Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vanilla Marshmallows

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I'm in Canada visiting family and friends right now.  I'm actually doing loads of baking while on vacation (you know you love to bake when...) so expect some fun delicious posts in the upcoming weeks! :)

I have wanted to make marshmallows for a while.  I love the "artisan" marshmallows that you can buy at specialty stores, they're so much more flavorful than grocery store marshmallows without that funny chemical taste.  But they're not exactly cheap, I think Williams Somoma had a small box for $15 last time I checked.  Seriously?

So these were super easy to make and delicious.  I was a little hesitant to feed it to the kids because I don't know how heated the egg whites get from the hot candy mixture.  Anyone know?  For myself I could care less and these tasted fantastic in s'mores.  I envision making marshmallow chocolate caramels in the very near future!

Homemade Marshmallows
from Sunset Magazine

Cooking-oil spray
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coat a 9- by 13-in. pan with cooking-oil spray. Stir cornstarch and powdered sugar together in a large bowl, then dust pan with half of mixture, tipping to coat. Set remaining cornstarch mixture aside.
2. Put egg whites in the large bowl of a mixer. Stir 1/4 cup cool water and the gelatin in a glass measuring cup; let stand to soften while you make syrup.
3. Stir granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Insert a candy thermometer. Boil over high heat, tipping pan occasionally to cover thermometer bulb, until 240°, 6 to 10 minutes. Immediately microwave gelatin mixture until it dissolves, about 30 seconds, and also beat egg whites on high speed into soft peaks. Stir steaming gelatin into hot syrup.
4. Pour about 3 tbsp. syrup at a time into egg whites (stop mixer if needed to keep syrup from flying up onto inside of bowl), beating on high speed 20 to 30 seconds after each addition. Continue to beat until meringue holds soft peaks and underside of bowl is completely cool, 5 to 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
5. Spread marshmallow mixture in coated pan, using an oiled metal spatula. Let stand until firm enough to cut, 2 hours. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. reserved cornstarch mixture, then cut with a pizza cutter or scissors into 12 rectangles to fit graham crackers; you may have leftover marshmallows.
6. Toss marshmallows in bowl with remaining cornstarch mixture to coat.
Make ahead: Up to 4 days, chilled airtight with plastic wrap between layers; coat with more cornstarch mixture if they get sticky.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Graham Crackers

Every once in a while I see a post for homemade graham crackers, and I think to myself "why bother?".  I was reminded again this weekend, that if it's made from scratch it's usually a million times better than out of a box, and these little babies are no exception.

They're more like a honey shortbread cookie rather than a cracker, and mmm boy are they good.  I made them for a s'mores recipe and my kids and husband were all over them.  They're quick to make, crispy, buttery, with a warm taste of honey.  I don't think I'll ever buy graham crackers again.

Homemade Graham Crackers
from Sunset Magazine

3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat butter, sugars, and honey in a large bowl with a mixer until smooth. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and beat until blended.

Divide dough in half and roll each half between 2 sheets of parchment paper into an even 10- by 12-in. rectangle. Slide each set onto a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 300°.

Pull off top parchment. Cut dough on pans into 2 1/2- by 4-in. rectangles. Bake until deep golden brown, 13 to 18 minutes; swap pans halfway through. Cut crackers again on lines.

 Let crackers cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes. Separate pieces and transfer to cooling racks.
Make ahead: Up to 1 week, airtight; or freeze up to 2 months.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Turtle Layer Cake

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 Sometimes you're just in the mood for cake. Well, I'm always in the mood for cake, but last weekend I was also in the mood for caramel and chocolate. And so I made a turtle cake.

I read on a blog that baking super thin cake layers reduces the dome that often occurs, but that definitely wasn't true for this recipe. Instead of having two domed cakes to trim I had four. Not a huge deal since I snacked on the scraps until dessert, but it took extra time since I only two pans of each size. I also used some leftover salted caramel for the caramel drizzle, which my husband said was a bit much.  I actually liked it but I'm a total salt addict so you may want to adapt according to your taste.  I also used salted pecan pieces so that might have something to do with it.

I was really pleased with the flavor of this cake, the buttercream is like silk but it absolutely must be at room temp when served.  There is a boatload of butter in it (3 sticks!) and if it is even a little cold it hardens up. 

Turtle Layer Cake
Makes 4 layer 6-inch round cake

1 recipe chocolate cake, recipe below
1 recipe caramel buttercream, recipe below
1 recipe salted caramel sauce, recipe below
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans, can be salted or not depending on your preference

For the cake layers:
Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup butter
1 cup water
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter two 6 inch round pans.  Cut parchment to fit into the bottoms and butter the parchment.  Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat in the sour cream and eggs. Set aside. Melt the butter on low in a saucepan, add the water and 5 tablespoons cocoa. Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then stir cocoa mixture into the egg mixture, mixing until blended.
Pour batter into prepared pans . Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool for about 10-15 minutes and then run a small knife around the side to unmold.  Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.  Once it is cool use a long serrated knife to cut each layer in half, giving you four layers.  If the tops have domed trim them so they are relatively flat.

For the caramel buttercream:
From Martha Stewart

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.
Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.

Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

For the caramel sauce:
From David Lebovitz

Rich Caramel Sauce
slightly adapted from David Lebovitz 

1/2 cup unsalted or salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel

In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar begins to caramelize, then turns dark amber in colour and begins to foam a bit (it should smell and look like it's just on the verge of burning).  Remove from heat and slowly and carefully add in the cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously), whisking constantly until all of the cream is added.
Return the pan to med-low heat and stir until the sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.(this took about 5 minutes for me).  Then stir in vanilla and salt. 
Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then taste, and add more salt, if desired.

Assemble the Cake:
Place the first cake layer on a plate or cake round.  Place pieces of parchment underneath the cake so when you're frosting you don't have to worry about getting the plate covered in frosting, just pull out the parchment when you're done.

Put about 1/4 cup frosting on the first cake layer and smooth with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of chopped toasted pecans over the layer.  Then drizzle with caramel sauce.  Repeat for the next two layers.  Once you've put the last layer on top, do a crumb coating if you have time.  This is basically putting a very thin layer of frosting on to seal in any stray crumbs from your final buttercream coating.  With buttercream frosting I like to stick the cake in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour to firm up the crumb coat.  Then slather on the rest of the frosting.  I bought a frosting smoother from Ateco, you just dip it in hot water, shake off the excess, and it smooths the frosting quite nicely.  A bench scraper also works.

Top with more pecans and a final drizzle of caramel sauce.  Enjoy!!

Linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

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Even though it's only August, I'm already thinking about all the lovely fall and winter recipes I want to make.  Gingerbread cakes, pumpkin bars, caramel apple pies.  But this week I decided to try and focus on summer fruit desserts, so I started with this recipe for blueberry crisp my niece gave to me. 

It's different from any other crisp recipes that I've tried since it uses cornmeal and almonds in the topping.  Heaven!  The almonds add a nice crunchy texture and the cornmeal gives it a heartier flavor.  I served it warm with some vanilla bean ice cream.  It was a really easy dessert to put together and I thought it looked cute in the ramekins.  :)

Blueberry Crisp
from the Food Network

For the Topping:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the baking dish
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup chopped almonds (I used toasted slivered almonds)

For the Filling:

4 cups blueberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish or eight 6-ounce ramekins (if you are using ramekins, double the filling).

Make the topping: Whisk the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Stir in the almonds. Work in the butter with your fingers until evenly moistened.

Make the filling: Toss the blueberries, granulated sugar, flour and lemon juice in a bowl.

Transfer the filling to the prepared dish or ramekins and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Squeeze handfuls of the crumble mixture and scatter on top of the fruit. Bake until golden and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.

Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Linked to:
Sweet Treats Thursday
Sweet Tooth Friday 
Sweets for a Saturday

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tiramisu Cake

I never turn down an opportunity to bake a cake, so when my Supper Club got together last weekend I jumped at the chance to bring dessert.  I wanted to try something new so I went with Dorie Greenspan's Tiramisu cake.  Boozy and caffeinated?  Perfect!

It wasn't complicated but there are several components to make so it is a bit time consuming.  I also over estimated how much of the syrup would soak into the cake layers so I was pretty conservative.  I could have easily used the entire recipe since the middle of the cake layers ended up a bit dry.  Next time I would also double the frosting recipe.  The marscapone espresso frosting was delicious, but there wasn't quite enough for my liking.  But then again I like a little cake with my frosting so to others it may have been the perfect balance.  I used the toffee chocolate espresso beans from Trader Joes to decorate, they're super yummy and add a nice crunch to the cake.   Loved this cake and will definitely make again for a special occasion.

Tiramisu Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake layers:
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy

For the filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy 1 cup cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

To make the extract:
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:
Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:
Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.
Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.
For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.
With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld.
Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.

Linked to:
These Chicks Cooked
Sweet Treats Thursday
Sweet Tooth Friday
Sweets for a Saturday

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pina Colada Cupcakes

O.M.G.  These are probably the best cupcakes I have ever had.  Moist flavorful pineapple cake topped with decadent creamy coconut cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.  Mmmmm, pure heaven.  I found this recipe over at Glorious Treats, which is a fabulous blog full of gorgeous desserts and fabulous party ideas.  This is Glory's own recipe and it is perfect in every way.  Not only are they delicious, but seriously, how cute!  If these hadn't been for a kid's birthday party I would have put cocktail umbrellas in them.  Love.

The cupcake recipe uses sour cream, which I have recently discovered is the secret to an ultra moist crumb.  There is plenty of crushed pineapple in it so it has a wonderful tropical flavor.  The frosting is literally to die for.  Much lighter and fluffier then most cream cheese frostings I have made, it's perfect for piping.  I seriously can't get over how good these are.

Pina Colada Cupcakes
from Glory Albin ( 

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple (drained slightly)

1.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until slightly thickened and a light cream color (about 2 minutes).
3.  On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended.
4.  Add in the pineapple and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.
5.  Add the flour mixture and blend until just combined and smooth.
6.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners and fill about 2/3 full.
7.  Bake cupcakes in a pre-heated 350*F oven for about 22 minutes.
8.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
9.  Frost with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

Recipe yields 24-28 cupcakes.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

½ cup (1 stick/8 Tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (always use pure vanilla extract if possible)
2 teaspoons coconut extract (I think this largely depends on the type of coconut extract you use, I use the alcohol free kind and it requires quite a bit)
4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon heavy cream, heavy whipping cream or milk

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend until smooth. Add cream cheese and blend until well combined, about 30 seconds.
Add vanilla extract, coconut extract and powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Slowly add the heavy cream.  Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

Linked to:
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These Chicks Cooked Link Party 
Sweet Treats Thursday 
Sweet Tooth Friday 
Sweets for a Saturday
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