drive an hour to the hospital. Icing cookies with royal icing took MUCH longer than anticipated (a.k.a. all night). No one warned me of this!

Thursday:

  • On call at the hospital until midnight.
  • Attempt to get some sleep.

What really happened: Got out of call at 10 but was exhausted due to the lack of sleep the night before. When did I turn into an old fart? On my Surgery rotation (the first one of the year) I got 4-5 hours routinely and made it through the 6-day work-week! Now? Give me 8 hours or someone’s going to lose an eye (which translates into: Give me 8 hours or I’ll repeatedly whine via texting to Boy the next day which I’m sure makes him want to poke his eye out.) After having 4 cups of coffee that day I still had to chug a Mountain Dew in a last ditch effort to stay awake while on my 12th hours at the hospital. And yet, with all that caffeine, I slept like a log (when I got home).

Friday:

  • Bake green tea cupcakes (subject of this post), fill, and top.
  • Bake banana chai cupcakes and ice.
  • Coach Boy and friend (Ashley) on how to make animal heads and hope it turns out okay.

What really happened: A 6-hour baking event complete with misplacement of sanity, sneaking pizza slices, and the Gaga challenge on America’s Best Dance Crew, a million and one dirty dishes, monkeys that looked genetically deformed, veritable wars against chocolate, heavy cream, exhaustion, and the clock, and sugar overload.

Saturday:

  • BABY SHOWER!


Didn’t Ashley and Boy’s animal heads come out cute? I love the Asian lion! And Tony the Tiger!

What really happened: Success! People loved the cupcakes and the animal heads (which also tasted delicious)! Yay!

Moral of the story: It was all worth it.

Seriously. I’d do it again. Chalk it up to the little-engine-that-could-overachiever in me. Or perhaps I have yet to find my sanity.

But really I put the green tea cupcake together piece by piece, pulling and adapting from various recipes, JUST for the shower and am elated with the results. It’s the first time I’ve ever come up with a concept on my own and carried it to fruition. The green tea flavor is there but it’s not overpowering, the strawberries add just the right amount sweetness and creaminess, and the mint whipped topping gives it a hint of freshness. It’s well-balanced and crazy good. (Oh! Do you hear that train? That big, loud obnoxious train? I believe that’s the Sharlene Happy-train and I’m tooting my own horn.) They’re absolutely delicious. Go bake them NOW!

Note on the animal heads: I didn’t take pictures while I was prototyping them and was too busy to take pictures while Ashley and Boy made them proper so sorry about that. Essentially, I took Bakerella‘s cake pop posts and created a lion, a tiger, and a monkey. The balls were made of crumbled yellow cake from a box, lemon frosting from a tub, melted chocolate candies, sweat, tears, and perhaps a few drops of blood. They were refrigerated for about an hour and then covered in various melted chocolate candies: dark chocolate for the monkey with a peanut butter face, peanut butter for the lion, and orange chocolate for the tiger. Ears for the lion and tiger were made of diamond shaped sprinkles pressed into the ball so that only a triangle was seen. The lion mane was made of caramel popcorn pressed on while the chocolate was still wet and the monkey ears were made of dark chocolate candies. Facial features were painted on with melted dark chocolate. Instead of putting them on sticks, since the plan was to have them rest atop the cupcakes, we coated them and laid them on parchment figuring the bottom wouldn’t be visible anyway. Holler if you have questions.

Note on photography: For fear of the whipped cream melting before the actual baby shower, I sent Ashley home with the whipped cream in an airtight container, 2 disposable decorating bags, decorating tips, and 35 un-topped green tea cupcakes. As such, the only finished product pictures I have are Ashley’s photos of the baby shower. The green tea ones have ridge-less tops (as in the picture below).

Green Tea Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Filling and Mint Whipped Cream

adapted from Chockylit, Giada, and Dorie

Cupcake
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp matcha
1 c milk [I used 2% because it’s all I keep stocked.]

Filling
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 c thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 c sugar
Juice of half a lemon (approximately 1 tbsp)

Topping
1 2/3 c heavy cream
5-8 fresh mint leaves [or a few drops mint extract]
1/3 c sugar

Instructions


Cupcake:
Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs/egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.


In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha. Mix 1/3 of flour mixture into batter followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat and then add in last of the flour mixture, each time mixing until just combined.

Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.


Filling:
In a food processor [or blender if you want to make your life difficult but have nothing else in your tiny kitchen; for this, I suggest chopping up the strawberries into small pieces and let the mascarpone soften a bit and you’ll be just fine] , combine mascarpone, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth.

Topping:
Bring 1 1/3 cups cream and the mint leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pull the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes, then pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
[If using mint extract omit this step.]

Strain the cream into a measuring cup and add as much additional chilled cream as needed to measure 1 1/3 cups. Working with a stand or hand mixer in a medium bowl, whip the cream and sugar [and mint extract, if using. Use 1-2 drops to start and increase as you taste. You don’t want the mint flavor to be too overpowering, just enough to give the cupcakes a fresh taste.] until the cream holds firm peaks.

[forgot to take pictures! whoops!]

Assembly:
Using a filling tip, pipe several areas of the cupcake with strawberry filling. [I piped 4-5 in a circle and then 1 more in the middle.] Alternatively, you can use the cone method by cutting out a cone from the cupcake, filling, and reapplying the cone (you may want to cut the bottom of the cone off so it all fits, or keep the bottom on to give your cake extra height). Top with the whipped cream.

Get to baking! You’re missing out!

– Sharlene

Candied Nuts – Repost

For all your entertaining needs, these nuts are seriously amazing. I ate the entire batch myself and do not regret it at all. I do regret, however, not having made them since. I’ll have to rectify that when I return. Originally posted on April 7, 2010.

I don’t like nuts.

Okay. That’s a lie.

I don’t usually like nuts.

If given the choice between a baked good with nuts or.. nothing, I’d go dessert-less. Even if I was craving chocolate. I just don’t like the crunch in my baked goods.

Sure, I can scarf down a bowl of cashews with the best of them. (By the way, my dad’s cashews and toasted/roasted/who-knows-what-he-does garlic? Wowza.) But other than cashews, I don’t really eat nuts.

Oh I also pad thai, including the nuts if they are present. I basically lick the bowl clean. YUM!

Anyway. Yeah. Not so much with the nuts.

But me and these nuts? We’re best friends.

How did that happen?!

Well if you really want the whole story read the whole thing. For the abridged version, only read what is in the brackets below (I stole this method from the missals in church. I hope that’s okay.)

I originally wanted to make this poppy seed lemon cake. I’ve been staring at it since Deb posted it in January. Doesn’t it look divine? Then with the springtime weather and my lemon/orange/all-things-that-smell-like-cleaning-products kick, I had to, HAD TO make it. And Deb gave suggestions for what to do with the 8 egg whites I’d have left over! Win! Because I didn’t really feel like making an angel food cake. It’s never really been my thing. Also, two cakes? For one person? That just seems overboard. So I looked over the recipes and settled on three, THREE uses for my to-be-yolkless egg whites including these here nuts.

One problem.

The sole bundt pan within my apartment was filled with a sour cream coffee cake my roommate had made for work last week.

*shakes fist and glares at cake*

What was I to do? It’s her bundt pan in the first place. (Why the heck don’t I own one?!) So, alas, no poppy seed lemon cake was to be made that day. I went grocery shopping for the week and didn’t buy poppy seeds or lemons Okay I bought lemons. I’m obsessed. But no poppy seeds! No hazelnut brown butter cake. No amaretti cookies. No nuts.

Nuts. (Get it?)

But when I got home from the grocery store and finished making dinner I just didn’t feel right. I had to bake something. But what? I looked around for the usual suspects. Chocolate chips? For cookies, muffins, or brownies even? Plain sugar cookies then? Maybe something with the lemons you bought for no predetermined purpose? Pecans? PECANS?! I HAVE PECANS?! I saw a recipe for pecans! Pecans I will make. Pecans I will shake. Pecans I will bake.

And so I did.

And now we’re best friends. One, because they gave me something to bake when I thought all hope was lost. And two, because they literally haven’t left my side since I made them. I carry them in baggies with me. (What? I needs snacks!)

[Abridged: The whole story was kind of pointless. These nuts are yum.]

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from smitten kitchen, originally from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country

Ingredients
1/3 c dark brown sugar
2/3 c granulated sugar
1 heaping tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lb walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts [I used pecans. Heaven.]
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tbsp water

Instructions
Preheat oven to 300F.

Sift together sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon and mix, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts, and stir to coat evenly. Toss nuts with sugar mixture until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together. [Or keep them in chunks for one-handed munching if, say, you’re using a mouse with the other hand.]

Addictive.

– Sharlene

Tiramisu Cupcakes – Repost

This was originally posted February 11th. These cupcakes have been made multiple times since then and they are always always a winner. Definitely consider them for your next event or just because!!

Sometime last year when I started getting on the cupcake bandwagon, Boy asked me for Tiramisu Cupcakes. (Did he know these existed? Was he trying to send me on an impossible adventure so I’d stop bugging him for ideas? Does he just like pronouncing the word tier-uh-MEE-su? Who knows.) Months later, I came across this recipe and HAD to make them. He gobbled them up, as did friends in Philadelphia we visited later that day.

They’re delicious.

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from i♥cuppycakes
[who adapted it from  Baking: From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan]

Makes 20.

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk [I used 2% milk I had in the fridge, just under 3/4 cup and then topped it off with white vinegar.]

Espresso extract:
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp boiling water

Espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp Kahlua

Frosting:
8 oz mascarpone [look for this in the specialty cheese area, usually by the mozzarella]
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Kahlua
1/2 cup cold cream [original called for 1 cup but i♥cuppycakes indicated that she liked the frosting better before the whipped cream so I halved it to increase the volume of the frosting but keep the mascarpone flava]

Decor
finely chopped chocolate
cocoa powder

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cake:

Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With a hand/stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and mix to combine. Add eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, ending with the flour mixture. Mix until flour is just incorporated into batter.

Fill cupcake liners about 1/2-2/3 full and bake ~17-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are baking, assemble the rest of the fun stuff!

Espresso extract:
Stir espresso powder and boiling water together until blended.

Espresso syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar together and bring just to a boil. Pour syrup into small bowl and stir in 1 tbsp of espresso extract and add Kahlua.

Frosting:
Combine the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and Kahlua in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Whip the heavy cream until it hold stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Using a spatula, stir in about 1/4 of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a soft touch. Add espresso syrup to frosting to taste. (If frosting is too soft to pipe, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until frosting is good to go.)

Final product:
Poke holes in cupcakes with a toothpick. Spoon about 1-2 tsp of espresso syrup over each cupcake. (Do this slowly to let it soak in before adding more lest you get syrup all over the place.) Frost and top with cocoa powder and chopped chocolate.

Yummy!!

– Sharlene