Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Peach Bourbon Walnut Pie

So this pie was an experiment...and ended up being a delicious hybrid of a fruit pie and a pecan pie. I had two peaches that were starting to get overripe, so I didn't really want to eat them, but they weren't quite enough to make a peach pie. I had made a bourbon pecan pie last year, and it was delicious, and I love the combination of peach and bourbon...so I decided to make a peach bourbon pecan pie. So I mixed up the batter and realized that I was out of pecans...but I had sufficient walnuts. So it morphed into a peach bourbon walnut pie.

The end result was pretty runny due to the added peaches, so I'd suggest tossing them with some cornstarch or flour (the recipe has been changed to reflect this). Also, the pie is very bourbon-y, which is great if, like me, you love bourbon. If you don't, cut it down to 1-2 Tbl (but don't leave it out altogether...it really does enhance the peach and nutty flavors perfectly!). I really enjoyed this pie, though!

Peach Bourbon Walnut Pie

  • 2 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 2/3 c. light corn syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 4 tsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 3 Tbl. bourbon
  • 1 unbaked 9" pie crust

Lay the crust out in a pie pan. Toss the sliced peaches with the cornstarch, then arrange in a single layer over the pie crust.

Meanwhile, stir together corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, bourbon, and vanilla extract. Fold in walnuts. Pour into pie crust overtop the peaches.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 min. Cool for 2 hours.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Mom's Carrot Cake

I'm going to be in trouble for this one...giving out my mom's carrot cake recipe. But it's too good not to share. Which is why the pictures in this post are from the ONE slice that survived long enough for me to take a picture of it. I freakin' love carrot cake, so I was very happy to make this for my friend's birthday (and to eat the leftover cream cheese frosting, too!). Here goes...

My Mom's Carrot Cake

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 c. oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c. shredded carrots
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3-4 c. powdered sugar

Whisk together flour, white sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add eggs and oil, then mix until combined. Fold in shredded carrots. Divide batter evenly between two greased 9" cake pans, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the layers cool, then level them (I remembered this time!).

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Stir in vanilla extract and 3-4 c. powdered sugar, or until frosting is spreadable and is at your desired level of sweetness. Frost the top of the first layer with cream cheese frosting, then stack on the second layer, and frost sides and top of cake with the cream cheese frosting. Dispose of any extra frosting as you see fit! ;)

A few notes about calories... So, I like to try to "healthify" desserts...the way I see it, that way, when I inevitably go back for seconds, I'll feel slightly less guilty.

I subbed 1 c. unsweetened applesauce for 1 c. of the oil in this cake. I usually sub all but 2 Tbl. of oil with applesauce in muffins, cakes, quick breads, etc. It tends to make the end result slightly denser, but moister, than using oil.

If a recipe calls for butter, I usually use a light margarine...the exception to this is frosting. I have found that it is absolutely essential to use full-fat versions of butter and cream cheese when making frosting. The reduced fat versions tend to have too high of a water content, and require obscene amounts of powdered sugar to thicken them up. By that point, you've not only negated any caloric savings gained by using light butter, but you've also added so much sugar, that the darn stuff tastes like sugar and nothing else. Additionally, for recipes that call to adding butter to melted chocolate (i.e. ganaches), it is absolutely essential to use real butter. Again, the high water content of the light margarine is the problem--it can cause your chocolate to seize (I found this out the hard way).

I also used sucralose in place of white sugar. I do this almost exclusively when baking. The only time I use real sugar is if it's something like candy where I'm nervous that the sucralose won't have the same chemical structure as sugar. The sucralose is usually made to substitute in a 1:1 ration with white sugar, so it's easy to use.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

White Chocolate Blondies...ish

So, I went to a family reunion last weekend. I was debating between a couple different desserts (brownies and blondies, incidentally) and couldn't decide which one to make, so I made both. The first one was gone so quickly that I didn't even get a chance to take a picture. And I followed the recipe to a "t" (crazy, right?!), so you might as well just check it out from the original source...S'mores Brownies from Lemons & Love. They were amazing--a hit with kids and adults alike. Please do yourself a favor and make them.

The second recipe was somewhat less successful. I had high hopes for these blondies, but they came out more like a dense cake than the chewy, cookie-like blondie texture that I'm used to. I didn't realize this until I was already at the reunion, so it was too late to salvage them for that...so instead, I brought home the (numerous) leftovers and frosted them with a nice glaze to try to play up and take advantage of that cake-like texture. It worked. They're now tasty spiced orange white chocolate pound cake squares. Yum. Is it a true pound cake? No. But it's a dense cake, and I can't think of a better name for it. Here's the new and improved recipe...

Spiced Orange White Chocolate Pound Cake Squares (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

  • 16 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1 c. plus 2 Tbl butter (divided), softened
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbl. orange extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 Tbl. rose water
  • 1/2 Tbl. cardamom
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 orange

Melt the white chocolate and 1 c. butter together in the microwave in a large bowl. Add vanilla extract, orange extract, orange zest, rose water, and cardamom to the melted white chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Stir eggs into chocolate mixture, then stir in flour just until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan, and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool, then cut into 24 squares.

To make icing, cream together 2 Tbl. butter with the orange juice. Add powdered sugar until the mixture is spreadable. Frost each cake square with a thin layer of the icing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Strawberry Forest Cake

I was highly delinquent in making a cake for my friend Erin's birthday (it was in June!) due to a lot of major life changes happening around then, so when she asked for a Black Forest Cake, but made with strawberries instead of cherries, I knew I had to go all-out. Incidentally, I had previously made a cake similar to this (but with chocolate almond whipped cream), but that was before I started blogging. So now, I get to actually blog the recipe! I have dubbed it Strawberry Forest Cake. I did, however, learn a very important lesson: leveling cake layers is NOT optional. This cake makes very thin layers (I might 1.5x the recipe next time), so I didn't want to lose what precious little cake I had by leveling it. So when I drove across town to my friend's apartment to deliver said cake, the layers shifted EVERYWHERE. And, of course, I didn't get a "before" picture. Just trust me on the fact that this cake tasted better than it looked.

Strawberry Forest Cake
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)
  • 2 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 c. white sugar, divided
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 2 Tbl. vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 c. strawberry liqueur, divided
  • 16 oz. frozen strawberries
  • 16 oz. fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 4 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Combine flour, 2 c. white sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, milk, oil, and 1 Tbl. vanilla extract just until blended. Grease two 9-in. cake pans and "flour" using cocoa powder. Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for ~30 min at 350 degrees (check earlier if your oven runs hot!). Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, make the strawberry filling. Wash and quarter the fresh strawberries. Put them in a large saucepan with 1/2 c. white sugar (add a little more or a little less depending on how sweet your strawberries are) and frozen strawberries. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/2 c. strawberry liqueur until smooth, then add to the pan with strawberries and stir to combine everything. Heat to boiling, and boil a couple minutes, or until filling thickens. Remove from heat, and cool completely.

Whip the cream until it starts to thicken, then add powdered sugar and vanilla to taste (I used closer to 4 tsp. vanilla because I LOVE vanilla). Continue beating until the cream holds stiff peaks.

To assemble cake
Level the cake layers, then split each in two. Take one of the (flat) bottom layers, and put it cut-side up on serving plate (hint: put waxed paper under the very edges of the cake so that it keeps the serving plate clean). Brush generously with 2 Tbl. strawberry liqueur. Spread with a layer of whipped cream, then top with 1/4 of the strawberry filling. Top with the next layer of cake. Brush with liqueur, then top with whipped cream and strawberry filling. Repeat once more (you should now have 3 layers completed). Take the last bottom layer and put it, cut side down, on top of the cake. Brush with 2 Tbl. liqueur. Frost the sides of the cake with remaining whipped cream, and pipe a "fence" of rosettes around the top of the cake using the whipped cream (it doesn't pipe well, but that's ok). Top the cake with the last 1/4 of the strawberry filling.

Enjoy! Like I said, it tasted better than it looked!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bites

When I told one friend the name of these delectable little morsels, her response was "You just said too many of my favorite words in the name...now I have to try one!" And I must say, it's a good thing these are mini and bite-sized (and therefor theoretically have built-in portion control), because they are rich and oh-so-tasty! But they're very easy to make (I made them on a whim, and I already had all the ingredients on hand!). They do take some time, since there are three separate layers, and each one needs to cool and set, but the hands-on time is not too bad.

Using part whole wheat in the crust gives them a nice nutty taste...it almost reminded me of graham crackers. The original recipe calls for baking these in a 9x13 and cutting into squares, but that's a real pain because caramel squishes out all over, so I adapted these to be in self-contained shortbread crust cups. I think next time, the crust could use a splash of vanilla, and the caramel could use a hefty splash of bourbon!

Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bites (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbl. light corn syrup
  • 3/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/4 c. milk chocolate chips

Cream together 1 1/3 c. butter and white sugar. Add splash of vanilla if desired. Mix in the flours until dough forms (it may be crumbly). Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then press into the bottom and up the sides of a mini muffin pan. Bake 20 min at 350 degrees F. Put in freezer to cool while you make the caramel.

In a large saucepan, combine 3/4 c. butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When it starts to boil, stop stirring, and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and beat vigorously with the wooden spoon for 3 minutes.

Remove shortbread crusts from the freezer (they should be cool by now). Spoon some caramel into each crust, filling it nearly to the top. Refrigerate for a half hour or so, until caramel begins to firm up.

Melt chocolate in the microwave. Spoon or pipe a little over the top of each shortbread cup so that it covers and seals in the caramel. Refrigerate again until chocolate is firm. Enjoy! I got about 44 out of this recipe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Treats

So, I was not feeling a fruit pizza, Jello, or a trifle...and cupcakes are not exactly my forte...but I still wanted to make something fun and 4th of July-themed for the bbq my dance instructors were hosting. If that's not a challenge, I don't know what is. So, I asked the What's Cooking board on The Nest for some inspiration...and, lo and behold, I found it. I bring you...Strawberry and Blueberry Cream Puffs and Honey Cream Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries. Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the pictures...I snapped them at the last second at my gracious hosts' house.

Strawberry and Blueberry Cream Puffs (recipe from Brownie, who adapted it from Le Cordon Blue's baking textbook)

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 9 Tbl. butter
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
Heat milk, water, and butter together in a saucepan until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and pour in flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer dough ball into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in eggs and yolk one at a time, waiting until each one is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next.

Pipe cream puffs onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes (depends on size of cream puffs, but that's what worked for me), or until golden brown and full puffed. Turn the oven off. Poke a small hole with a toothpick in each puff, then return puffs to the (turned off!) oven--leaving the door ajar--for 5 minutes to let the puffs dry out.

A few notes...1) according to Brownie, don't lick the spoon, because it's called "paste" for a reason. 2) According to me, if you forget to poke the holes in your puffs, they will deflate and not be as puffy. 3) If your oven mysteriously turns itself off between batches, and you put the piped dough in a cool oven, the puffs will not puff in the first place. And, 4) If you completely forget about the drying out step for both batches, it will probably also negatively affect the puffiness of the final product. So my cream puffs weren't very puffy. However, that didn't stop me from trying to stuff them with pastry cream anyways!

Pastry Cream

  • 2 c. skim milk
  • 12 Tbl. sugar, divided
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Rounded 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbl. butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbl. strawberry wine or mead
  • 2-3 Tbl. blueberry wine or mead
Combine milk and 6 Tbl. sugar in a saucepan, and bring just to a boil over medium heat.

Whisk together 2 egg yolks and 1 egg until light in color. Whisk in a rounded 1/3 c. of cornstarch and remaining 6 Tbl. sugar.

Temper egg mixture by adding in about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture in a SLOW, STEADY STREAM, WHISKING CONSTANTLY. Hint: use a measuring cup to accomplish the transfer, rather than trying to pour from the saucepan using only one hand. Add egg mixture (that now contains some of the milk mixture) to the saucepan of milk, and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Pour through sieve into two separate bowls. Add strawberry wine to one and the blueberry wine to the other, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap (make sure to press it down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming!), and refrigerate overnight.

Notes...1) If you're just making vanilla pastry cream (and therefore not adding additional liquid at the end), just use 1/3 c. cornstarch, rather than the rounded 1/3 c. 2) Feel free to substitute your favorite liqueur or fruit puree or whatever for the strawberry and blueberry wine. 3) I used strawberry and blueberry melomel from Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, one of my favorite vineyards in Virginia!

To assemble

Pipe pastry cream into cream puffs. If you're really good, you can do this without having to split the cream puffs, so they look prettier. If they happen to be not very puffy, you will have a lot of pastry cream leftover...but that's ok, because it tastes good on its own. You'll want to use a piping tip that's small enough to pierce the cream puffs easily and won't mar their appearance too much, but big enough for the pastry cream to pass through relatively easily.

Honey Cream Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries (adapted from Food Network)

  • 2 lbs. fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbl. honey
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • Blue candy melts
Wash strawberries, and cut a circle around each stem...the top of the strawberry should then easily pull off, revealing a lovely hollow area inside the berry that is perfect for stuffing with cream cheese.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, honey, and almond extract in a bowl. I used about 3 Tbl. of honey and 1/4 tsp. of almond extract, and the honey flavor overpowered the almond flavor more than I wanted, so taste as you go, and adjust the balance of these two flavorings to your taste!

Fill each strawberry with cream cheese mixture (a piping bag makes quick work of this). Melt the blue chocolate melts (you won't need many), and drizzle over the strawberries. Or, if your chocolate craving is a little more insistent, dip the strawberries into the melted blue chocolate (be sure to leave some of the red strawberry showing so you've still got your red, white, and blue!).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Piano Cake!

Ok, so this may be the coolest thing I have ever made. Seriously. I mean, I hope to top it someday, but I am really pleased with how this turned out! A friend of mine is a piano teacher, and his birthday was yesterday, so I made him a piano cake! It was a banana chocolate chip cake (yum!) frosted with chocolate frosting, then carved into the shape of a piano.

So here are the relevant recipes and instructions...

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (adapted from Allrecipes.com)
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbl. baking soda
  • 4 large bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sift together the flours, sugar, and baking soda in one bowl. In another, combine bananas, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x13" pan. Bake 35 min at 350 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

Yummmm...look at all those chocolate chips! It would be excellent with some chopped walnuts added in, too.

Chocolate Frosting
(adapted from Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting)

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2/3 c. cocoa powder
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. instant coffee powder
  • 4-6 Tbl. milk
Let butter soften to room temperature. Stir until soft and creamy, then stir in cocoa powder. Add a pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted. Stir in instant coffee and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar about a cup at a time and milk about a tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth. Add extra milk as needed to obtain a spreadable consistency.

To Assemble Piano Cake (idea taken from Betty Crocker)

Carve the cake into the shape of a grand piano. Carve a piano bench out of the larger scrap.

Frost cake.

Use white chocolate and dark chocolate rectangles to make keys for the keyboard. I also used white chocolate and black gel icing to make sheet music (it's propped up with a couple little pieces of dark chocolate). Enjoy!