Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Marshmallow Fantasy Cake

Peabody recently posted a "Chocolate Peppermint Stick Marshmallow Fantasy Cake" on her blog, and I immediately knew I had to make it for Christmas dinner! It was amazing! The only change to it was that we couldn't find Andes Peppermint Crunch and so we used some generic brand "Peppermint Crunch" we found at a local store...but it seemed to turn out great anyway! One warning--eat this right away or leave it in the fridge or the icing will start to "melt"!

The cake was delicious, and the frosting was amazing too...I had never made a marshmallow frosting but it was very easy and gave a great result. The candles in the picture are for the baby Jesus. :) They were some great candles I picked up at the grocery store that actually burn in different colors!
The recipe is here.

Christmas Brioche

My mom and I made a delicious brioche for Christmas breakfast. Dorie Greenspan was right in the recipe--this was hard to make with no stand mixer! But we prevailed, 3 sticks of butter and all, and it was totally worth it on Christmas morning. Yum! This was the most delicious bread ever!

Brioche (From Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)
Hand-made (no mixer) version!

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 c just warm water
1/3 c just warm whole milk
3 1/4 c flour
2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
3 sticks butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Put the yeast, water, and milk in a bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and salt and incorporate (may need to use your hands). You should have a dry, shaggy mess.

Add the eggs and sugar, and mix until the dough forms a ball. You may need to turn the dough out onto the counter and mix with your hands to get this to happen (we did). Add the butter in 2 T size chunks, kneading it in each time. It will look/feel really gross, like this:

But keep at it! Once all the butter was in, we put it back in the bowl and kneaded/mixed it some more there. We never did get it to "pull away from the sides of the bowls" like Dorie described, but it didn't seem to matter in the end product. Knead/mix it together for about ten minutes.

Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40-60 minutes. Deflate the dough and recover. Put in the fridge (or a cold basement, in our case) and punch it down every 30 minutes until it stops rising. Leave to chill overnight.

In the morning, butter and flour 2 loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. But each piece into 4 equal pieces and roll them into short logs. Lay them crosswise in the bottom of each pan (4 to each pan). Put on a baking sheet, cover with wax paper, and let rise 1-2 hours until the dough fills the pan.

Beat the egg with the water and brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze. Bake at 400 degrees until well rised and deeply golden, 30-35 minutes. Yum!

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Chicago Metallic.

I'm also sending this post off to the Sweets for Santa Blog Hop - check out the other tasty treats at the Hungry Australian!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Cookies!

My mom baked all of these delicious Christmas cookies and my sister and I helped to decorate...yum! All the recipes are from Better Homes and Gardens Cookies for Christmas and they're the ones we make every year. The sugar cookies are the best sugar cookies ever. Merry Christmas to all!

Swirled Mint Cookies

2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
red and green food coloring

1. Combine flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract and beat well. Add flour and beat in. Divide into thirds. Stir 10 drops red food coloring into one third, 10 drops green into another third, and leave the final third plain. Chill at least one hour.
2. Roll each third into long ropes 1/2 inch in diameter (may want to do this in batches). Place one role of each color side by side and wist together. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and roll into balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Flatten to 1/4 inch thickness with the bottom of a glass dipped in additional sugar. Bake at 375 degrees, about 6-8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 T butter
1/3 c Crisco
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Stir together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening until softened. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat till well mixed. Chill at least 3 hours.
2. Roll dough out very thin. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes.

Wishing Cookies (Ginger Stars)

3 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
2 T molasses
1 T water
1/2 tsp grated orange or lemon peel

1. Stir together dry ingredients. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter until softened. Add sugar and beat till fluffy. Add egg, molasses, water, and peel and beat well. Stir in flour mixture gradually Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
2. Roll dough 1/8 in thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 minutes.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

1 3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter or margarine
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 /2 tsp almond extract
1/2 c sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
Almond Icing

1. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until softened. Beat in sugar till fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Stir in flour mixture.
2. Divide into fourths. Form each into a 12 inch roll. Place two rolls 4-5 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each until 3 inches wide, and repeat with remaining rolls.
3. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-14 minutes (keep a close eye), or till edges are lightly browned. While still warm, cut croswise at a diagonal into 1 inch strips. Drizzle with almond icing.

Almond Icing: Stir together 1 c sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and enough milk (3-4 tsp) to make icing of drizzling cons

Mom and sister with decorated cookies...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Daring Bakers December Challenge!

I was extra excited to join the Daring Bakers group this month. The challenge was to make a Yule Log, and the baking part was lots of fun. I had never made a genoise cake before, but it all seemed to go pretty smoothly. The frosting was perfect--I don't think I've ever made such a smooth buttercream before! It was great to frost given the smooth buttercream and the texture of the cake (not too crumbly). I did have some troubles with rolling the cake...I tried the dishtowel approach that some people had mentioned, but my cake still cracked...oh well, it still looks nice when it's put together! My mushrooms didn't turn out quite right, I don't think, but they were still cute. I was very excited about it because everything looked perfect...but then came the taste test. :( Not my greatest culinary achievement. Not sure if I did something wrong or if it was just a preference thing, but neither my housemate nor I thought it was very good. The cake was really sweet and the texture seemed overly sponge-y. The frosting was pretty good when I tasted it before adding the coffee flavor, but I wasn't crazy about it afterward. Anyway, I was still glad to try out some new techniques, and I will definitely try this buttercream again with some different flavorings because I did love how it spread and I thought it tasted good plain.

Yule Log

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Assembling the Yule Log:

1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mini Pie Revolution!

These mini pies are a variation on the apple-quince crisp I made over Thanksgiving with my aunt (see below). They turned out fabulously, and they're so much fun! Feels like less work than a big pie, too! Check out the rest of the revolution at Headquarters.

Apple-Pear-Rum Raisin Mini Pies with Crumb Topping (whew!) (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/2 c raisins
1/2 c dark rum
2 apples
2 pears
squirt lemon juice
1 T (or more) flour
pinch salt
1/2 c sugar

6 T butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch salt

1 recipe of your favorite pie crust

1. Simmer the raisins in the rum for a few minutes. Off the heat, light the rum on fire and burn off any remaining alcohol. Leave the liquid in the pan for now.
2. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until butter is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Mix flour, sugar, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl. Add browned butter and 1 T liquid from rum raisins; stir until moist clumps form.
4. Drain the raisins of the rest of their liquid. Peel and cut the apples and pears into chunks. Toss with rum raisins, lemon juice, flour, sugar, and salt. If it seems very juicy, you may want to add more flour.
5. Roll out pie dough and cut into small rounds. Press into muffin tins (my method was to cut a quarter of the dough out of the circle first so that it all fit in right). Fill with the apple-pear-raisin mixture and crumble the topping over top.
6. Any remaining mixture/topping can be baked separately as a crisp.
7. Bake the mini pies on a baking sheet at 350 degrees until brown and crisp on top.
8. Yum!

Apple and Quince Crisp with Rum Raisins

I made this over Thanksgiving with my aunt, and am finally getting around to posting! The recipe had a lot of steps, so was one of those that is nice to make with someone else. It was extra delicious both as dessert and as breakfast (as pictured here with goat cheese-canadian bacon scrambled eggs). Although the quince adds a really interesting flavor, we thought this would be equally good with apple and pear.

Apple and Quince Crisp with Rum Raisins (from Bon Appetit/

Rum Raisins:
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup dark rum

Crisp Topping:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 pounds quinces (about 5 medium), peeled, quartered, cored
4 large Gala apples, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

For rum raisins:
Simmer raisins and rum in small saucepan 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Ignite with match; let flames burn out, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer 2 tablespoons liquid to small bowl for crisp topping.

For crisp topping:
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until butter is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Cool.

Mix flour, sugar, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl. Add browned butter and 2 tablespoons reserved liquid from rum raisins; stir until moist clumps form.

For filling:
Combine 4 cups water and 3 cups sugar in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add quinces; simmer until tender, 15 minutes. Remove from syrup; cool. Reserve syrup for another use. Cut quinces into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to large bowl.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add apples, lemon juice, flour, salt, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and rum raisin mixture to bowl with quinces; toss to blend. Transfer to baking dish. Crumble topping over.

Bake apple and quince crisp until golden and bubbling, about 55 minutes. Cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream or ice cream.