Cupcaitering

Monday, December 27, 2010

rugelach take two

While at home with access to a food processor, I decided to try out Dorie Greenspan's rugelach recipe for my family.   Boy am I happy I did.  They were so flaky and stayed just as delicious the next day.  I did get a food processor for Christmas, so I will be making these again.  It might be one of my new favourites.  The only complaint would be that they didn't turn out quite as pretty as Ina's rugelach.  Personally, I choose taste over looks making these winners.




Dorie's Rugelach 
posted here  

For the Dough
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, but you can use walnuts or almonds)
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the Glaze
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar

For the Filling
2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes 32 cookies

TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.

Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don't work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

TO MAKE THE FILLING: Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)

TO SHAPE THE COOKIES: Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don't defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

TO GLAZE: Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

SERVING: Tea is traditional, but we drink coffee with rugelach. These are pretty and, even with their jam-and-fruit filling, not overly sweet, and they are even good with sparkling wine.

STORING: The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. 


Saturday, December 25, 2010

cookie decorating party

I mentioned before that I was planning to host a cookie decorating party in December and have posted some of the treats we ate while decorating.  It was last Sunday and for those who attended, it was a great success.  I made three different cookies: gingerbread, sugar cookies and chocolate roll out cookies.  I used Dorie's sugar cookie recipe which I've posted before.  I can't remember where I got the gingerbread recipe which is disappointing because it was good and I definitely lost the scrap of paper that I wrote it on.  I also used a new royal icing recipe which turned out much better than last time.  I went super simple and used the Joy of Baking meringue powder recipe.  It was easier to work with and the taste was less tangy than my first attempt.


 I always say I hate roll-out cookies because they're so much work, but when you leave the decorating step to other people they're not so bad.  It also gives me an excuse to use my insane quantities of cookie cutters.  When you're a baker, everyone loves to give you cookie cutters, but then you end up with so many that you don't know what to do with them!

heather's ugly christmas sweater
This is a picture heavy post because I wanted to showcase everyone's creations.  Some arguably better than others.





Rob picked out this penguin with a hat...THAT I HAD SPECIFICALLY SAID WAS MINE!  haha  There was a scrap of dough from a skate and I had planned on making a dapper little penguin, but somebody beat me to it *ahem* and the results were far from dapper.


John made a dinosaur out of a sleigh and Justin made a knight to fight him and save the princess.


There were many more fabulous creations but I don't want this to be too long.  Hope everyone who is celebrating Christmas is having a wonderful day with their families!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

buttermilk pie

I saw this pie on The Twisted Chef  a little while ago and immediately decided I HAD to try it.  I even commented to Lynne that I intended to.  I followed her recipe exactly and it turned out beautifully.  We had it while decorating cookies at my decorating party (post coming soon).  The pie was light, sweet and the kind of dessert you could really pig out on because it is not too rich.


I won't repost the recipe here, but head on over to Lynne's blog.  She has a bunch of great Christmas cookie recipes for any last minute baking (and they'd still be good in the new year and beyond!).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

rugelach

I apologize that things have been so quiet around here lately.  It's not for a lack of baking, but a lack of time to blog about it.  I'm hoping to have time to play catch up now that I will be off work starting on Thursday. 

I have wanted to make rugelach for quite some time but never got my act together to do it.  I decided to make it as something to eat while decorating cookies on Sunday.  I had been thinking I would use Dorie Greenspan's recipe but when it called for a food processor (which I do not yet have...it's on my Christmas list), I decided to look around and found Ina Garten's recipe.  It looked less fussy, so I tried it out.  The rugelach was soooo good fresh from the oven, but I was dissapointed with how well it kept.  Perhaps Dorie's would be better.  I'll have to try it in the new year because I will definitely be working to find the perfect rugelach. 


I made a few changes based on personal preference.  I used apricot preserves for most of my rugelach but did try one batch with raspberry.  I also added chopped chocolate and used pecans instead of walnuts.  Here is the original recipe, but I would feel free to jazz it up using your favourite spices, nuts and jams!

Rugelach
by Ina Garten (here)

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Directions

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

goat cheese and sundried tomato scones

I've been sick with a cold and haven't been able to do nearly as much baking as I had planned for the last week.  Instead I've been watching hours of Mad Men and sneezing on my poor cat. Before I was sick I had an order for savoury scones and was given creative discretion to come up with a tasty combo.


This was my first time ever making savoury scones so I played it safe.  Perhaps too safe, but the results were still delicious.  I used a herb goat cheese which added flavour.  If not using it, I would add some spices to the mix.


Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Scones


2 cups flour

3 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup crumbled herb goat cheese
1/2 cup sundried tomato, chopped into small bits
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Crumble goat cheese onto a baking sheet and place in freezer to harden.
2.  Combine flour, baking powder, grated parmesean and salt in a bowl (add spices here if using).  Cut in cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add tomato and goat cheese (directly from freezer). 
3. Add buttermilk and stir until just combine (still a bit crumbly). 
4.  Turn out onto a floured surface and make two discs.  Cut each disc into 6 scones.
5.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden brown.

Friday, December 10, 2010

corn cookies

On Sunday I finally got over to try Edgar with Melissa of Plum-Cake.  I won't say much about it other than it lived up to everything that has been said already.  I had a delicious fritatta with salad and Melissa had a panini with wild mushroom soup. We thought about getting a treat after, but decided to go back another time because we were heading back to Melissa's to attempt a new treat of our own. 

Since trying the Momofuku corn cookie in October, I have wanted to recreate it.  Melissa has a food dehydrator and an abundant supply of frozen corn so she offered to deyhdrate a big batch for the corn powder that would go in the cookies.  The powder tasted like Captain Crunch ground up.  We took a look at the recipe for the Momofuku blueberry cream cookies and at Martha Stewart's classic  sugar cookie recipe.  I remembered the texture of the cookie being soft and chewy like a chocolate chip cookie so that was the goal we had in mind.


For our first attempt, we decided on a recipe that was quite similar to the blueberry cookies but with some changes to the sugar content and leavening agents.  As soon as we tried the cookies, we determined they were slightly too cakey and immediately decided to try again with some tweaks.  Now don't get me wrong, the first batch of cookies was still very very delicious, they just weren't exactly what we were going for.  The second round of cookies were still not 100% there, but we were out of corn powder...and already had a lot of cookies to eat! 

We decided on a few tweaks that would make it perfect next time, and I've put that recipe up here.  It was so close to perfection, that I am pretty confident that these minor changes will take it there.  The sweetness of the corn with a smooth texture that isn't usually found in corn baked goods due to corn meal, makes these cookies unforgettable.  Will definitely be making these again. 


Corn Cookies
inspired by Momofuku

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup corn powder (dehydrated corn)
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg


Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together dry ingredients.
2. Beat together butter and sugars, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the egg and beat again.
3.  Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
4. Roll or scoop into balls and bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies - we did fairly big cookies and they took close to 20 minutes).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

mini chocolate donuts with chocolate ganache and candy cane bits

On Saturday night, I went to three different parties.  One was a surprise going away party, one was a holiday party, and the other was a birthday party.  Not wanting to show up empty handed, I made a big batch of these little guys.  I saw crushed candy cane bits at the bulk food store and thought to myself, those would be good on mini chocolate donuts made in my new(ish) pan. Then, a few weeks later, Tim Horton's put out the exact same thing!  Not baked of course, but same idea.  I swear I had it first. haha 


I used this recipe.  I won't repost it here because I didn't think it was the best.  They ended up a bit dry and a bit bland but the ganache was delicious.  For the ganache I went a bit heavier on the chocolate than usual so that it would firm up before putting on the candy cane bits.  Was so rich and delicious...I may have (not admitting or denying) eaten quite a bit straight from the bowl after I finished icing the donuts.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

cornmeal chocolate torte with balsamic vinegar glaze (gluten-free)

Light, airy, melt in your mouth, yum, friggin' delicious and rich.  All words used to describe this torte.  I came across this recipe in a Longo's (a grocery store in the GTA) flyer of all places. It immediately appealed to me as something different, but also because it's another gluten-free recipe to add to my list.


I brought it to work and people loved it.  It doesn't get better than that for me.  Positive feedback makes me so happy and yet, I always strive to get people's honest opinions...because that's the only way to improve.  One thing that was super nice about this torte is the rich chocolatey flavour that is not overpowered by it being too sweet. The balsamic glaze added a unique flavour and next time I would put more on.  I was a bit cautious.  Overall, a great recipe for chocolate lovers with or without gluten intolerances!

Cornmeal Chocolate Torte with Balsamic Glaze
from the Longos Flyer

1 cup water
¼ cup cornmeal
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup butter
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp amaretto

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 9inch spring form pan by putting a parchment circle on the bottom.
  2. Bring water to boil, reduce heat and add cornmeal, stirring until thickened. (about 3 minutes).
  3. Add ground almonds, butter and chocolate, cooking for about 1 minute more until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
  4. Beat together egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla in a bowl.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with the remaining sugar until they form stiff but moist peaks.
  6. Add egg yolks to the cornmeal/chocolate/almond mixture.
  7. Fold in egg whites until no streaks remain, being careful not to over mix.
  8. Pour into pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until set.  Combine glaze ingredients (icing sugar, balsamic vinegar and amaretto).  Allow torte to cool slightly, and poke holes in it with a toothpick.  Using a pastry brush, put glaze all over the top of the cake.
  9. Serve warm with ice cream and additional glaze if desired.

Friday, December 3, 2010

gum paste update

It occured to me that I owe everyone an update on what I did in my gumpaste course. I’m sure you were all dying to know! Well, it is now over.  The final exam was Wednesday night.  It went better than I expected, although I still manage to get stressed when I can’t get something that I deem to be perfect. I really need to work on that. I don't have my final mark yet, but I will let everyone know when I get it.

The first course we learned daises and forget-me-nots. Both were pretty easy and I did really well on my homework mark. I got ½ a mark off because the centres on my impossibly teeny tiny little forget-me-nots were too big (seeing them side-by-side makes me realize that perhaps they were, but really, the only people that could get them smaller are children and I'm not about to hire child labour for my flowers). This picture makes the flowers look way bigger than they are...they're super tiny!



The second class, we learned how to make carnations, rose buds and roses. My hatred for carnations really shone through, and I struggled to get them looking right. What a stupid flower. If you want a cake with carnations on it, go somewhere else.

The roses were a bit easier but time consuming as well. The rose bud caused quite a stir in class because people were struggling so much with it. I didn’t find it too bad, but still need practice to get it just right.




In my last few classes, we learned orchids, calla lillies, chrysanthemums and tulips.  Calla lillies are a new favourite for sure.  They are so easy and yet have a big impact.  I'll have to show the other three in another post because I don't have pics yet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

gerbera daisy cake

Last Thursday I put my new gum paste skills to work and made a cake for my coworker’s wife’s birthday. They had orange gerbera daisies at their wedding, and his wife really likes them, so we decided to go with those. I had done them before taking the gumpaste course and based on this tutorial online, but I felt more confident now and the results were better.



The cake was two vanilla layers with a “strawberry cheesecake” filling. I obviously don’t have a picture of that, because I wasn’t there when they ate it, but you can use your imagination. The filling is just strawberry jam that I mixed with cream cheese frosting. Then, I covered the cake with cream cheese frosting. Now, I know what you're thinking...cream cheese again!?  It’s not my fault that I seem to make it every week, people love it.  The cake was a success and both my coworker and his wife loved it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

kit kat cheesecake for jimby

Yesterday was Jim's birthday and I wasn't feeling in the mood to make a big fancy cake.  Plus, we were keeping the celebrations low-key this year.  Always a fan of cheesecake and kit kats, I knew he would enjoy this combo.  Cheesecakes are one of my go-to cakes for creating something with a rich flavour that impresses people with minimal effort.

I used my standard cheesecake recipe which was adapted from this recipe with a different crust, made in a 7inch springform pan with a baby crustless cheesecake as well.


Kit Kat Cheesecake

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups crushed oreos
1/8 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar

For the cake:
2 8oz. packages cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tbsp vanilla
2 chopped kit kat bars

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Crush the oreos and combine with melted butter and sugar.  Press into 7-inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes.
2.  While that is baking, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a mixer and whip until creamy and smooth.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between.
4. Add the heavy cream and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
5. Fold in the chopped kit kat bars.
6.  Wrap pan in tinfoil to ensure there are no leaks, and place in a larger pan with pre-boiled water.  Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, until set but still slightly jiggly.  Turn off the oven and leave to cool in there for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and chill before serving.  Decorate with kit kat bars as you see fit.

Friday, November 26, 2010

royal icing trials and tribulations

I’ve been a bad blogger this week. It hasn’t been because I’m not participating in baking activities. I totally was…I just didn’t have time to write about it. So, I’ll try to make up for it this weekend and next week.



First up is some photos from last Sunday. I hung out with my good friend and we decorated sugar cookies. I had never done royal icing cookies before and wanted to try it out in preparation for a cookie decorating drop-in party I’m hosting in December. It was definitely a good call to do a practice run, and I might try to do one more before the big day. I struggled to get the consistency just right going back and forth between too runny and too stiff. I was also trying to avoid doing an outline first, but I think I will try that out for the party.


We used some leftover dough I had frozen from before. It was dyed blue for some blue cookie cupcake toppers. The results of the day were ok. Marbling is definitely a good effect for making easy and pretty designs. I think the biggest thing I need to get down is the consistency…and maybe try focussing on one baking adventure at a time (I was in the middle of baking/decorating a cake while trying to get the icing and cookies ready).

Hopefully I can impress with some cooler cookies in the near future. Does anyone have any royal icing tips and tricks?

Monday, November 22, 2010

gingerbread cake

My friend Dana turned 24 earlier this month, but due to her hectic grad school schedule, we only got around to celebrating this weekend.  She requested a gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting and I immediately went to the Cake Book.  The result was a moist and spicy cake that really got me in the mood for all the Christmas baking to come.  Now, if only I could finish my grad school applications, I would have all the time in the world to bake!


Gingerbread Cake
adapted from the Cake Book

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger root
3 tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 1/4 cups very hot water

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 9 square pan and dust with flour.  (I used two 9-inch round pans)
2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl), beat the butter until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat at medium-high until light.
4. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary.
5. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla and freshy grated ginger root.
6. Add the molasses and oil and beat for another minute.
7. Add the dry ingredients at low speed, mixing just until blended.  Carefully add the hot water and beat until smooth.  The batter will be thin.
8. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Notes:  The book says to serve the cake directly from the pan with whipped cream.  It also says that it can be served warm or at room temperature.  This would be delicious and simple!

I served mine with a cream cheese frosting at the request of the birthday girl.  This was a very tasty combo as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

chai sugar cookies

So, obviously one type of cookie was not enough for our presentation.  I always feel that having only one thing to offer is alienating to people who might not like that particular flavour (even though people who don’t like chocolate are insane).  With two types of goodies, you stand a better chance of pleasing most people.
 
I wanted to do something along the same lines as the world peace cookies in terms of easiness, so I went with another Dorie recipe, Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies.  To mix things up a bit, I added a combination of chai spices and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar as they came out of the oven.  It occurred to me afterwards that I might be overdoing it with the chai flavour, but then I thought about when my sister worked as a barista and would complain about how many people ordered chai latt├ęs.  Clearly, people like chai.


Things might be a bit quiet here for a few days.  Grad school apps are knocking on my door.  Trying to sound unique is the hardest task I've faced in a while!


Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies
From the book Baking by Dorie Greenspan
Hosted by Culinate
Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
~
Sugar or cinnamon sugar, for dusting (optional)

Chai Spice Mix
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 ts cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions
1.      Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder and chai spice mix together.
2.      Working with a stand mixer, preferably one fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated — because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy, and malleable.
3.      Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap it in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter is up to you — I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches in diameter) and wrap in plastic. Whether you’re going to roll or slice the dough, it must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
4.      Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
5.      If you are making roll-out cookies, working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly.
6.      Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the rounds onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving 1½ inches between the cookies. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cutouts; if so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.)
7.      After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, then chill, roll, cut and bake.
8.      If you are making slice-and-bake cookies, use a sharp thin knife to slice the dough into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1½ inches of space between the cookies.
9.      Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.
10.     Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Notes
You can stir zest into the dough or add chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or grated chocolate. And these cookies take nicely to icing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

world peace cookies

This week I was tasked with providing a treat for an informal presentation that our group is doing at work. We all know that bribing people with food in the workplace is a good way to make friends, so it was obvious that we needed to do it.   

I wanted to do something fairly simple because I have quite a busy week.  I also recently bought Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking: from my home to yours (love!).  I wanted to try something out and have eaten these cookies before.  What better cookie to try than one that brings peace for our friendship making presentation?  Kind of like this guy…


Personally, I think solving the issues of a world with this cookie is a bit lofty.  I liked it, but it's definitely not my favourite cookie.  I do hope everyone else enjoys it though.  

Now, to the recipe!

 
World Peace Cookies
Recipe hosted by Bon Appetit

Ingredients 
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)

Directions
1.        Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl.
2.        Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy.
3.        Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
4.        Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly).
5.        Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn't come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours.
6.        Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

nutty oatmeal chocolate fudge chip cookies

The title of this cookie is long.  It makes the cookie feel important.  Just like people with long job titles.


Doesn't this photo look good.  It makes me happy.  The day it was taken was a holiday for us, and so I got to be at home and take this picture at the prime lighting time for taking photos.

Remember when I made these...



After letting them sit in my freezer, I finally got around to making something with them.  I always thought they'd be great in a cookie.  Especially a cookie with delicious nutty flavour.  BUT, I didn't want to do peanut butter.  It's so predictable.  Yes, it is amazingly delicious and ALWAYS a winning combo, but it is just such a cop out.

I decided to go with an almond butter cookie instead, and am I ever glad that I did.  The cookie was chewy and not overly sweet.  The fudge chips worked out really well too.  I was slightly worried they'd melt out and go everywhere but they stayed together and made for a 100% chewy cookie.  The addition of a bit of oatmeal also adds a nice texture to the cookie.  I was very pleased with the results, maybe a bit too excited...I'm in a good mood, I got the day off!


Nutty Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Chip Cookies
adapted from The Novice Chef

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural almond butter (I used a tbsp or two of PB as well - hence the nutty)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate fudge chips - directions here (or you could just use chocolate chips)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Cream together butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed.  4. Add the egg and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to lowand gradually add in the flour, mixing until combined.  Stir in the oats and the chocolate fudge chips.
5. Refrigerate dough (original recipe said overnight, but I threw mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes and used it right out of the freezer - my cookies were DELICIOUS - just saying).
6. Scoop the dough onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes on baking sheet before removing. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

boston cream pie cupcakes

My lovely parents came to visit me this past weekend and seeing as my Dad just celebrated his birthday on Halloween, I decided to make him his favourite treat.  My Dad loves boston cream pie!  He actually gave me the idea by sending me a blog post about it.

I was already making a vanilla cake and a chocolate cake for someone else, so I just used a bit of extra batter and frosting I had to make the cupcakes and used the icing to frost them at the end.  Traditionally, a ganache is used with this cake, so I am going to include a recipe for that below.

I made the custard from an old custard recipe I had.  I made 1/3rd of this recipe, but was not totally exact in my measurements.  It was still delicious.  I tried to get a shot of the inside but the colours of the custard and the cake were too similar.  These were super easy and impressive!



Bostom Cream Pie Cupcakes

1 batch of your favourite vanilla cupcakes - Cut out centre, fill with custard.  Put top back on and pipe on ganache.


Easy and Delicious Custard
from Almost Bourdain

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
3/4 cup cream

1/2 cup water

Directions
Place the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla into a pot and whisk until smooth (no heat!). Add the cream and water and whisk again. Place over medium heat. Stir until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache

10 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream


Directions
Place chopped chocolate into a heat proof bowl.  Heat the heavy cream until boiling and pour over chocolate.  Let sit for a few minutes and then whisk until all melted.  Allow to cool before using.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

carrot cake shortbread sandwich cookies

My mom has declared this her new favourite cookie and demanded I make it at Christmas time.  I knew she would love it, which is why I made a few extras when making some for a coworker's husband's birthday (that's a mouthful).  These were actually a batch of cookies I put up for our charitable campaign silent auction at work.  This was the last of my charitable campaign baking commitments.


These cookies are very yummy, especially for fans of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting (who doesn't like cream cheese frosting?  only crazy people). 

I got the original recipe over a year ago and made them for my spring tea party.  It was a quite a hit and I kept it around to make again.  This was the first time I had gotten around to making them and I decided to make a slight alteration to the recipe which I believe made them even better!


Carrot Cake Shortbread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1 tsp vanilla essense
2 1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp ground walnuts
walnut pieces for decoration

Cream cheese frosting: see here.

Directions
1. In a bowl, beat butter, carrot and vanilla extract with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds. Transfer butter mixture to a piece of clingwrap and shape into a log. Wrap and put in freezer for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 300 deg F. When the oven is ready, toast the walnut halves for 10 minutes.

3. In the mean time, stir flour, cinnamon, salt, ground walnuts and brown sugar  in a large bowl. Remove butter mixture from freezer and then add into flour mixture. Using a pastry blender (or your hands), cut the butter mixture into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs and cling together. Knead the dough until smooth and forms a ball.

4. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 1 1/2-inch fluted cookie cutter. 

5.  Press the walnut pieces onto half the cookies. Then bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn slightly brown.

6. Pipe the frosting on half the cookies, top with remaining cookies, with walnut sides up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

apple pie

I have a secret to confess...oh the suspense!  It's killing you, I know.
 
The secret is...I am a pastry newbie.  I was totally afraid of and intimidated by pastry for the longest time.  I think it's my fear of failure.  I wasn't ready to put myself out there and try when the results might be a tough, tasteless crust that could be outdone by something from your grocery freezer section.  It's also one of those things that people always talk about as being hard.  PLUS, it seems that everyone nowadays is using food processors, and I only have a little tiny baby one because our kitchen is already stuffed to capacity with baking supplies.

On Friday, I took the plunge into the scary world of pastry with the helpful advice and watchful eye of my friend Melissa.  The pie was a success!  Mostly.  The issues had nothing to do with the crust which is good.  I froze the pie after I made it Friday and baked it Saturday.  The thing to keep in mind here, is that I made the most ridiculously huge pie ever made.  It was MASSIVE!  I baked it 20 minutes longer than the recommended time, but the apples were still a bit hard and there was a lot of liquid inside.  Will (my friend who commissioned the pie) still enjoyed it.  Next time, I will not make it so big, and hopefully that will solve my problems.  If anyone else has pie tips, feel free to let me know!  I am always looking for tips and advice.

We used Martha Stewart's Old Fashioned Apple Pie recipe

Apple Pie

Ingredients

For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed

For the filling
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 apples (4 tart, 4 sweet)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Directions
1. Combine flour and salt.  Take butter from the fridge and cut into chunks.  Cut in with pastry blender (or your hands - being careful not to warm things up too much) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger chunks.  Add water and mix together with hands, adding a tbsp at a time, until it starts to form a dough.  The key is for it to still be a tiny bit crumby at the end.

2. Divide dough into two and chill dough for two hours.  While the dough is chilling peel and cut up the apples.  Squeeze lemon juice on them to prevent browning.  Add the 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and salt to the apples and toss to coat.

3. When the dough has chilled, roll it out into a circle that will fit into your pie plate but hang over slightly.  Put the apples in and dot with butter.  Mix together your egg yolk and milk and brush the edges of the pastry with it.  Roll out the other piece of dough and place it on top.  Press together the edges and bursh the whole thing with the egg mixture.  Put a few slits in the pie to allow steam to escape.  Sprinkle with sugar, then place pie in freezer for half an hour.

4.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Position the racks in the center of the oven and in the lower third.

5. Place a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any overflowing juices from the pie. Place the pie on the center rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and there is a sign of bubbling juices. Cool on a wire cooling rack for at least 1 hour. Slice and serve.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

pretzel nutella cookies

Ok, I promise this is the last choco-pretzel combo for a while. I know…you’re all sick of hearing about it. But you know what, I’m not sick of eating it. Still so yummy! Plus, my friend John inspired and requested these.


The cookie dough alone for this recipe was enough to satisfy me. I partook in a lot of finger licking (and consequently hand washing) while making these cookies. Then, when I took them out of the oven, and was taking them off the tray and “accidentally” broke some, I had some of those as well.

The recipe for these was insanely (in the membranely) easy. We were running a bit short on nutella so some of them were maybe not as amazing in the ratio department, but the combo was still killer.


Nutella Pretzel Cookies
from The Village Cook

Ingredients
3 cups thin pretzels, crushed (leaving a few intact)
1 cup butter, softened
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour

Directions
1. Beat the butter with half the pretzels
2. Add the sugar and beat until creamy
3. Mix in the egg, flour and remaining pretzels
4. Drop by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes (mine only took 12), or until golden and crisp. Allow to cool and remove from tray.

Note: Do not leave them on the trays too long or they get really stuck, crisp and hard to get off.

reflections

Last night I had my first gumpaste class at Algonquin College. I found it to be very intimidating and a lot of the people in it were pretty hardcore/a bit serious for my taste. This is a hobby for me, so I had to remind myself that I am only doing it to learn new skills and make beautiful cakes. There is no need to be competitive, because at the end of the day, I have a good job. I have been thinking lately about how much I have done in the year since I started working here. Being out of school has allowed me to really divide my time and focus on developing some of my hobbies. When you’re in university, it’s easy to get caught up with school to the point where all you really do is school, work, and social life. Having the separation of work and home life has meant that I started focussing more on what makes me happy and fulfilled. I’ve had some accomplishments in the last year that I can be really proud of.
I often find with the blog, that I need to keep reminding myself of the reasons why I am doing this. It’s for my own personal development. Blogging about my passion in a public forum allows me to continually improve upon my baking and push myself to try new things.

There’s not much point to this post other than to say Thanks to everyone who has been supporting me, and sharing kind words. It means a lot and motivates me to keep going.

Hope that is not to sappy for everyone…don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming shortly.  And, hopefully soon, some pictures of pretty flowers!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

polish apple cake

My very good friend and weekly dinner buddy, Stefan, celebrates his 24th birthday today. Happy day to you, sir! As part of the festivities, his wife Jola, who is currently at school in Toronto asked me to make him a birthday treat. When I asked her what his favourite treat was, she mentioned a Polish apple cake that both of their families make. Jola’s family recipe is so secret she doesn’t even have it, so we had to put our head’s together to find a recipe on the web. Now, there was a bit of confusion over whether it was szarlotka, placek z jablka or jablecznik (which I later realized were totally the same thing). Every English recipe I could find of the last two cakes was the same.


I had a few issues with covering the apples with the amount of batter I had. So, next time I might try a slightly smaller pan. I would also use a different apple. The mix I used was firmer apples but I found them to be too hard in the cake, I would have enjoyed a slightly softer apple. Overall though, it was quite a yummy treat - delicious and satisfying but not too heavy. Most important of all, Stefan loved it!


Polish Apple Cake (placek z jablka or jablecznik)

Ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup soft butter (I did slightly more)
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
4 large apples peeled, sliced thinly
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp cold butter
1/4 tsp cloves

Directions
1. Lightly coat a 13x9” pan with cooking spray and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In stand mixer combine flour, baking powder, salt and the ¾ cup sugar. Add 1/2 cup butter, milk and eggs. Beat at medium speed until smooth.
3. Place half the batter into prepared pan, then layer on the apples. Put remaining batter on top leaving a few holes for apples to poke through.
4. Cut the 1/4 cup sugar and cloves into the 3 tbsp of sugar and sprinkle on top.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

chai cupcakes

These little guys are like a chai latte in cupcake form.  I made them for a friend’s boyfriend’s birthday.  She said he really liked cinnamon, and so I thought he’d appreciate something spicy and delicious.   I paired it with the cinnamon-honey buttercream that I used last week on the apple-oat cupcakes – I can’t get enough of this stuff, so yummy!  The combo was originally on Une-deux senses.  The cupcakes were apparently a hit with the birthday boy.  I used half the following recipe and got exactly 12 regular-sized cupcakes.


Chai Cupcakes
Recipe from Sky-High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Ingredients
1 1/3 cup milk
6 chai tea bags
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup cake flour
2 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
 
Directions
1. Preheat to 350 F. In small pot, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the tea bags. Remove from the heat and allow to steep. Remove the bags, squeeze out the remaining milk and let cool. 

2. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, yolks, vanilla and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. 

3. In the bowl of a mixer sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Then add the butter and remaining chai milk. Mix on medium low speed until light and fluffy. 

4. Add the egg mixture in three additions, making sure to scrape the bowl well after each. Divide the batter among the cupcake tins, about 2/3 full, and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.